While most of the nondenominational schools were elementary, industrial schools, the white denominations' schools were more varied in scope and in curricula. These schools tended to fall into two groups. Most of the schools established before 1890 stressed normal, or secondary and liberal arts, or theological education. Most of the schools established between 1890 and 1901 emphasized primary and industrial training.
The Methodist Episcopal Church (North) organized the Freedmen's Aid Society (FAS) in 1866 to coordinate its relief and educational work with freedmen in the South. The FAS decided to organize its schools like New England schools, following the classical, liberal arts curriculum. The main FAS school in Alabama was in Huntsville. 1
The FAS took charge of this school in 1866 when the Pittsburgh Aid Society withdrew one year after it began the school. The teacher-student ratio was so bad for the first few years at Huntsville that the teachers had to divide the students into sections and hear them separately, "giving but a short time to each division." When the FAS began supporting the school it had no building, so the classes met in rude churches. The teachers usually worked from eight to five with only an hour off for lunch. They would then return for night sessions which often lasted until eleven o'clock. This pressure caused a rapid turnover of teachers and broke the health of many of them. 2
In 1866 the FAS bought a lot and began constructing a two-story brick building to accommodate up to 250 pupils. The school opened there in 1869. The Freedmen's Bureau aided the FAS in building the schoolhouse and in buying furniture. Huntsville blacks furnished a bookcase, many of the desks and tables, some funds for buying an organ, and several books to begin the