Educational reconstruction: African American education in the urban South, 1865-1890 Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 20, 2019
  • Green, Hilary Nicole
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • The central question that I ask in this dissertation is: how did African Americans and their supporters create, develop, and sustain a system of education during the transition from slavery to freedom in Richmond, Virginia and Mobile, Alabama? For newly freed African Americans, education served as a means for distancing themselves from their slave past, for acquiring full access to the rights of American citizenship, and for economic mobility in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War. Unwilling to accept African Americans' claims of citizenship through education and new postwar realities, many local white elites and restored city governments in the urban South opposed African American education. These socioeconomic conditions forced African Americans to seek strategic alliances with both non-local groups supportive of educational attainment, such as the Freedmen's Bureau, Northern missionaries, as well as a few local, sympathetic whites. African Americans' process of building networks to yield education for the largely under and uneducated masses, I argue, amounted to Educational Reconstruction. These relationships were continually negotiated, accommodated, and resisted by all involved as each had a stake in the success and failure of African American education. As in any relationship, power struggles ensued and internal strife sometimes marred the networks. Even as African Americans witnessed a contested terrain concerning African American education globally, nationally, and locally to limit the growth of black education between 1865 and 1890, African Americans experienced educational triumph through two major developments in African American education--the Freedmen's Schools and state-funded public schools. As partners and circumstances changed, this dissertation argues that urban African Americans never lost sight of these aims in their struggle for educational access and legitimacy for the African American schoolhouse. Through Educational Reconstruction, African Americans successfully moved African American education from being a non-entity to a legitimate institution, established a professional class of African-American public school teachers, and ensured the continuation of this educated middle class for future generations.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of History."
  • Williams, Heather Andrea
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

This work has no parents.