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This article examines the relationship between gender and leadership in southern public Black colleges from the late nineteenth through the early twentieth century. Public colleges offer a unique view of this relationship because, in an era of disfranchisement, the political stakes of leadership were more obvious than in private schools. I argue that the gap between Black women's dynamic roles on public campuses and their marginalized representations in school reports reveals the processes that have obscured their public educational leadership in the American South. Analysis of images collected from college catalogs supplements my examination of documentary evidence from archives and published reports. State educational administration was one of the few remaining spaces where Black men could wield political influence. As they worked to produce institutional images that proclaimed their capacity for and right to public leadership, however, they minimized the contributions of Black women.
In 1890, Congress passed the Second Morrill Land-Grant Act, which provided federal resources to support the creation of nineteen Black land-grant colleges. At a historical and political moment when Black Americans faced a violently repressive backlash against what progress they had achieved during Reconstruction, the successful passage and implementation of this legislation was unlikely. How did congressional lawmakers successfully pass the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1890, and was the expansion of educational opportunity for African Americans a clearly expressed objective? Using historical analysis of primary sources, this analysis suggests that the 1890 legislation’s investment in Black colleges reflected a politically expedient compromise between northern Radical Republicans who supported greater educational access for Black citizens and Southern Democrats who wished to expand higher educational opportunity in their region while also maintaining the segregated racial order of southern educational institutions.
While Ralph Ellison was waiting for Invisible Man to be published, he confessed to Albert Murray, that he was haunted by “embarrassing” dreams of “Tuskegee [. . . ] all the scenes of test and judgment.” Although the novel is not an autobiography but “near allegory” as Ellison once called it, critics, while acknowledging the importance of his years at Tuskegee, have tended to flatten the complexity of one of the hero’s greatest “tests” – the Southern black college. Drawing upon biographers Lawrence Jackson and Arnold Rampersad, the Tuskegee University Archives, and Ellison’s own words, his fiction as well his correspondence and interviews, this chapter will explore how large Tuskegee looms in Ellison’s life and work: the Institute meant far more to Ellison’s development as an artist than simply to serve as one more windmill at which the quixotic hero of Invisible Man must tilt.
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