EDUCATION AND THE RACE PROBLEM IN THE NEW SOUTH
THE STRUGGLE FOR IDEOLOGICAL HEGEMONY
OF ALL the topics covered in southern black educational history, the reforms and debates that began in the late 1890s and ended around 1915 have been examined most thoroughly. Still, fundamental misunderstandings persist. Indeed, particular distortions and half-truths, which have been developed and repeated in a series of fine monographs, have evolved into the standard interpretation of southern educational reform at the turn of the century. A synopsis of this interpretation would run as follows: philanthropic northerners, perturbed by the social and economic hindrances placed on black southerners by white southerners, sought "to cushion the Negro against the shock of racism and to keep public education open as an avenue of Negro advancement." These philanthropists, less concerned about constitutional rights and social equality than were the radical Republicans of the Reconstruction era, hoped to form an alliance with the South's conservative upper class to protect black southerners from rampant racism. But, according to this school of thought, the northern philanthropists fatally miscalculated the depth and force of the white supremacy movement and soon found themselves overpowered by it. Consequently, they were deflected from their original aim to challenge racism by "good will, tact, and hard work," and they compromised with the region's white supremacists to "save for the former slaves what could be salvaged." 1
What could be salvaged, the story continues, was a system of universal common schooling for black children which would serve as the last avenue of black advancement in an otherwise oppressive society. This is, of course, a peculiar interpretation because it is difficult to comprehend how a subordinate institution such as state-controlled public education might advance a class of people against the racist oppression of government and other dominant social institutions. Yet the philanthropists'
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Publication information: Book title: The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935. Contributors: James D. Anderson - Author. Publisher: University of North Carolina Press. Place of publication: Chapel Hill, NC. Publication year: 1988. Page number: 79.
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