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Schools for All

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William Preston Vaughn’s Schools For All: The Blacks & Public Education in the South, 1865-1877 examine the education of blacks in Post-Civil War America, a time when first integration and then segregation were the order of the day. Vaughn’s work, Schools For All, is narrow in scope, concentrating specifically on the period of Reconstruction, when the reorganized Southern states formalized their segregation policies. 

Topics include:

  1. Southern White Reaction
  2. Southern Public School Integration
  3. The Desegregation of Louisiana Schools

Schools for All and Vaughn

Vaughn brings some historical background into the equation, pointing out the slaveholder’s ban on the education of their chattel, especially in the light of several famous slave revolts.  For Southern whites, educating slaves was seen as a danger.  Despite this, slaves still managed an underground system of education, even before various private and government agencies took up the cause of black education in liberated areas of the South during the War.

Schools for All

Vaughn, in Schools For All, concentrates on white efforts to improve black education in the South.  During the war, several generals, including Ulysses S. Grant, and Benjamin Butler made provisions for the education of contraband (captured or escaped slaves), so that they could fulfill a functional role in the war effort.  After the war, General O.O. Howard directed the Freedman’s Bureau towards the supervision of black education.  Under his guidance, John W. Alvord became general superintendent for the Freedman’s Bureau education division. Several forms of hostility met the new drive for public education in the South.  Many Southerners, according to Vaughn, objected more to the presence of Northern teachers than the fact of education. 

Vaughn, Schools for All, and Reconstruction History

Vaughn’s work, Schools For All, is a traditional examination of one aspect of Reconstruction history.  It is perhaps unfortunate that he relies heavily on telling his story from a white perspective.  Between the federal government’s efforts to establish schools and the Southern white reaction, the ex-slaves play a rather passive role in securing their own education.  Integration and desegregation efforts in the South, as every student of history knows, were doomed from the start; if not because of the federal withdrawal of Reconstruction in 1877, then certainly as a result of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896.

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