to a Different Drummer
Unrecognized Heroes of American History
By Robin Kadison Berson
Lucy Craft Laney
Born in slavery, Lucy Craft Laney (1854-1933)
became one of the most influential education in
post-Reconstruction Georgia. Both her mother Louisa and
father David Laney, a skilled carpenter, were slaves;
however, her father bought his freedom as a young man
and in turn bought the freedom of his wife and children.
Lucy was seven of their ten children. The Reverend David
Laney also received ordination through the Northern
Presbyterian branch of the church in that they set no
racial limitation of ministry. Generous support,
integrity, and dignity were general traits of this
Her mother Louis continued to work for the Miss
Campbell who had owned her. Miss Campbell opened her private
library to the young Lucy and guided her study.
With the encouragement and
financial support of Miss Campbell , Lucy attended Lewis
High School in Macon. At this point, Atlanta University
was just taking shape with the support of the American
Missionary Association, an abolitionist organization
responsible for founding many of the South's fine black
colleges. Lucy Laney was selected as a member of the first
class at Atlanta University. An eager student, she was one
of four members of the first graduating class in 1873. (Berson,
Lucy entered the first class of
Atlanta University in 1869 at the age of 15. After graduation from Atlanta
University, Laney began a lifelong career as an educator and the
founder of numerous institutions for the uplift of freedmen and
their children. She taught first, for ten years, in the
public schools of Savannah, Macon, and Milledgeville. Much of her
efforts were curtailed by the reactionary phases of Reconstruction
and post Reconstruction Georgia.
African American teachers
were paid far less than white teachers, usually no more
than twelve to eighteen dollars a month. Out of every
dollar spent on public education, ninety-three cents went
to white schools and only seven cents to black education.
But budgetary constraints, however distorted, were not
really the most basic consideration: if that was the case,
Southern whites would have welcomed the teachers who came
to the black schools through the Northern philanthropies
and freedmen's aid societies and freedmen's aid societies,
since these teachers placed no financial burden on
local school districts. What underlay all of Southern
educational policy was a determination not to lose the
inexpensive, subservient agricultural labor pool the
freedmen represented. . . . Even more pernicious was the
widespread attitude that a liberal education might leave
African Americans dissatisfied with the only role in
Southern society whites intended to permit them (Berson,
Believing that she could provide a higher standard of
education than Georgia's public schools for Negroes, Lucy Laney
decided to open her own school with the encouragement of the Christ
Presbyterian Church, USA, and chose the city of Augusta which provided no
schools for black children. Various Negro aid societies
provided some funds. The school opened on January 6, 1883 in the basement
of the Christ Presbyterian Church (10 and Telfair Street), starting with
five children, Laney had within a couple of years over 200
students enrolled in her school.
Laney's school offered
literature, classics, mathematics, and a required course
in African American history. Laney was an early and
passionate believer in the centrality of racial and family
pride in the education of a confident, competent, humane
individual. Her curriculum emphasized the contributions of
blacks in a variety of fields. She brought local African
American artists and craftspeople to the school to
demonstrate and discuss their work. With the assistance of
an early German immigrant, she launched a school
orchestra. All of this ran directly counter to the
prevailing trend of "industrial" education for
blacks. the accommodationist philosophy of Booker T.
Washington was what whites wanted to hear (Berson, 189).
In 1885, the first class was graduated from Ms. Laney’s
school. The school was chartered in the state of Georgia in 1886,
but with over 20 students Laney's school was in need of a larger
facility. In 1887 Laney traveled to Minnesota to tell the Presbyterian Church Convention about
her school and the need for funding. Though the Church did not fill the need for
greater resources, Francine Haines, the secretary of the Women's
Executive Committee of Home Missions, was impressed by Lucy
Haines was deeply struck by Laney's sense
of purpose and determination that she launched her own
crusade for the school among her wealthy friends.
Eventually, Haines's campaign would bear fruit in the form
of major contributions from several Northern women; the
buildings erected with the entire school were named in
honor Haines, the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute.
Haines came up with
$10,000 for the expansion of the school. Relocated to
800 Gwinett (Laney-Walker Blvd.) Street, Haines Institute survived until the
onset of the Depression. Before her death from nephritis and
hypertension in October 1933, Lucy Craft Laney started the first black kindergarten in Augusta, Georgia
and the first black nursing school in the city, the Lamar School of
Nursing. She influenced many by her work at Haines, including John Hope, a
Haines graduate and the first African American president of
Atlanta University; and Mary McLeod Bethune, the founder of
W.E.B. DuBois called her "the dark
vestal virgin who kept the fires of Negro education
fiercely flaming in the rich but mean-spirited city of
Augusta, Georgia" (James, 651). For sixty years she
had maintained a fierce, compelling vision of the precious
worth of each individual; she had lived with a moral
urgency to elicit from each child the personal excellence
she believed innate in all people.
Anderson, James D. "Northern Foundations
and the Shaping of Southern Black Rural Education,
1902-1935." In B. Edward McClellan and William J. Reese,
The Social History of American Education. Urbana:
University of Illinois Press, 1988.
Washington, DC: Associated Publishing, 1931.
Griggs, A.C. "Lucy Craft Laney." Journal
of Negro History 52 (August, 1986): 97-102. [Fist published
Grimke, Francis J.
The Works of Francis J. Grimke. Edited by Carter Woodson. Washington, DC: Associated
Publishing, 1942. Vol. 4.
James, Edward T., ed.
Women. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971.
Laney, Lucy. "A Progress Report from the
Founder of the Haines School." In Gerda Lerner, ed.
Women in White America. New York: Pantheon Books, 1972.
Loewenberg, Bert James and Ruth Bogin, eds.
Women in Nineteenth-Century American Life: Their Words, Their
Thoughts, Their Feelings. University Park: Pennsylvania
State University Press, 1976.
McCrorey, Mary Jackson. "Lucy
Laney." The Crisis 41 (June 1934): 161.
Ovington, Mary White.
Portraits in Color.
New York: Viking Press, 1927.
Sterne, Emma Gelders.
Mary McLeod Bethune.
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1957.
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* * *
Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in
By Melissa V.
According to the
author, this society has historically exerted
considerable pressure on black females to fit into one
of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the
Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless
Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to
white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of
those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the
relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable
temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as
an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the
characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television
shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
points out how the propagation of these harmful myths
have served the mainstream culture well. For instance,
the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for
black females to feel a maternal instinct towards
As for the source
of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their
own bodies during slavery given that they were being
auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless,
it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate
the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate
* * * * *
Salvage the Bones
A Novel by Jesmyn Ward
On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—
* * * * *
The White Masters
of the World
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
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Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
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Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /
George Jackson /
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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding
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18 January 2012