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PARTNERS IN SEGREGATION: Barnas Sears and the Peabody Fund William P. Vaughn The public school systems of the former Confederate states are generally the creations of the turbulent Reconstruction era and remain as die most permanent accomplishment of die Radicals. Aldiough all of die Soudiern states except Soudi Carolina had constitutional provisions for public education by 1860, only Nordi Carolina and Louisiana had established comprehensive school systems by die time of Lincoln's election. These feeble systems disappeared as die war progressed: school buildings became "battle casualties," male teachers entered die army, and school funds were diverted to odier purposes. The "Johnson Constitutions," ratified during the period 1865-1866, paid little attention to die problem of public education. Not until die Radical forces gained political control after 1867 did state governments begin to emphasize the necessity of educating die freedmen and poor whites at the taxpayers' expense. Between the end of die war and die establishment of die Radical governments, a partial void existed so far as public education in die Soudi was concerned. The only state school systems left after March, 1867, were in Tennessee and West Virginia. Into this vacuum came George Peabody widi a million dollars which he proposed to donate for the encouragement of Southern education.1 Peabody was a banker and financier who had been born in Massachusetts , but had made his fortune in England as a merchant and money broker. His philanthropic endeavors began in 1852, and by 1867 he had donated nearly $5,000,000 to projects as varied as housing for the poor in London and die museum of archaeology and edinology at Harvard. In diat year Peabody bequeadied a million dollars for common-school education in die Soudi. The income from this gift was to be employed "for die promotion and encouragement of intellectual, moral or industrial education among die young of die more destitute portions of die Soudi and Soudi Western States of our Union." He declared diat 1 Hoy Taylor, An Interpretation of the Early Administration of the Peabody Education Fund (Nashville, 1933), p. 4; Jesse P. Rice, /. L. M. Curry, Southern Statesman and Educator (New York, 1949), p. 94. 260 diis fund should benefit die entire population, "widiout odier distinction dian dieir needs and die opportunities of usefulness to diem."2 A short time later Peabody increased his original donation widi $1,500,000 in Mississippi state bonds, which were soon, however, repudiated by die state. In July, 1869, he donated an additional million, as well as $384,000 worth of Florida state bonds, which later proved valueless. If one subtracts die wordiless bonds from die total contribution , the fund really equaled $2,000,000 and not die oft-quoted $3,500,000. Since only die income from die fund could be used for educational purposes, donations by die Peabody trustees to public schools from 1868 to 1880 never exceeded $143,125 for a given year, and diat figure was reached in 1874.3 In February, 1867, Peabody selected fifteen prominent Americans to serve as a board to administer die fund. They included politicians and statesmen such as Robert C. Winthrop of Massachusetts and Hamilton Fish of New York, as well as General U. S. Grant and Admiral David G. Farragut. Also appointed were five Southerners: William C. Rives of Virginia, William Aiken of South Carolina, George W. Riggs of Washington , D.C., Edward A. Bradford of Louisiana, and George N. Eaton of Maryland. Peabody picked Winthrop as chairman.4 At their first meeting die trustees learned diat, as die immediate goal of die fund, Peabody favored promotion of elementary education for die greatest possible number of Southern children. The philanthropist was quite adamant on diis point; until his deadi he continued to insist on die encouragement of primary education, radier dian merely providing college educations for die sons of gentlemen.5 The board dierefore resolved to promote "Primary or Common School Education by such means or agencies as now exist or may need to be created." It also agreed to appoint a general agent to supervise the administration of die fund. Peabody later informed die trustees diat diey had absolute discretion as to die Soudiern or Soudiwestern...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 260-274
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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