Separate and Unequal: Public School Campaigns and Racism in the Southern Seaboard States, 1901-1915

By Louis R. Harlan | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
South Carolina: Inequality as a
Higher Law

"IS IT TOO MUCH TO HOPE," asked John E. Swearingen, South Carolina superintendent of education, in 1915, "for a minimum of $25 per white child and $5 per negro child?"1 It is not that other Southern states were vastly less discriminatory against Negroes, only somewhat less so and less frank about it. But the candor with which South Carolinians discussed their practice of civil inequality does suggest that their attitude was different in kind, and not merely in emphasis, from that of other Southerners. What people believe in is an important part of what they are. The white majority in South Carolina, with some exceptions, ignored the democratic principles which troubled the sleep of some other Southerners who discriminated against Negroes. The educational movement in that state, therefore, was exclusively and openly in white interest, and the main issues were which whites should be aided and how.

The state system of schools stemmed from the Reconstruction constitution of 1868 and the school act of 1870,2 but much of its

____________________
1
South Carolina School Retort, 1915, p. 19. In fact this was too much to expect in 1915. The average expenditure that year was $16.22 for each white child enrolled, and $1.93 for each Negro child enrolled, a discrimination amounting to 8.4 to 1. The ratio was even more disproportionate on the basis of population of school age. According to the federal commissioner's estimate of population five to eighteen years of age, the amount for each white child was $13.98, for each Negro child $1.13, a discrimination of 12.37 to 1. Ibid., pp. 20, 215-18; United States Bureau of Education, Report of the Commissioner of Education, 1917, II, 17.
2
John F. Thomason, The Foundations of the Public Schools of South Carolina ( Columbia, 1925), and Henry T. Thompson, The Establishment of thePublic School System of South Carolina

-170-

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