Reconstruction in Mississippi

By James Wilford Garner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TENTH
EDUCATIONAL RECONSTRUCTION

ONE of the schemes of the reconstructionists in Mississippi was the establishment of an elaborate system of public schools for the benefit of both races. Prior to the war, almost the only free schools in the state were those maintained out of the proceeds arising from the sale or lease of the so-called sixteenth section lands, granted to the state by Congress in the early part of the century. But as most of these lands had been lost by mismanagement, the number of such schools was not very large.1 They were open, of course, only to white children.

The traditional preference for the private school, due largely to historical conditions in the South, had militated against the establishment of a uniform system of public education. However, a tendency in this direction had been in process of development at the outbreak of hostilities.

With the occupation of the state by the Federal armies, the work of teaching the negroes began. The first schools established for this purpose were at Corinth shortly after the occupation of that town by the Union troops in 1862. The American Missionary Association, the Freedmen's Aid Society, and the Society of Friends had established schools about Vicksburg before the close of the war. Upon the organization of the Freedmen's Bureau, a more systematic and comprehensive plan of negro education was undertaken. Joseph Warren, chaplain of a negro regiment, was appointed superintendent of freedmen's schools for the state at large. These schools were under military supervision, and benevolent associations supplied them with books and, in many cases, furnished clothing to the students. The following exhibit from the report of Superintendent Warren shows the number of schools and the enrollment on March 31, 1865: --

____________________
1
Joseph Bardwell, state superintendent of education in 1876, says there were 1116 public schools in Mississippi in 1860, attended by 30,970 pupils. See his report for 1876.

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