From Slave South to New South: Public Policy in Nineteenth-Century Georgia

By Peter Wallenstein | Go to book overview
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15
HIGHER EDUCATION FOR A NEW SOUTH

CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES during the Civil War and Reconstruction dramatically reshaped higher education as well as elementary schooling in the South. The advent of legal literacy for blacks led to new questions: Should blacks have access to institutions more advanced than common schools? Where were teachers for black elementary schools to come from? What roles should the state take in supporting higher education for blacks and in training black teachers?

Emancipation and the Fourteenth Amendment were not the only manifestations of changed relations between the federal government and the states. During the war, the federal government began to offer the states financial support for higher education. Like the Homestead Act, which Congress passed in the 1850s but the president vetoed, the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862 became law soon after the Republican party secured the White House.1 Under a second Morrill Act, passed in 1890, the federal purse would help sustain colleges for whites only if blacks gained a share in that support.

Barriers to higher education on grounds of class, sex, or race declined after the Civil War. State funds enabled Confederate veterans to attend five Georgia colleges free of charge for a short time after the war. Several branches of the University of Georgia developed in the 1870s and 1880s; each offered tuitionfree education, and some admitted women as well as men.


The University of Georgia

The University of Georgia emerged from the Civil War with its operations suspended, its endowment from the state ($100,000 in bank stock) totally lost, and its buildings the barracks of federal troops. The constitutional convention of 1865 directed the legislature to "provide for the early resumption of the regular exercises of the University of Georgia, by the adequate endowment of the same." Anticipating state aid, the university reopened in January 1866 with seventy-eight students. The following month the state house of representatives indefinitely postponed consideration of a bill to appropriate money to the school. But because the Code of Georgia already provided

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