Subordination or Liberation? The Development and Conflicting Theories of Black Education in Nineteenth Century Alabama

By Robert G. Sherer | Go to book overview

PART II Seeking a Way Out: Private Schools

7
NONDENOMINATIONAL SCHOOLS

Since Alabama's private black schools and colleges were not under the control of local white school boards or the state legislature, their leaders had more room to maneuver seeking ways out of the web of subordination than did the public schools. Like the public schools, the private schools followed a variety of educational programs. Most of the nondenominational schools were primary schools that emphasized industrial training. Most of the schools established by white denominations stressed liberal, academic, or theological training. The major exception in this group, Barber Seminary, was a primary industrial mission school for girls. All of the schools established by black denominations emphasized liberal, higher education for their pupils.

The American Missionary Association's schools were a special group. While they offered industrial work from the first, they also were firmly committed to higher education for blacks. The AMA school, Talladega College, was the only black school in Alabama that had a traditional collegiate program (as distinct from a normal course) by 1901. The AMA schools, therefore, offered Alabama's blacks the fullest opportunity to develop the intellectual, elite leaders denied blacks by the public school system. These AMA schools daily denied the dominance of Booker T. Washington and industrial training over black education in Alabama. They also reinforced the determination of the other black and white denominations' educational leaders that black education would not be different from the education available to Alabama's whites.

Only one group of black schools in nineteenth century Alabama chose industrial training over liberal, academic education. These were the private, primary, nondenominational black schools. Many of these were short-lived, most were small, and almost none preserved their records or even the story

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