Land, Lumber, and Learning: The Freedmen's Bureau, Education, and the Black Community in Post-Emancipation Maryland
Richard Paul Fuke
IN RECENT YEARS, historians have examined several aspects of black education in the post-emancipation South. Of critical interest has been the role played by the government of the United States—and its chief agent, the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands—in the process of building schools, providing teachers, and shaping southern educational objectives. To the extent that such study has recognized the contribution of blacks themselves, it has usually focused on their obvious enthusiasm at the prospect of acquiring an education, their determination to send as many children to school as possible, and their commitment to the same sort of liberal reform ideology that motivated the U.S. government and its educational program.1
The educational efforts of blacks in post-emancipation Maryland certainly reflected this combination of factors, but, at the same time, they represented something else: their need and desire to make their schools their own. As much as education was a part of a wider liberal venture in educational reform, it was also a part of the free black community's effort to create for itself as much local autonomy as possible amid trying circumstances. Such effort depended heavily on the support of the Freedmen's Bureau and northern freedmen's aid societies, but it drew equally from the hard work of the black community itself.