USI.1.a identify, analyze, and interpret primary and secondary source documents to better understand events and life in U.S. history to 1877
Letters—Gallery One: The Slave-Holding Era
Documents—Gallery Three: Virginia Seminary
USI.1.b make connections between the past and the present
Overview: During and after the slave-holding era, Central Virginia’s African Americans struggled and sacrificed to educate themselves and their children. Slaves violated the law to teach each other to read and write. Emancipated blacks knew that education was the cornerstone of their freedom. With the help of the Freedmen’s Bureau and northern philanthropists and missionaries, African Americans quickly established schools in Lynchburg and the counties of Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford, and Campbell.
Black Central Virginians advocated tax-supported public education for all children. After racially segregated public schools opened in 1871, African Americans worked tirelessly to oppose educational inequality and to improve their poorly funded schools. Over and over, black citizens of Lynchburg and the surrounding counties demonstrated their belief in the motto that appeared on a freedmen’s school blackboard in the 1860s: “Knowledge is power. Try, try again.”
Exhibit Topics: The Slave-Holding Era, The Civil War and Reconstruction, Vocational Education, Self-Help and Advocacy, Philanthropy, Higher Education, Public Schools (Lynchburg, Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford, Campbell), Virginia Seminary, Separate But Equal?
USI.9f demonstrate knowledge of the causes, major events, and effects of the Civil War by describing the effects of war from the perspectives of . . . slaves
Gallery One: Civil War and Reconstruction, Vocational Education, Higher Educaion, Self-Help and Philanthropy
Civil War and Reconstruction
During the Civil War, fugitive slaves often fled to Union-occupied areas where military officers provided food, shelter, clothing, and medical attention. Fugitives sometimes had a chance for informal schooling. So did blacks who joined the Union Army, since literacy was important to being a good soldier.
The movement to emancipate the slaves carried with it the challenge of educating them for the responsibilities of freedom. After the war, abandoned Confederate military camps like Camp Davis, located near Twelfth and Kemper Streets in Lynchburg, became schools. The Camp Davis School was established by Jacob Yoder under the auspices of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, a branch of the United States War Department.
Reconstruction-era teachers in Lynchburg included Elizabeth Frances “Fannie” Harvey, a white woman who taught privately and was hired by the Freedman’s Bureau to teach in the Jackson Street Church. Samuel F. Kelso, born to parents who had both been slaves, taught in the Twelfth Street School and served as a trustee of the Polk Street School. Robert Perkins, also a trustee of the Polk Street School, taught on Federal Street. George W. Perritt taught both in private freedmen’s schools and in Freedmen’s Bureau schools. Laura Spencer taught at the Court Street Church School and Jesse Owings at Court Street School No. l. Other African American teachers in Lynchburg during Reconstruction included Emeline and Carrington Ellis. Thomas Y. Scott taught freedmen in Campbell County, as did Booker Purvis. All of these individuals had acquired some education despite laws denying them the opportunity to learn to read and write.
According to one historian’s description of a typical freedmen’s school, lessons began at 10 a.m. in a classroom decorated with portraits of Lincoln, Garrison, and Whittier. On the blackboard the teacher wrote words of encouragement: “Knowledge is power. Try, try again.” Students studied reading, writing, and arithmetic using Clark’s First Lessons in English Grammar and Towle’s Speller. They also learned geography and held a question-and-answer session on the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. The school day ended with singing at 2:30 p.m.
Jacob Yoder, a Mennonite from Pennsylvania who established Lynchburg’s first Freedmen’s Bureau school for African American children, is pictured with a colleague and pupils in the early 1870s.
At the end of the 1866 spring term, Jacob Yoder’s pupils held a “Program of Exhibition.” In his diary Jacob Yoder recorded that the event was well attended by the community and was “eminently a success.”
The Camp Davis School was established in Lynchburg by the Freedmen’s Bureau. The one-story frame building was part of an abandoned Confederate military training camp located near Twelfth and Kemper Streets. By May 1866, enrollment at the Camp Davis School had reached 322. Four teachers, including Jacob Yoder and a superintendent, taught at the school. In 1866 the school moved to the African Methodist Episcopal Church on Jackson Street, a more convenient location for the students. Fannie Harvey, a white woman, taught at this school.
Elizabeth Frances “Fannie” Harvey (1826-1899)
Fannie Harvey, a white woman, taught black children in Lynchburg for over forty years. Orra Langhorne, who visited Fannie Harvey’s schoolroom in 1880, observed that “Miss Harvey is one of those truly called to teach. . . . Instead of the switch or ruler, which so often forms the badge of office with instructors, her table is covered with plants and minerals, the nature of which ‘Miss Fanny’ carefully explains to her pupils, and the interest the children show in collecting such things testifies to the confidence and affection they feel for their teacher.” Langhorne went on to observe that Fannie Harvey’s students “generally are under the usual disadvantage of poverty, a great many of them being compelled to lose much time from school to work in the Tobacco factories, their wages being, very often, an important part of family support.”
Samuel Kelso (1825-1880)
Samuel Kelso, the son of Virginia slaves, became one of Lynchburg’s first African American teachers. A colleague of Jacob Yoder’s, Kelso taught at the freedmen’s school on Twelfth Street and served as a trustee of the Polk Street School. In 1867-68 Kelso was elected as a delegate to Virginia’s Constitutional Convention. He introduced the state’s first resolution supporting free public schools for children of all races. Kelso was one of many southern blacks who advocated strong public schools.
Initially, higher education for African Americans trained them to be teachers of and leaders in vocational education. This practice reflected the view that opportunities for African Americans would continue to be limited.
One of the most influential and controversial proponents of vocational education was Booker T. Washington (1856-1915). Born into a slave family in Franklin County, Washington attended Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (1872-75) and went on to develop Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute on the Hampton model. Washington believed that blacks should be educated for industrial and agricultural work. He was criticized for emphasizing vocational education at the expense of academic development and civil rights. Washington’s autobiography, Up from Slavery (1901), was translated into many languages and influenced, among others, the educational philanthropist Julius Rosenwald.
Two photographs from a 1914 Campbell County school fair display the products of the students’ vocational education.
Permilia “Amelia” Elizabeth Perry Pride (1857-1932)
Amelia Pride was the daughter of William Perry (1823-1873) and Ellen Dunn-Bailey (1827-1871). Both her parents were fair-skinned non-whites. William Perry, a master carpenter and building contractor of moderate wealth, was well respected in the Lynchburg community. Amelia was educated in Lynchburg schools. Sixteen when her parents died, she enrolled at the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (later Hampton University). She earned a degree from the Hampton teacher education program in 1879.
Hampton’s emphasis on self-help and practical, vocational education left an indelible mark on Pride. In 1898 she opened a sewing school in the building of the Polk Street Colored School, where she served as principal. Five years later she founded the Theresa Pierce Cooking School for black children across from her home on Madison Street. These two schools would develop into the curriculum for domestic sciences and home economics in Lynchburg’s public schools. Amelia Pride also founded a retirement home for elderly black women and helped to start the Eighth Street Baptist Church.
Theresa Pierce Cooking School, c. 1910
In 1903 Amelia Perry Pride established the Theresa Pierce Cooking School for black children. At the cooking school students learned how to prepare and host meals. Frustrated by her students’ poor nutrition, Amelia Pride also taught them gardening and their parents food preservation. This image is believed to be students at the Pierce Cooking School c. 1910.
Virginia Hughes (1909-2001) recalled going to weekly cooking classes at the school on Madison Street between Eighth and Ninth, in a room in the basement. About a dozen girls attended the classes and cooked simple dishes such as muffins. Measuring for recipes was part of learning arithmetic. “Whatever we cooked, we had to eat,” Mrs. Hughes remembered. The children scrubbed the table before and after using it.
1915 book, Food, What It Is and Does, teaches the basics of nutrition and food preparation.
- Spoon c. 1910
- 1911 Mason jar, such as those used in teaching food preservation.
- 1920 pamphlet, Happy Healthy Womanhood, taught women the basics of hygiene, nutrition, and overall female well-being.
- Muffin tins c. 1900
- Apron c. 1910
- Higher Education
The restrictive race customs of the day dictated instruction that prepared African Americans for manual labor. Men learned such crafts as plastering, joinery, and painting. Women were taught domestic sciences, such as ironing, dressmaking, and food preparation. The emphasis on vocational education reflected the view that job opportunities for African Americans were and would continue to be limited.
1. Plastering Department, Hampton Institute, c. 1900
2. Joinery Class, Hampton Institute, c. 1900
3. Painting Shop, Hampton Institute, c. 1900
4. Laundry Class, Hampton Institute, c. 1900
5. Dressmaking Class, Hampton Institute, c. 1900
Virginia Collegiate and Industrial Institute (Morgan College Annex)
A branch of Morgan College of Baltimore, Maryland, the Virginia Collegiate and Industrial Institute was established in 1892 and destroyed by fire in 1917. The Jackson Street Methodist Episcopal Church purchased the land for the school at a cost of $12,000 and $5,000 for the building. The church continued its support by assuming an additional $14,000 debt. The first principal was Frank Trigg, Jr., who presided over 200 students. The curriculum at Morgan College Annex included a college preparatory program and a “normal” (teacher training) course.
Frank Trigg, Jr. (c. 1859-1933)
Born a slave in Richmond, Frank Trigg received an education because he lost his arm in a farming accident and could no longer do farm work. Trigg attended Richmond public schools and graduated with honors from Hampton Institute. Additional education included Norwich Academy in Connecticut. One of the first black educators in Lynchburg, he served as principal of the Polk Street and Payne Elementary Schools and of the Jackson Street School and the Morgan College Annex. He was co-founder of the Virginia Teachers’ Association and was instrumental in developing a normal school program attended by Lynchburg’s black teachers during the summer months.
Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute (Virginia State University), 1916
The mission of the school stated,
The primary aim of the Institute is to prepare teachers for the colored public schools of the State. . . . The institute, however, has a secondary aim. This aim seeks to prepare every student entering its doors for the pressing duties and obligations of the daily life.
Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (Hampton University)
Union General Samuel Chapman Armstrong founded the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in 1868, planning to gather there the South’s most promising black students. Armstrong created a strong educational program to produce teachers and leaders. Founded when nine out of ten African Americans were illiterate due to laws that had prohibited the teaching of slaves, Hampton was devoted to teacher training, industrial training, and a combined instruction curriculum in agricultural and mechanical skills, with a strong academic emphasis.
In 1903-04 the school expanded from a three-year to a four-year degree program. In 1916 Hampton received accreditation as a four-year secondary school. In 1922 and 1928, the first bachelor’s degrees were awarded and the first graduate students admitted. Hampton’s self-help philosophy and emphasis on vocational education were important influences in Central Virginia. By 1890, one third of Lynchburg’s African American teachers were Hampton graduates.
Central Virginia’s African Americans not only pressed for schools for black children but also donated funds and land. The American Baptist Home Missionary Society, along with black churches such as Jackson Street Methodist Episcopal Church in Lynchburg, Mount Zion in Campbell County, and Rose Chapel in Amherst County, played pivotal roles in creating and supporting schools.
As early as 1866, Emmeline and Carrington Ellis were conducting an independent school for free blacks on Thirteenth Street in Lynchburg. In 1868 black citizens asked the Freedmen’s Bureau to start a school at Camp Davis. This action led blacks to organize the Educational Association of Lynchburg, also known as the Howard Educational Association, and to push for establishment of the Polk Street School.
In 1876 a committee of black citizens, determined to secure the advantages of education for their children, requested addition of a black high school. Their lobbying led to establishment of the Jackson Street High School, which opened in 1881. A year later, black citizens’ successful petition to the school board resulted in appointment of Jacob Yoder as principal of Lynchburg’s black schools. In 1908, with the formation of the Civic and Educational League by the city’s leading African American citizens, advocacy for better schools and better educational opportunities led to instruction in Latin in the high school, black teachers for the high school, and salary increases for these teachers.
In 1880 white teachers filled the majority of positions in the black schools, with only 785 of Virginia’s 1,256 African American schools having black teachers. But as teacher training programs enlarged the pool of black teachers, they gradually replaced whites. All over the South, petitions were made to local school boards to hire black teachers for black schools.
Most African Americans preferred that their children learn from other African Americans. Black teachers provided strong models for black students and tended to be more sympathetic than whites to the situation of black students, as well as more willing to mingle with their pupils’ families and with the larger African American community. Working for the good of the community that hired them, these teachers were in turn supported with monetary donations, supplies, and room and board. African American teachers reflected racial pride. By 1884, fourteen of the nineteen teachers in Lynchburg’s black schools were African Americans.
Northern abolitionists saw clearly that southern blacks needed formal education. As the Civil War ended and towns across the South came under Union control, northern missionary societies sent teachers, ministers, and others to provide food, clothing, and other necessities, as well as education and religious training. The federal government also contributed to the education of freed slaves through the Freedmen’s Bureau. Motivated by religious zeal, political ambition, or a combination of the two, churches and wealthy individuals began to establish philanthropic organizations.
The energetic efforts of benevolent societies and the Freedmen’s Bureau were greeted with enthusiasm by Lynchburg’s freedpeople. Within six months of the surrender at Appomattox, there were four black schools in Lynchburg, with eight teachers and one superintendent attending to a daily enrollment of five hundred students. But despite their enthusiasm, southern blacks refused to allow either white southerners or northern philanthropists to control their schools. And white southerners criticized northern philanthropists for their patronizing and disdainful attitude toward the South and for what sometimes appeared to be their attempts to monopolize education.
Northern philanthropists provided teachers, buildings, materials, and funds for southern black schools but did little to challenge white supremacy. In an effort to appease southern whites’ hostility to their efforts, northern philanthropists accepted racial segregation. They did not address the root problems of poverty, racial injustice, and disfranchisement.
Anna T. Jeanes
Motivated by a desire to promote Christianity, Anna T. Jeanes, a wealthy, single Quaker from Philadelphia, became interested in southern blacks’ struggle for education. At her request and with her financial support, Booker T. Washington organized a board of trustees with the goal of providing supervisors as consultants and helpers for poor rural schools. The Jeanes Foundation, established in 1907, became known as the Negro Rural School Fund. Until the late 1960s, when black teachers and students were absorbed into integrated schools, the Jeanes Foundation paid for supervisors in Amherst and Bedford Counties.
The Jeanes Foundation was modeled on the work of Virginia Cabell Randolph, a black teacher in the Richmond area (not to be confused with the Lynchburg educator of the same name) who emphasized vocational education, visited her students in their homes, and helped improve their health and sanitation. She became the first Jeanes Supervisor and worked in Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia.
Julius Rosenwald (d. 1932)
Julius Rosenwald, an early partner in Sears, Roebuck and later president of the company, became interested in philanthropy “that addressed fundamental issues of equity, access and opportunity.” Rosenwald wished to promote self-reliance among African Americans by requiring them to add their own sacrificial contributions to his. At the time of Rosenwald’s death, the South had seen completion of 5,357 Rosenwald schools. His total contribution of $4.4 million was matched by $18 million in government funds, $1.2 million from private foundations, and $4.7 million from individual African Americans. Rosenwald schools were built in Amherst and Appomattox counties.
The Megginson Elementary School in Campbell County is typical of the Rosenwald school style.
Born in Danvers, Massachusetts, a school dropout at age eleven, George Peabody went on to establish a successful wholesale dry goods business in Baltimore. In 1867 he established the Peabody Education Fund, directing his energy toward promoting education in the South. According to History of Negro Education in the South, Peabody told the fund’s trustees that he wished his money to go to “promotion and encouragement of intellectual, moral, and industrial education among the young of the more destitute portions of the Southern and Southwestern states . . . .”
Lynchburg’s black schoolchildren knew of George Peabody. When Orra Langhorne visited Fannie Harvey’s class in Lynchburg in 1880, the students discussed school funding. “Miss Fannie” asked the children, “What benevolent man bequeathed a large sum of money to aid Southern education?” and the students replied, “Mr. Peabody.” The Peabody Fund was the first educational philanthropy in the United States.
John L. Slater
With the 1882 inheritance of his uncle’s textile business in Connecticut, John L. Slater donated a million dollars to create the first philanthropy in the United States devoted exclusively to African American education. Inspired by the success of George Peabody, Slater specified that his fund be used “for the uplifting of the lately emancipated population of the Southern States and their posterity by conferring on them the blessings of Christian education.” Grants from the Slater Fund helped develop black colleges and high schools as well as institutions for teacher training and industrial education.
USI.10.a demonstrate knowledge of the effects of Reconstruction on American life by identifying the provisions of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and [its] impact on the expansion of freedom in America
Gallery One: The Slave-Holding Era, Civil War and Reconstruction, Self-Help and Philanthropy (notes above)
USI.10.b demonstrate knowledge of the effects of Reconstruction on American life by describing the impact of Reconstruction policies on the South
Gallery One: The Slave-Holding Era, Civil War and Reconstruction, Self-Help and Philanthropy (notes above)
Gallery Two: Public Schools (2 panels)
Beginnings of Lynchburg Public Schools
In 1869 a new Virginia State Constitution was ratified, providing, for the first time, a system of tax-supported public education. The new constitution called for free schools for all citizens, with separate schools for whites and African Americans.
In 1871 the Lynchburg Public Schools opened with twenty teachers and 718 students. Dr. Robert S. Payne, chairman of the school board, oversaw three school buildings: the Court Street School for white girls, the Monroe School for white boys, and the Jackson Street School for African Americans of both sexes.
Jacob Yoder was appointed superintendent of the black schools. All previously established free schools for black children, including the Polk Street School, affectionately known as “the chicken coop” and originally owned by the Freedmen’s Bureau, were incorporated into the new public school system.
The first African American teachers were hired in 1879. Alice Walker Kinckle and Susan E. Merchant were hired as full-time teachers, working as assistants to Fannie Harvey. Ottawa Ann “Ottie” Gladman was hired as a part-time teacher in 1879 and became full-time in 1880. Other black teachers in Lynchburg’s public schools between 1879 and 1881 included Amelia Elizabeth Perry, Frank Trigg, and Rosa Daniel Kinckle.
In 1881, the year that Jackson Street High School opened, the Lynchburg Virginian reported that “the schools are constantly increasing in membership and are improving in scholarship and morale, thanks to the free system, which the colored people appreciate, and will be likely to sustain.”
Payne School was built in 1885, and in 1891 an old soap factory on Salem Street was cleared out to hold the consolidated classes from the Jackson Street African Methodist Episcopal Church and Camp Davis. In 1910, when City Council appropriated $200,000 for new public schools, included was the eight-room Yoder School for African Americans on Jackson Street.
Nineteen-sixteen saw completion of the four-room Armstrong School, named for Samuel Chapman Armstrong, a founder of Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute.
Reconstruction brought educational opportunities to African Americans in Amherst County. Churches, benevolent white citizens, and northern missionary groups all did their part. Mrs. India Williams of Sweet Briar donated land. The county’s first missionary teacher from New England, known as “Buttermilk Jones,” taught in the Clifford area. A school was established at Scott Zion by a young African American who had been hired by a northern church. San Domingo was part of a Roman Catholic diocese, and St. Mary’s was founded by black citizens with the help of a former slave owner. Schools were also established at Galilee, Oak Hill, Mount Airy, Mount Olive, Rose Chapel Baptist, Timothy, and Union Hill.
The earliest schools were usually one-room log cabins with small windows. Students sat on long wooden benches, and equipment consisted of slate boards, pencils, and a rough table. Teachers were often white men from outside the county. By 1870 there were seven schools with an enrollment of 266. Five Rosenwald schools were built in Amherst. The Jeanes Fund paid county supervisors; the Slater Fund paid teacher salaries.
During Reconstruction, Appomattox teacher Thomas Lythgoe wrote his Lynchburg colleague Jacob Yoder that “the people are so anxious for a school that I cannot very well refuse them.” Lythgoe taught at Tower Hill. The Pennsylvania Freedmen’s Relief Society sent Charles McMahon to teach at Plymouth Rock and Martha Brent to teach at Spout Spring.
In 1871 the Appomattox public schools opened with six schools for 352 black children. Their five teachers were all black men. Only 10% of the Southside district’s “colored” school population was enrolled, while 21% of Stonewall’s population and 32% of Clover Hill’s was enrolled. The percentages of white children enrolled were higher, ranging from 24% to 45%. The schools were open for five months of the year.
Philanthropists such as Julius Rosenwald provided funds to build some of Appomattox County’s early black schools.
The first school for African Americans in Bedford County opened in 1866 in the town of Bedford, then known as Liberty. Established by the Pennsylvania Freedmen’s Relief Association, the school was taught by Alvin Varner. Other Reconstruction-era teachers of black children included Ellen Wills at Allen Creek and William H. Richardson at Holcomb Rock.
A deed dated June 3, 1873, showed that Bedford landowners intended to provide land for a black school, with the sale of land designated specifically “for the purpose of establishing a public free school for the benefit of the colored people of said school district.” A school was opened in the Otter district in 1875. The next year the Promise Land School opened two miles south of Moneta. Promise Land was “a one room log house with a large fireplace and no windows except board blinds that had to be closed on cold and rainy days.” In this space sixty students learned reading, spelling, and arithmetic from an African American man named Hines and then from Ann Pearce, an African American woman from Lynchburg.
By 1870 Campbell County had several freedmen’s schools. William H. Stewart taught freedmen at Long Mountain Church. Thomas Y. Scott taught at Yellow Branch, Booker Purvis at Mount Zion. Ellen Wills, who had been a student in the Camp Davis Normal Class in Lynchburg and who had previously taught in Bedford County, served the freedmen’s school at New London.
The first school for blacks in the Pleasant Valley community was a log cabin built by Albert Megginson (1831-1923). Two of his daughters were the first teachers. Emaline Megginson Hamler and Daisy Megginson Elliott were graduates of the Morgan College Annex in Lynchburg. When funds provided by philanthropist Julius Rosenwald became available for a new school in Pleasant Valley, Albert Megginson led the campaign for matching funds. The new school, its style typical of Rosenwald schools, was built in 1923 and named for Megginson.
Alla A. Duiguid Booth (1882-1959) taught for many years in Campbell County, serving the schools at Pedlar Mountain, Long Mountain, Pilot Mountain, Red House, and Chapel Grove. She also taught at Rustburg Elementary.
USII.1.a identify, analyze, and interpret primary and secondary source documents to better understand events and life in U.S. history from 1877 to the present
Artifacts—Gallery One: geography text, Bible, slate pieces; Gallery Two: cooking table, books, clothing, trunk; Gallery Three: books, catalogs, notebooks, ledge, desk, clothingr; Hallway: books
Letters—Gallery One: The Slave-Holding Era
Documents—Gallery Three: Virginia Seminary
USII.1.b make connections between past and present
USII.3.c demonstrate knowledge of how life changed after the Civil War by describing racial segregation, the rise of “Jim Crow,” and other constraints faced by African Americans in the post-Reconstruction South
Gallery One: Civil War and Reconstruction, Self-Help and Philanthropy (notes above)
Gallery Two: Public Schools (2 panels; notes above)
Gallery Three: Virginia Seminary, Separate But Equal?
Originally known as the Virginia Baptist Seminary, Virginia Theological Seminary and College was the first post-Civil War college in Lynchburg. Interest in an “all-Negro” theological institution emerged at the 1886 meeting of the Virginia Baptist State Convention, when Seminary founder Phillip Morris argued successfully for such an institution controlled by blacks and independent of whites. By 1887, six acres of land had been purchased in Lynchburg, and in 1888 the school was incorporated. Difficulties with funding emerged early on, and in 1891 the Virginia Baptist State Convention agreed to accept financial support from the Seminary from the Home Mission Society. This agreement meant a partial loss of black control.
Along with theological instruction, the Seminary offered college preparatory work, teacher training, vocational education, and liberal arts courses. By 1894 enrollment had reached 408. The school provided additional educational opportunities for African Americans at a time when instruction in the public high schools lasted only three years.
Highly esteemed among African American educators, the Seminary continued to resist white dominance and to include academic courses in the liberal arts. When the Home Mission Society tied its $1 million annual donation to the stipulation that the Seminary become a secondary school with a vocational emphasis, Gregory Hayes, the school’s second president, returned the donation.
The 1916-17 academic year revealed the success of the school with an enrollment of 310 students representing twenty-two states and four foreign countries. By 1917, four hundred students had graduated from Virginia Seminary. Of these, 118 had entered the ministry, eight were serving as missionaries, twenty were doctors, ten were dentists, ten were lawyers, four were nurses, thirty were professors, two were college presidents, two were principals of academies, eighteen were employed as civil service workers, and many others were teachers.
Throughout its early decades, Virginia Theological Seminary and College was guided by a vision of self-help based on confidence in African Americans’ determination and willingness to sacrifice to achieve their goals.
Virginia Seminary is now known as Virginia University of Lynchburg. It is located at 2058 Garfield Avenue.
Separate But Equal?
In the 1896 case of Plessy v. Ferguson, the United States Supreme Court affirmed racial segregation as national policy, declaring that “separate but equal” facilities for blacks and whites were constitutional. The case arose from a Louisiana law providing for separate railway cars for whites and blacks. Many such “Jim Crow” laws were passed in southern states, at least in part to stop poor whites from making political and economic alliances with blacks that could threaten the established order in the South.
“Separate but equal” translated into “separate and unequal” for many publicly funded institutions. Two photographs of Virginia public schools, c. 1915, illustrate the vast difference in educational facilities provided for black and white students.
CE.1.a develop the social studies skills citizenship requires, including the ability to examine primary and secondary source documents
Artifacts—Gallery One: geography text, Bible, slate pieces; Gallery Two: cooking table, books, clothing, trunk; Gallery Three: books, catalogs, notebooks, ledge, desk clothing; Hallway: books
Letters—Gallery One: The Slave-Holding Era
Documents—Gallery Three: Virginia Seminary
CE.1.c develop the social studies skills citizenship requires, including the ability to analyze . . . pictures. . . .
CE.2.a demonstrate knowledge of the foundations of American constitutional government by explaining the fundamental principles of . . . democracy. . . .
Gallery One: The Slave-Holding Era (notes follow)
Gallery Two: Public Schools (2 panels; notes above)
Gallery Three: Separate But Equal?(notes above)
The Slave-Holding Era
During colonial times it was not uncommon for free African Americans to learn to read and write. Religious instruction of free African Americans and African American apprentices was customary and, in fact, often expected. In Virginia, various religious groups provided religious training to free blacks.
Far fewer slaves than free blacks were educated. Some slave owners saw education as a way of increasing the efficiency of the labor force. Others wanted both enslaved and free African Americans to learn to read so that they could understand the principles of Christianity. The Bible was often a slave’s only book.
As anti-slavery sentiment grew, Virginia and other southern states began to pass laws against educating slaves. Slaves who could read abolitionist tracts were dangerous. So were those who could forge passes to ease escape. In 1831, Virginia law made it illegal for any African American, slave or free, to learn to read, and all meetings for the purpose of educating African Americans were declared unlawful. Owners often whipped slaves who tried to write even their own names.
By 1848, it was against the law for free blacks to send their children North to be educated. But many African Americans remained determined to teach themselves, as well as others, to read and write.
In 1831, a Virginia law made it illegal for African Americans, whether enslaved or free, to learn to read. The fear of an uprising prompted whites to discourage all activities, including literacy, that might enable blacks to organize. Literacy among slaves threatened the institution of slavery.
African Americans gave accounts, in their own words, of slave life on plantations, in cities, and on small farms. These accounts were recorded when over 2,300 former slaves across the South were interviewed by journalists and writers as part of the Works Progress Administration during the 1930s. The following excerpts from WPA interviews, presented in the dialect in which they were recorded, illustrate some of the restrictions on education imposed by slaveholders.
Charlie Mitchell was born into slavery in Lynchburg in 1852. His narrative, recorded many years after Mitchell left Virginia and moved to Texas, provides a glimpse of Central Virginia slave owners’ view of slaves’ literacy:
Course, I didn’t git no schoolin’. The white folks said niggers don’t need no larnin’. Some niggers larnt to write their initials on the barn door with charcoal, then they try to find out who done that, the white folks, I mean, and say they cut his fingers off ‘iffen they jus’ find out who done it.
Fountain Hughes, whose father belonged to Thomas Jefferson, was enslaved in Central Virginia. He remembers that at Emancipation,
We had no home, you know. We was just turned out like a lot of cattle. You know how they turn cattle out in a pasture? Well after freedom, you know colored people didn’ have nothing. Colored people didn’ have no beds when they was slaves. We always slep’ on the floor, pallet here, and a pallet there. Jus like, uh, lot of, uh, wild people, we didn’, we didn’ know nothing. Didn’ allow you to look at no book. An’ there was some free-born colored people, why they had a little education, but there was very few of them, where we was.
Richard Toler was enslaved in Lynchburg. When interviewed, he had this to say about his education:
Ah never went to school. Learned to read and write my name after ah was free in night school, but they nevah allowed us to have a book in ouah hand, and we couldn’t have no money neither.
Slate pieces uncovered in the slave quarters at Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest suggest that some of the enslaved could read and write.
Before the early 1800s it was not uncommon for free African Americans to learn to read and write. However, enslaved African Americans were often only allowed the Bible.
1867 geography book from the Clay Street School Library. The Clay Street Colored School, located at 723 Clay Street, was constructed in 1875. The site is now occupied by Daily Bread.
At least one of Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest slaves, master craftsman John Hemings, could read, write, and cipher. Several of Hemings’ letters survive. In this one, dated August 11, 1825, Hemings informs his master of progress on the building of Poplar Forest and mentions Lynchburg as a source of roofing tin:
Dere Sir I hop you ar well We have got through the 15 boxis of tin and it will take 4 boxis more to finish the house I hope you have got information of before by Mr. F. Eppes I am in hopes we shall git the stuff fore the gutters in 2 weeks It carrs [costs?] much lower by giting the inch stuff from him. It comes at 3 dollars pay a hundred and four dollars a day for the waggin to hall it He says he can hall the hold at one lode. We should go about preparing the chines railing & puting up the ornaments of the hall Marster F. Epps was saying something about tining the flat rouff over the hall you and him can descide it between you how it shol be done Sir plese to send the tin as soon as you can the flat rouft will take 3 boxes. That is 7 in all. Theirs tin in Linchburg at 15 ½ Dollars which is much nearer if it could be got.
Thomas Jefferson’s domestic servant Hannah corresponded with Jefferson, but it is uncertain whether or not she wrote this letter herself or had someone else write it for her.
Thomas Jefferson commented in an August 27, 1796, letter on the desirability of educating slaves. In 1779 and again in 1784 Jefferson had supported a plan “for the more general diffusion of knowledge.” His plan called for a state system of elementary schools, secondary schools, and colleges, as well as a state university. The plan included only whites and included white women only up to a certain level. Jefferson also advocated “providing for the instruction of the slaves.” Some instruction would be, Jefferson wrote, “more desireable as they would in the course of it be mixed with those of free condition. Whether, for their happiness, it should extend beyond those destined to be free, is questionable. Ignorance & despotism seem made for each other.”
CE.3.e demonstrate knowledge of citizenship and the rights, duties, and responsibilities of citizens by evaluating how civic and social duties address community needs and serve the public good
Gallery One: Self-Help and Philanthropy (notes above)
Gallery Two: Public Schools (2 panels; notes above)