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

By Robert G. Sherer | Go to book overview

12
TALLADEGA COLLEGE AND CONCLUSION

Enslaved blacks built the building that later housed Talladega College; freed blacks took the initiative in establishing the school that became Talladega College. On November 20, 1865, a convention of fifty-six black men met in Mobile to discuss the implications of their new freedom. The convention passed a resolution stating, "we regard the education of our children and youths as vital to the preservation of our liberties, and true religion as the foundation of all real virtue, and shall use our utmost endeavors to promote these blessings in our common country." 1

When Talladega's representatives at the convention, the ex-slaves, William Savery and Thomas Tarrant, returned home, they organized a society to plan and to begin a black school. Harry Knox headed the Society of Freedmen, which soon opened a school in a room of David White's house. The society chose Leonard Johnson to teach the school. Children flocked to the school in such numbers that Johnson had to use some of the better pupils to help teach the others. When the room in White's house became overcrowded, the society bought an old carpenter's shop, tore it down, and used the lumber to build a new schoolhouse near the Isbell Branch. When the society asked the aid of the Freedmen's Bureau in obtaining a more qualified teacher, the Bureau sent Mrs. Cynthia M. Hopson, from Hudson and Cleveland, Ohio. 2 Mrs. Hopson was a missionary of the Cleveland Freedman's Aid Commission, which operated the school from 1865 to 1867. The white people of Talladega shunned Mrs. Hopson, so she boarded with an elderly black couple. 3

By 1867, the enrollment had grown so rapidly that Mrs. Hopson had to get another teacher to help her. William C. Luke soon joined the faculty and the school developed rapidly until the "terrible tragedy of his death." Although

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