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

By Robert G. Sherer | Go to book overview

PART III A Comprehensive Program of Black Education

10
THE AMERICAN MISSIONARY
ASSOCIATION'S BLACK
SCHOOLS IN ALABAMA

Black secondary and normal schools in Alabama, whether public or private, showed a great variety in their origins, location, leadership, and development. Despite this diversity, none of Alabama's black secondary schools or colleges followed Booker T. Washington's lead in sacrificing academic and theological education for industrial-vocational training as the means of escaping from the web of subordination. The American Missionary Association (AMA) went one step further in undermining Washington's educational theory and racial strategy by providing both industrial and rigorous normal, theological, college preparatory, and liberal, college education in its schools in Alabama.

TheAMA, the most influential Northern missionary organization in Alabama, began its work among freedmen in the South when Rev. Lewis C. Lockwood arrived at Fort Monroe, Virginia on September 3, 1861. Lockwood came to the South because of his "missionary impulse to save the soul of the black people. . . . That a school was begun was largely accidental." The local blacks, led by Mrs. Mary Peake, a free black, began a school on September 17, 1861. The AMA, seeing the blacks' desire and need for education, decided to support this school and began establishing other black schools throughout the South soon after the Union armies captured various sections. Indeed, "for a long time even the evangelical mission of the Association was lost in the universal zeal favoring the elevation of the freedmen through education." 1

During the Civil War, the AMA received support from the Wesleyan Methodists and the Free Will Baptists. Immediately after the war, at least twelve other denominations expressed support for the AMA. The National Council of Congregational Churches provided the main support when it adopted a resolution in 1865 pledging $250,000 to the AMA. Since the Congregational

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