Short History of the American Negro - Benjamin Brawley

Missionary Endeavor

82. The Pioneers.—Dr. DuBois has pointed out four periods in Negro education since the Civil War:

  1. From 1865 to 1876, the period of uncertain groping and temporary relief, with army schools, mission schools, and schools o the Freedmen's Bureau in chaotic disarrangement,
  2. Then a decade of definite effort toward the building of complete school systems, with normal school and colleges training teachers for the public schools,
  3. From 1885 to 1895, the springing into notice of the industrial school; and
  4. Since 1895 the full recognition of the industrial school the answer to a combined educational and economic crisis.

Too much credit can hardly be given to the heroic men and women who labored in the first of these periods. Those people of the North who took upon themselves the education of the Negro immediately after the war had no enviable task. They had as their lot only prejudice and ostracism, and an infinite amount of hard work; and their only reward was a high sense of duty well done. Where so many were noble it is almost unjust to mention names; but in any case deserving of honor were General Armstrong at Hampton, President Cravath at Fisk, President Tupper at Shaw, President Ware at Atlanta University, and, of a slightly later date, at Spelman Seminary, Presidents. Sophia B. Packard and Harriet E. Giles. Just as earnest as such teachers as these were those who devoted themselves to mission work in the homes of the freedmen, of whom a sterling example was Joanna P. Moore, who for fifty years labored in the cause of her Fireside Schools.

83. Philanthropy.—For the execution of the task at hand money was needed, and private philanthropy was not lacking, though even the most princely gifts were inadequate for the great work to be done. In 1867 George Peabody, a great American merchant and patriot, established the Peabody Educational Fund for the purpose of promoting "intellectual, moral, and industrial education in the most destitute portion of the Southern states." In all cases the trustees of this fund worked in unison with state and local authorities. In the first thirty years of its existence a total of more than $2,500,000 was distributed in the South, Dr. J. L. M. Curry being one of the agents. In 1888 Daniel Hand of Connecticut gave $1,000,000 to the American Missionary Association. In 1882 John F. Slater established an endowment for the encouragement of industrial education among the Negroes in the South. The annual income from this has been about $60,000, and Bishop Atticus G. Haygood and Dr. Curry were for certain periods agents of the fund. In recent years the Peabody and Slater boards have become closely affiliated with the General Education Board and the Southern Education Board of New York, the General Education Board being the medium of the philanthropy of John D. Rockefeller.

84. Howard University.—In addition to such private giving as this, it is to be noted that the United States Government in 1867 crowned its work for the education of the Negro by the establishment at Washington of Howard University. This institution, named for General O. O. Howard, has stood for the highest collegiate and professional training of the Negro; and its Teachers College and its Medical School are widely distinguished for their peculiar emphasis. To the resources of its own laboratories and library it adds the advantages of an institution located at the national capital and fostered by the government. In all departments there were in 1917–18, 1,565 students, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Teachers College together enrolling 519 students, a much larger number of students of collegiate grade than is to be found in any other institution emphasizing the education of the Negro. In the far South the chief efforts for education were those put forth by the various missionary organizations of the North.

85. American Missionary Association.—One of the unfortunate but practically inevitable characteristics of missionary endeavor in Negro education was the utter independence of one another of all the efforts put forth by the different religious organizations. The American Missionary Association was organized before the Civil War on an interdenominational and strong anti-slavery basis. With the withdrawal of general interest, however, this body passed in 1881 into the hands of the Congregational Church. It was the first of all the benevolent organizations to begin educational work, opening a school in Hampton, Va., in 1861, and founding immediately after the war its permanent institutions. It was decided to establish one school of higher learning in each of the larger states of the South, normal and graded schools in the principal cities, and common and parochial schools in smaller villages and country places. Under this plan arose Hampton in Virginia, Atlanta University in Georgia, Berea College in Kentucky, Fisk University in Tennessee, Straight University in Louisiana, Talladega College in Alabama, Tougaloo University in Mississippi, and Tillotson College in Texas. Hampton and Atlanta University are now independent; and Berea has had a peculiar history, legislation having compelled the withdrawal of her Negro students a few years ago. Fisk is noted for her comparatively large number of college graduates and for her emphasis on music. One of the most inspiring chapters in her history is that of the Jubilee Singers, of whose interesting career we shall have more to say in our chapter on "Literature and Art." Atlanta University has in recent years attracted national attention by her original studies of questions relating to the Negro, these being conducted under the auspices of the Atlanta Conference. Theological departments have been established at Fisk, Talladega, and Straight; and generally the American Missionary Association has emphasized manual and industrial as well as collegiate training, Talladega College having antedated all other schools in establishing an industrial department. Besides its institutions of collegiate grade, the Association now maintains more than forty normal and graded schools, and more than thirty common schools. The normal and graded schools include the Avery Institute in Charleston, the Le Moyne in Memphis, the Beach in Savannah, the Ballard Normal in Macon, Ga., and the Lincoln Normal in Marion, Ark. Generally representative of the secondary schools is the Joseph K. Brick Agricultural, Industrial and Normal School in Enfield, N. C., which has 10 buildings and 1,129 acres of land.

86. American Baptist Home Mission Society. The first step by the American Baptist Home Mission Society for the refugees who came into the lines of the Union army was taken in January, 1862; and the first teachers were appointed in June of this year. From the first the idea of religious education was prominent in the efforts in behalf of the freedmen. Wherever they could do so, the teachers brought together the Negro preachers for instruction in the rudiments of learning and for the organization of churches, associations, and conventions. This ideal of an educated ministry becomes important when one remembers how great an influence preachers have among the Negro people, and how many of the people are Baptists. Gradually, to meet the demand for the education of the young people, institutions of learning were established, and the work of the Society has expanded until it now embraces a chain of schools. This organization has moreover helped a great many schools which are owned by Negroes. The schools of higher learning that the Society now owns and operates (in some cases in co-operation with the Women's American Baptist Home Mission Society) are eight in number, as follows: two devoted to the education of young men, Morehouse College and Virginia Union University; two devoted to the training of young women, Spelman Seminary in Atlanta and Hartshorn Memorial College in Richmond; four that are co-educational, Bishop College in Marshall, Texas, Benedict College in Columbia, S. C., Shaw University in Raleigh, N. C., and Jackson College in Jackson, Miss. These schools are supposed to be of the same rank; but as a matter of fact, with the exception of the co-operation of Morehouse College and Spelman Seminary, they are not co-ordinated, and as they have developed they have consciously or unconsciously emphasized very different things. Perhaps a little more than the others Morehouse College and Virginia Union University have laid stress on regular college work. Prominent in theological training is Virginia Union, whose department was formerly the Richmond Theological Seminary. Several others of the institutions, however, also offer divinity training. Spelman Seminary is the largest institution in the world devoted solely to the education of Negro young women. It enrolled in all departments in 1917-18, 817 students. The collegiate work is in connection with that of Morehouse College; but the school is best known for its training of teachers and nurses, for its emphasis on domestic science, and for its constant ideal of Christian womanhood. Spelman has moreover in the record of her graduates who have gone as missionaries to Africa a tradition as glorious as that of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Benedict has for some years had a good band. Shaw in former years, even more than now, placed emphasis on professional training. In connection with the American Baptist Home Mission Society mention should also be made of the American Baptist Publication Society, an organization which after the Civil War by institutes and Bible distribution did a great deal for the education of Negro Baptist ministers, but whose activities have in recent years been greatly curtailed by the success of the distinctively Negro enterprise, the National Baptist Publishing Board.

87. Freedmen's Aid Society.—As will be seen later, a consideration of the educational work of most of the Methodist denominations belongs to the chapter on Self-Help in Negro Education rather than to that on Missionary Endeavor. The Freedmen's Aid and Southern Education Society, however, was organized by the Northern Methodists in 1866 and was purely missionary in its purpose. From the first it has been prominent in the work in the South. It now supports twenty-four institutions. Several of these are collegiate in scope, among them being Clark University in South Atlanta, Ga., Claflin University in Orangeburg, S. C., New Orleans University in New Orleans, La., Rust University in Holly Springs, Miss., Wiley University in Marshall, Texas, Bennett College in Greensboro, N. C., the George R. Smith College in Sedalia, Mo., Morgan College in Baltimore, Md., and Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Ark. In connection with Walden is the Meharry Medical School. Gammon Theological Seminary in South Atlanta, Ga., is the most thoroughly equipped and the best endowed theological seminary in the entire South, and as an institution for the education of Negro ministers it is the most thoroughly equipped and the best endowed in the world.

88. Presbyterian Board of Missions.—In 1882, after the missionary work of various Presbyterian committees had for some time been consolidated, the resulting central committee became incorporated as "The Board of Missions for Freedmen of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America." This organization has been active in church as well as school work; but its purely religious activities must be reserved for consideration in connection with the Negro Church. Even before the War, in 1854, a Presbyterian minister, John M. Dickey, established in Pennsylvania Ashmun Institute, later and better known as Lincoln University. The larger part of the work of the Presbyterian Board lies in North Carolina, South Carolina, and southern Virginia. With Lincoln University the most prominent institutions are Biddle University, in Charlotte, N. C., and the five seminaries for girls, Ingleside in Burkeville, Va., Scotia in Concord, N. C., Barber Memorial in Anniston, Ala., Mary Holmes in West Point, Miss., and Mary Allen in Crockett, Texas. To these institutions must be added over seventy academies and parochial schools. Besides the work of the Presbyterian Board of Missions considerable work is done by the United and the Southern Presbyterians, the United Presbyterians maintaining Knoxville College in Knoxville, Tenn.

89. Other Agencies.—The four large organizations just considered have been responsible for most of the work done in the South for the high school and collegiate training of the Negro. This of course takes no account of the state schools; and those which the Negro has built for himself are yet to be considered. The state schools have in recent years greatly emphasized agricultural training, with a corresponding lowering of literary standards. The one in Tallahassee, Fla., however, is above the average in technical studies. A full study of missionary enterprises would also consider the work of the Episcopalians and the Catholics. Prominent Episcopal schools are the St. Paul Normal and Industrial School at Lawrenceville, Va., and St. Augustine's School in Raleigh, N. C. Roman Catholics operate St. Joseph's Industrial School for Colored Boys in Clayton, Del., St. Augustine's Academy in Lebanon, Ky., and St. Frances' Academy in Baltimore. Altogether they had at last accounts in the United States for Negro children about one hundred schools with an attendance of 10,000; but they have made remarkable advance within the last few years, especially in the South.

90. Scholarship in the Schools.—Whatever may be the name of an institution mentioned in this chapter, no one is as yet a fully equipped university, as no one yet maintains a graduate school. Howard, however, with its professional departments and with its peculiar environment and support, has already made some beginning in graduate study, and needs only a little more emphasis in this direction to satisfy every possible standard. Because of the inadequate training given in the common schools of the South, only Howard has so far found it advisable to cut off all literary departments below the college. Even those that are foremost still retain their academies. The best basis for a study of the scholarship in the institutions is the standing that their graduates attain and maintain in the great Northern universities. Judged by this standard the graduates of some of the poorer of the colleges are in real ability not equal to the boy who has just graduated from St. Paul's or from Worcester Academy. There are, however, ten or twelve institutions in which a very different standard is maintained, and graduates from these are sometimes required to spend only a year at a Northern university before receiving the degree of Bachelor of Arts, if indeed they do not choose to enter a graduate school at once. In every case much depends on the individual. As a matter of fact the Southern Negro graduate most often maintains very high standing in the North naturally, for he is frequently the picked man from his college. One of the most interesting things about this continuation of study is the preference shown by certain schools in the South for certain ones in the North. This is generally determined by the success at the great Northern university of one or two of the earlier graduates of the Negro college; thus, while exceptions may of course be found, Atlanta University men go to Harvard, Morehouse College men to the University of Chicago, and Talladega men most frequently go to Yale. All of this of course takes no account of those Negro students who pursue their whole course in a Northern college. Those who have thus studied and graduated now number about eight hundred. The whole matter of the efficiency of the work of a Negro college depends on the ability of the students who are admitted to it. The college preparatory course then becomes of supreme importance; and it is here where standards ought to be highest that the greatest divergency appears. The three or four institutions of the highest rank, however, insist on all the standards of the Carnegie Foundation, and sometimes exact even more than these demand.

91. Collegiate Activities. Life in these schools seeks an outlet in various channels. Within the last ten years the college idea has been much developed. Among other activities intercollegiate debating has received considerable attention. Early in 1910 Howard, Fisk, and Atlanta University formed a triangular debating league, and in 1911 Morehouse, Knoxville, and Talladega did the same, though Morehouse and Talladega, beginning their contests in 1906, have maintained longer unbroken relations than any other institutions. Several schools, notably Hampton, Shaw, Fisk, and Atlanta University have from time to time sent quartettes through the North to raise money by singing the old melodies. The Fisk singers have perhaps been most noteworthy, and the annual concert of the Mozart Society of this institution is always an important event in Nashville. Several of the schools present each year an entire English play, and all of them cultivate athletics, although only here and there are real gymnasium facilities to be found. In Y.M.C.A. work Morehouse College seems to have been especially prominent. In the fall of 1918 practically all of the larger or more prominent institutions were selected for the formation of units of the Students' Army Training Corps, Howard University in the summer of this year having been designated as the place of training for student or acting non-commissioned officers.

92. Outlook for the Colleges. The outlook for these institutions is not so bright as it should be. Those that are independent have had to weather some stormy seasons. With the possible exception of Gammon Theological Seminary, no one is adequately endowed, though here and there, as at Benedict, Fisk, Spelman, and Atlanta University, some beginning in this direction has been made. The dominance in recent years of the idea of industrial education for Negroes has directed the means of philanthropists most largely toward schools which emphasize this kind of training. There is, however, no real conflict between the industrial school and the college. Each has an important function to fulfill, and each deserves support. Very frequently the colleges have been criticised as placing too much emphasis on philosophical and theoretical subjects and on the classics. This was due to some extent to the traditions under which their founders labored, and in some measure also to their general lack of means for adequate teaching and laboratory facilities.

In various ways, however, constructive efforts are being made to bring them into more vital touch with the communities that they are supposed to serve. Especially is there a demand also for more economy and co-operation in effort. The colleges themselves have made an excellent beginning toward meeting this. In 1913 eight of the representative institutions—Howard University, Wilberforce University, Knoxville College, Fisk University, Virginia Union University, Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and Talladega College—organized the Association of Colleges for Negro Youth, the general purposes of this association being insistence on standard college entrance requirements, and mutual helpfulness in all the problems incident to the work of colleges so closely related in their work. Shaw, Benedict, and Bishop have also been taken into the organization, and it is destined to have wider and wider influence on higher education in the South.

93. Results of the Work.—Most of the graduates of these institutions are of course those from high school courses. Negro college graduates in the United States now number altogether about seven thousand. The figure would have to be increased fivefold in order to sustain to the total Negro population the same ratio as that held by the total number of college graduates in the country to the total population. Recent statistics show that fifty-four percent of these graduates are engaged in teaching and twenty percent in preaching. In conclusion we may accept with reference to the results of the work the word of two men who had exceptional opportunities for study of the subject and who may be said to speak generally for the experience of the Northern organizations. Said Dr. H. L. Morehouse of the American Baptist Home Mission Society "In my years of service for the Society I have seen the coarse country boy become the talented preacher, the cultured professor, and the wise leader of thousands, and from long and wide acquaintance and observation I am prepared to say that the investment has paid a hundredfold;" and Dr. James W. Cooper of the American Missionary Association said: "The people have advanced. Their progress has been phenomenal. The record of forty years is one of inspiration and encouragement as we look back upon the brave and patient struggles of this lowly people, out of the disabilities of slavery into the good estate of a self-respecting freedom."