Academic journal article The Journal of African American History

Building upon Cultural Capital: Thomas Jefferson Ferguson and the Albany Enterprise Academy in Southeast Ohio, 1863-1886

Academic journal article The Journal of African American History

Building upon Cultural Capital: Thomas Jefferson Ferguson and the Albany Enterprise Academy in Southeast Ohio, 1863-1886

Article excerpt

Whereas, we, a portion of the free colored citizens of the State of Ohio, [believe] that the time has come for us to define our views and positions in regard to our political, social, educational and religious elevation, and... to direct our earnest attention to the education of our youth....

Convention of the Colored Citizens of Gallia County,

Frederick Douglass Paper, 1852, p. 3.

According to V. P. Franklin, cultural capital and social capital can be important elements in bringing about "community revitalization." (1) "From the early nineteenth century, black mutual benefit societies and social and fraternal organizations sponsored business enterprises that were collectively owned and provided much needed social services to members of the black community." (2) Within the African American context, cultural capital can be defined as "the sense of group consciousness and collective identity that serves as an economic resource to support collective economic or philanthropic efforts." (3) Within such a culturally aware group, cultural capital assists African Americans in defining their "collective identity," while "complex social networks" help to create and maintain economic resources to support collective advancement. (4)

Cultural capital was formed from the philosophical underpinnings within the African American community and was responsible for the creation of the institutions for themselves and the community that they valued. It served to support collective philanthropic or charitable efforts, and "became the backbone for social and economic development." (5) It represented "a deep race consciousness" and clear understanding of what it means to be African American. (6) This consciousness also served as a vehicle for other programs for "racial uplift" and was essential to create and support institutions to actualize their dreams and aspirations. One such institution among many was and is the all-black school.

In the nineteenth century, African Americans who were considered "free" were often caught between a rock and a hard place. They were free, but in some northern states such as Ohio, their citizenship rights were circumvented by the so-called "Black Laws." Yet, African Americans sought to establish viable communities, and more importantly, schools for the education of their youth. But one must ask, Why did African Americans establish separate educational institutions, particularly in free states such as Ohio? What resources did they use? What were the purposes of these educational institutions? This essay attempts to describe the efforts of free African Americans in southeast Ohio to pursue educational advancement using social and cultural capital. Whereas African Americans did create their own schools, the question still remains, Why did they have to use cultural capital and social capital in a free state committed to "free universal common schooling"?


In 1804, the first "Black Laws were passed in Ohio. Black laws or codes limited blacks participation in social, economic, political, and educational institutions in Ohio. The laws resulted from the discord among Ohio whites over the advancing antislavery movement, the state's entrance into the Union without slavery, and differences among whites over the place of Africans in American society. In Ohio, racial beliefs, opinions, and attitudes were often divided along geographical lines. Race relations in southeast Ohio, because of its close proximity to slave states Kentucky and Virginia, typified these divisions over the rights of African Americans in Ohio and throughout the United States.

Whereas the Ohio constitution in 1803 established funds for public schools, these institutions did not really begin to appear until 1825. By 1827, white sentiment against the possible inclusion of African Americans was evident. In an 1827 editorial printed in the Ohio State Journal, the anonymous author argued, "If we enlighten their [African Americans'] minds by education, what a new world of misery does open to their view. …

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