Subordination or Liberation? The Development and Conflicting Theories of Black Education in Nineteenth Century Alabama

By Robert G. Sherer | Go to book overview

6
PLURALISM OF BLACK PUBLIC NORMAL SCHOOLS

Three men -- W. B. Paterson, W. H. Councill, and Booker T. Washington -- directed the state-supported, normal school and secondary education for blacks in nineteenth century Alabama. 1

The basic Pattern of the education was pluralism. No one person, school, educational philosophy, or style of leadership was dominant. Since he was white, Paterson probably had less personal influence in the black community throughout Alabama (apart from those connected in some way with his schools) than did Councill and Washington. 2

Washington and Councill agreed on many important subjects in addition to the need for industrial education for blacks. 3 Councill and Washington were essentially ambiguous in urging higher industrial training for blacks so that they would not be displaced by native whites or immigrants in the labor market and, at the same time, urging blacks to stay on farms in the South and to avoid the cities. They accepted the agrarian myth that the farm was inherently superior to the city. Both were outspoken nativists in their opposition to immigrants, whom they saw as a threat to the black laborer.

Washington and Councill. forsook elective or appointive politics for work in education. They dedicated themselves and their schools to serving and to trying to uplift their race and tried to pass this concept of service on to their students. Both men disliked labor unions, favored businessmen, and tried to teach their students an appreciation of the essential dignity of all labor. They agreed that religion would not solve the race problem. Both tried to ameliorate the condition of the black clergy by starting Bible Training Schools on their campuses. In the case of Charles Octavius Boothe, they even hired the same man to teach these schools at different times.

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