Higher Education for Blacks in the South:
Pragmatism and Principle?
To you who are discouraged, citizenship is not in constitutions, but in the mind.
James Shepard, quoted in Thuesen,
“Classes of Citizenship”
In their quest to modernize the South and to stabilize race relations, Jim Crow reformers turned their attention to higher education for southern blacks. In the case of higher education, like primary education, Jim Crow reformers also had to respond to pressures from outside and within the Jim Crow order. White reformers along with their foundation allies began the era with a vision of a higher education system—shaped by rational planning and elite leadership—that would lead the way in transforming the South. Much as they had done with primary education, reformers and foundations saw the neglect of black higher education as an important opportunity. For southern white and black educators, northern foundation support could be used to leverage the South’s weak support for higher education into more resources that could be used to stabilize and expand existing institutions, create more professional opportunities, and, for some academics, encourage the opening up of the South’s intellectual and political discourse. The South provided northern foundations with an ideal laboratory in which to test their belief that foundations could have a more systematic and deep-seated effect on society.