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Historic Educators

Historic Black Educators

When you consider that, during the days of slavery, Black Americans were forcibly denied the rights of obtaining an education, the dedicated and determined men and women presented in the category standout like educational giants.  Many of the individuals talked about here were sons and daughters of former slaves, while others were actually born slaves. In colonial days, it was against the law for slaves to learn to read and write.  It was also against the law for any white to aid a slave in gaining an education.  Any open teaching of slaves ended after slave revolts frightened slave owners, who saw education as a real threat to the institution of slavery.  It was reasoned that by keeping slaves uneducated, passive, and controllable, slave owners’ investment in human lives and “free labor” would be preserved. After the Civil War, opportunities for blacks to obtain an education became somewhat more available.  Missionaries and religious organizations established schools, and the education of ex-slaves began.  Higher education for blacks also started after the war, and these individuals went to such pioneering colleges and universities as Howard, Fisk, Talladega, Morehouse, Virginia Union, Shaw, and Morgan State.  Also presented is the rift that existed regarding the aims of a black educational thrust:  the vocational training supporters of Tuskegee and Hampton versus the advocates of academic education. In this category I will introduce or re-introduce you to blacks who managed not only to gain an education while slavery existed, but also went on to become high achievers, who involved themselves with the education of a new generation of blacks.  You learn about scholars of Latin and Greek, formal holders of Phi Beta Kappa keys, presidents of colleges, and people of national reputation.  You will meet Lucy Craft Laney, who begged and borrowed to help her students; William H. Crogman, who received no formal education until he was 25; Benjamin E. Mays, who influenced the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; and Charles Spurgeon Johnson, who helped Japan reorganize its school system after World War II.
​Excerpt from A Salute to Historic Black Educators