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While the number of bachelor’s degrees had increased eight-four times

in a half century in the Negro colleges, the corresponding figures for all institutions

for higher education in the United States was sixteen. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                         John Russwurm



The Negro’s Progress in American Education

By Edgar Wiknight


Despite their manifold handicaps, the American Negroes made greater progress in education during the first half of the twentieth century than in any of their other activities. 

The increase of their attendance at public schools had been especially highly marked, and there had also been a marked increase in their attendance at higher educational institutions. But Harvard had been established nearly two centuries, the College of William and Mary more than 130 years, and Yale more than 125 years before the first Negro received a collegiate degree.

John Russwurm had been graduated from Bowdoin College in 1826. Charles S. Johnson says that Russwurm “added to this accidental distinction that of being the founder of Freedom’s Journal, the first Negro newspaper.” For twenty years following his graduation, only seven other Negroes were graduated from recognized colleges, and by 1860 there had been only twenty-eight.

In 1900 there were ninety-nine colleges for Negroes in the United States, with 2.6 thousand students, and that year 156 baccalaureate degrees were conferred. Although the number of institutions for Negro higher education had increased to only 108 in 1950, enrollments in them had increased to 74.5 thousand, and baccalaureate degrees to more than 13 thousand, and there was increasing attendance of Negroes in higher institutions in those states that did not provide separate schools for the two races.

While the number of bachelor’s degrees had increased eight-four times in a half century in the Negro colleges, the corresponding figures for all institutions for higher education in the United States was sixteen. Negro college faculties had increased from 1.5 thousand in 1900 to 5.8 thousand fifty years later. At the beginning of the century, Negroes composed only 57 percent of the faculties in these institutions. In 1950, the figure was above 90 per cent.

The educational and general income of the Negro colleges meantime had grown from about $1 million to approximately $40 million, but even this was a somewhat slower increase than appeared in the income of higher education as a whole. In 1900 the total value of all Negro collegiate property was reported at close to $8 million. In 1948, the latest date for which comparable statistics were available in 1950, this figure was about $120 million.

Prior to 1951, no Negro college offered work above the master’s degree, but in that year North Carolina College, at Durham, a publicly supported and controlled liberal arts college for Negroes, was enabled by an appropriation by the state of North Carolina to enter upon work for the Ph.D., especially in the field of professional education. Prior to 1936, some 132 Negroes had received this degree and 155 Negroes had been admitted to Phi Beta Kappa. By 1950 many more had received that degree and had membership in that scholarship society.

Negroes had been part of the national citizenship since the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States in 1868. At that time illiteracy among them was close to 90 per cent. By 1930 this had declined to about 16 per cent, but the problem of Negro illiteracy constituted at mid-century a large part of the entire problem of illiteracy in the United States. In 1940 about 75 percent of all Negro workers were classified as unskilled or semi-skilled, and less than 3 per cent as professional.

In conditions of health, crime, and delinquency, the Negroes suffered disproportionately when compared with the whites. Death rates among them were higher, with tuberculosis, cardiac diseases, and diseases of infancy the major causes of death; and as a group they furnished an excess proportion of the inmates of state and Federal prisons and reformatories. The improvement of the health of this minority group to the point where it would compare favorably with the white people would wipe out many disabilities from which Negroes suffered, improve their economic condition, and stimulate their native abilities.

Statistics and other experts for insurance companies said that health was “basic to the general welfare of the Negro as it is to no other race,” a condition that placed heavy responsibilities on the schools.

Source: Edgar Wiknight. Fifty Years of American Education: A Historical Review and Critical Appraisal . NY: The Ronald Press Co. 1952, pp. 424-426

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The White Architects of Black Education

Ideology and Power in America, 1865-1954

By William Watkins

William H. Watkins is subtle in his story of the “white architects” who developed Black education beginning in 1865, just at the end of the Civil War. Watkins shocks you with his “scientific racism” platform that he explains “presented human difference as the rational for inequality” and that it “can be understood as an ideological and political issue” (pg. 39). The reader senses a calm attitude about the author as he speaks of the philanthropists, beginning with John D. Rockefeller, Sr, who was most concerned about “shaping the new industrial social order” (pg. 133) than he was for providing a useful education. “The Rockefeller group demonstrated how gift giving could shape education and public policy” (pg. 134).

 In their support of Black education, by 1964, the General Education Board (GEB) spent more than $3.2 million dollars in gifts to support Black education. This captivating book begins with a foreword written by Robin D.G. Kelley who reflects that he learned one lesson from Watkins, “If we are to create new models of pedagogy and intellectual work and become architects of our own education, then we cannot simply repair the structures that have been passed down to us. We need to dismantle the old architecture so that we might begin anew” (pg. xiii). Why don’t the school reformers who mandate educational laws experience such an awakening?Review by AC Snow

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The Death and Life of the Great American School System

How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education

By Diane Ravitch

As an education historian and former assistant secretary of education, Ravitch has witnessed the trends in public education over the past 40 years and has herself swung from public-school advocate to market-driven accountability and choice supporter back to public-school advocate. With passion and insight, she analyzes research and draws on interviews with educators, philanthropists, and business executives to question the current direction of reform of public education. In the mid-1990s, the movement to boost educational standards failed on political concerns; next came the emphasis on accountability with its reliance on standardized testing. Now educators are worried that the No Child Left Behind mandate that all students meet proficiency standards by 2014 will result in the dismantling of public schools across the nation. Ravitch analyzes the impact of choice on public schools, attempts to quantify quality teaching, and describes the data wars with advocates for charter and traditional public schools.

Ravitch also critiques the continued reliance on a corporate model for school reform and the continued failure of such efforts to emphasize curriculum. Conceding that there is no single solution, Ravitch concludes by advocating for strong educational values and revival of strong neighborhood public schools. For readers on all sides of the school-reform debate, this is a very important book.—Vanessa Bush   

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Black Education

A Transformative Research and Action Agenda for the New Century

Edited by Joyce E. King

This volume presents the findings and recommendations of the American Educational Research Association's (AERA) Commission on Research in Black Education (CORIBE) and offers new directions for research and practice. By commissioning an independent group of scholars of diverse perspectives and voices to investigate major issues hindering the education of Black people in the U.S., other Diaspora contexts, and Africa, the AERA sought to place issues of Black education and research practice in the forefront of the agenda of the scholarly community. An unprecedented critical challenge to orthodox thinking, this book makes an epistemological break with mainstream scholarship. Contributors present research on proven solutionsbest practicesthat prepare Black students and others to achieve at high levels of academic excellence and to be agents of their own socioeconomic and cultural transformation.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 4 June 2012




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