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BEFORE EMANCIPATION, EDUCATION FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS IN TEXAS WAS ESSENTIALLY NONEXISTENT. OF THE 60,000 AFRICAN AMERICANS IN TEXAS IN 1850, ONLY 20 WERE ENROLLED IN SCHOOL. BY 1860—TEN YEARS LATER—THE AFRICAN AMERICAN POPULATION HAD TRIPLED TO 180,000 AND THE SCHOOL ENROLLMENT HAD DROPPED … TO 11.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A WAR MAKES.
IN 1871, JUST SIX YEARS AFTER THE CIVIL WAR ENDED, NEARLY 4500 AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDENTS WERE ENROLLED IN THE NEWLY MINTED PUBLIC SCHOOLS ACROSS THE STATE.
IN 1876 THE TEXAS CONSTITUTION ESTABLISHED A DUAL PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM WITH SEPARATE SCHOOLS FOR WHITE AND BLACK CHILDREN.
BUT BLACK SCHOOLS WERE FAR FROM EQUAL IN FUNDING OR SUPPORT.
ANOTHER DEBATE EMERGED ABOUT WHAT KIND OF EDUCATION WAS MOST IDEAL.
SOME TEXANS FELT IT BEST TO FOLLOW CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST W.E. B. DUBOIS’S VISION OF LIBERAL ARTS EDUCATION—INCLUDING SUBJECTS LIKE LATIN, RHETORIC, AND PHILOSOPHY—IN ORDER TO CREATE SCHOLARS. THEY BELIEVED THIS WOULD PLANT ENDURING SEEDS OF LEADERSHIP AND EQUALITY AMONG RECENTLY FREED AFRICAN AMERICANS.
OTHERS WANTED TO EMPHASIZE VOCATIONAL OR INDUSTRIAL EDUCATION SIMILAR TO WHAT BOOKER T. WASHINGTON ADVOCATED AT THE TUSKEGEE INSTITUTE. THEY BELIEVED GETTING A LABOR FORCE READY WAS THE PRIORITY.
IN THE MIDST OF THIS DEBATE, AFRICAN AMERICAN TEXANS DEMANDED ACCESS TO QUALITY EDUCATION—MORE AND MORE STUDENTS ENROLLED. BLACK COLLEGES WERE ESTABLISHED… PRAIRIE VIEW AND OTHER HISTORICAL BLACK COLLEGES BEGAN CREATING THE LEADERS WHO WOULD MOVE THE FUTURE FORWARD.
CHICAGO PHILANTHROPIST JULIUS ROSENWALD SET UP MATCHING FUNDS TO HELP COMMUNITIES BUILD SCHOOLS IN NEGLECTED RURAL AREAS. OF THE MORE THAN 5,000 ROSENWALD SCHOOLS ACROSS THE NATION, 527 OF THEM WERE IN TEXAS.
NINETY YEARS AFTER THE END OF THE CIVIL WAR, THE U.S. SUPREME COURT RULED SEGREGATION OF SCHOOLS UNCONSTITUTIONAL. BUT INTEGRATION WAS AN UPHILL BATTLE AND NOT FULLY ACHIEVED UNTIL THE LATE 1970S.
Du Bois explained how to correctly pronounce his name: “My name is pronounced in the clear English fashion: Du with u as in Sue; Bois as oi in voice. The accent is on the second syllable.”
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