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Determination and Persistence: Building the African American Teacher Corps through Summer and Intermittent Teaching, 1860s-1890s

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 February 2021

Michael Fultz*
Affiliation:
Department of Educational Policy Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, WI, USA.
*Corresponding

Abstract

This paper explores trends in summer and intermittent teaching practices among African American students in the post-Civil War South, focusing on student activities in the field, the institutions they attended, and the communities they served. Transitioning out of the restrictions and impoverishment of slavery while simultaneously seeking to support themselves and others was an arduous and tenuous process. How could African American youth and young adults obtain the advanced education they sought while sustaining themselves in the process? Individual and family resources were limited for most, while ambitions, both personal and racial, loomed large. Teaching, widely recognized as a means to racial uplift, was the future occupation of choice for many of these students.

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Articles
Copyright
Copyright © 2021 History of Education Society

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References

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76 Alvord, Tenth Semi-Annual Report on Schools for Freedmen, 5, 52-54. Some sixty-eight of those schools are listed in an appendix by name and location.

77 Report of the Commissioner of Education for the Year 1894-1895 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1895), 1334.

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79 Spence, “Vacationing,” 329. See also, “The Work of a Student Teacher,” American Missionary 47, no. 4 (April 1893), 116; Spence, A. K., “College Work in Fisk University,” American Missionary 36, no. 4 (April 1882), 108-109Google Scholar; Chase, “Students’ Vacation Reports,” 21; and Patton, W. W., “Howard University,” American Missionary 35, no. 11 (Nov. 1881), 333Google Scholar.

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81 Fultz, Michael, “African-American Teachers in the South, 1890-1940: Growth, Feminization, and Salary Discrimination,” Teachers College Record, 96, no. 3 (Spring 1995), 544-68Google Scholar. See also, Margo, Robert, Race and Schooling in the South, 1880-1950: An Economic History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), 18-28CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

82 Bennett, “Interesting Exercise in Fisk University,” 14. Another explanation for why summer teaching seems to have moderated over the course of the 1890s, admittedly speculative, relates to the overall economic context in the South during this decade. These years were marked by declining cotton prices, with effects exacerbated by the Depression of 1893 and its aftermath. Cotton farmers received around 8 cents a pound for much of the 1880s; in 1894, prices hit a low of 4.5 cents a pound. Bank failures, along with a general drying up of credit, characterized the southern scene just as in the North. The slow but steady process of expanding Black landownership in states like Georgia, for example, stalled dramatically between 1893 and 1902. This context must have affected African American tenant farmers as well, and overall, negatively affected the ability of rural Black communities to provide “subscription schools” for the children of their locality and/or to augment teachers’ salaries at public schools. From the perspective of Black student-teachers, these subscription schools offered alternative possibilities for employment, and sometimes, as in the case of Joseph Charles Price, may even have been preferred, either because of higher salaries or to avoid White oversight. If, as seems plausible, the economic context of the 1890s affected the availability of, and salaries at, these private Black facilities (and public schools as well), the difficulties in securing sufficient funding for Black student-teachers would have been adversely impacted. See Fite, “Southern Agriculture Since the Civil War,” 3-21; and Higgs, Robert, “Accumulation of Property by Southern Blacks Before World War I,” American Economic Review 72, no. 4 (Sept. 1982), 735Google Scholar.

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84 “Five Years of Junior College Work at State Normal,” in Fifty-fourth Commencement of The State Normal School, Montgomery, Alabama, Wednesday, May 27th, 1925, box 6, ASU History, 1921-1925, Alabama State University (ASU) Archives, n.p.

85 Michael Fultz, “An African American Educator in the Context of His Time: George Washington Trenholm, 1871-1925,” Alabama Review 73, no.3 (July 2020), 246-267; Catalogue of the Faculty and Students, 1920-21, folder 7, box 21, Harper Councill Trenholm Collection, ASU Archives, 19, 31; Catalogue of the Faculty and Students for 1922-1923, box 21, College Programs and Reports, Harper Councill Trenholm Collection, ASU Archives, 23; and Catalogue of the Faculty of 1935-36, folder 7, box 21, Harper Councill Trenholm Collection, ASU Archives, 36.

86 “From B. H. Hudson,” American Missionary 20, no. 10 (Oct. 1876), 223.

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