Making Space: Merging Theory and Practice in Adult Education

By Vanessa Sheared; Peggy A. Sissel et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 8

Northern Philanthropy’s Ideological Influence on African-American Adult Education in the Rural South

Bernadine S. Chapman

Wealthy White philanthropists have historically participated in the African-American experience in America. From wealthy, White abolitionists who saved the lives of runaway slaves, to wealthy patrons who financially supported many writers of the Harlem Renaissance, to the various foundations that exist today—philanthropic efforts have been motivated by a desire to assist this group of “others.” This desire to assist the “other” has often been used as a means to maintain control or to perpetuate the ideology of philanthropic organizations.

The focus of this chapter is to address and explicate the roles and functions of northern philanthropic organizations in relation to the control they maintained over African Americans in the rural South. In it, I will argue that through the mechanism of funding educational initiatives focusing on “Black industrial education” (Spivey 1978, 16–17), key philanthropic institutions were not only complicit in supporting racist beliefs, practices, and inequities against these peoples, they assisted in the maintenance of racist cultural practices. While Spivey and others have noted that the main concern of the South was to maintain hegemonic control in an economic and cultural sense, the educational institutions funded by them in fact promoted racism and inequity. Heretofore, this issue has been overlooked within the field of adult education.

In the words of Gramsci (in Graubard 1987), it is through these institutions that “the dominant class in a society [invariably uses] its power to articulate views and propagate opinions that keep subordinate classes in line: the genius of such class is that it creates institutions, like foundations, to achieve these ends” (Graubard 1987, vi). It is because of the key role that philanthropic organizations and other public and private funding streams have played, and continue to play, in program development for marginalized groups that an

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