Louis R. Harlan
When African Americans gained their freedom from bondage in the 1860s, they recognized immediately that education of themselves and their children was one of the vital necessities for the full realization of that freedom. Skills and broader understanding through education could place them on a higher plane of independence, racial pride, and self-improvement. They gratefully accepted financial aid from federal and state governments and northern private philanthropy, but sought whenever possible to control the administration of their own education so as to direct it toward the achievement of their own goals.
Even under the relatively benign influence of Reconstruction governments in the South and of church-oriented missionary societies of the North, there were undercurrents of struggle between the conflicting agendas of whites and blacks and between racial stereotypes and racial realities. Reconstruction soon ended in failure and missionary zeal gradually waned, but the missionary societies continued to impose their educational programs on black colleges and schools. This struggle between giver and given entered a new phase around 1900. The new industrial age concentrated vast wealth in the coffers of corporate millionaires who developed a sudden interest in reforming the backward South through black and white education. This latter phase of the ongoing struggle over the direction of black education is the central topic of Dangerous Donations, written by Eric Anderson and Alfred A. Moss, Jr., two seasoned scholars in midcareer.
Other scholars have written about the Ogden Movement of the first decade of the twentieth century, and about its executive arm, the Southern Education Board and the closely allied General Education Board. None, however, have so thoroughly mined the Rockefeller Archives at North Tarrytown, New York, locus of the General Education Board Papers, as well as the rich holdings of the correspondence of the Southern Education Board philanthropists at the Library of