Morgan Ricks at Mound Bayou City Hall

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Author: Morgan Ricks, History Instructor, Northeast Mississippi Community College

Lesson Rationale

Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are a major part of the American education system.  Almost no student of history will go without learning, even if only briefly, of Tuskegee and its legacy in paving the way for the development of other black institutions.  How HBCUs began, though, may be a mystery to many students, who may take for granted the presence of these institutions.  On the whole, in fact, most students of freshman and sophomore level courses would be unable to have detailed conversations regarding the history of African American education in general.

Most college freshmen and sophomores would generally ascribe to the historical trope that African American slaves were uneducated because their masters did not want them to be able to read or write.  While there is a certain element of truth in this, it is an elementary understanding of the complexity of the slave experience and the role (or lack thereof) that African American education played in pre-Civil War America.  While my unit will be designed for a post-Civil War course, I do plan to craft a brief overview of African American education in the pre- and post-war eras (up to the end of Reconstruction) to get students more acquainted with black education prior to the 20th Century.

My rationale for teaching the evolution of black education in the South is multifaceted.  First, this topic is of central importance to my students because many of them are from Mississippi and Alabama.  As a Mississippian, I know how difficult it can be to deal with Mississippi’s history, and I imagine the same would be true for like-minded Alabamans.  However, one of the south’s most important and visible HBCUs—Tuskegee—was begun in Alabama.  William H. Holtzclaw’s Utica Institute was established in Utica, MS.  For many African Americans at the time, these two schools, and others like them around the south, were beacons of hope.  Discussing the foundations of Tuskegee and the Utica Institute sheds light on the fact that African Americans had access to the education offered by these schools and dispels the myth that, educationally, African Americans in southern states have nothing for which to be proud.

Another important aspect of my rationale has to do with the very elementary understanding students have of the struggles surrounding black education in the South.  There is a definite distance between students in the 21st Century and the history of education.  I fear that most educators, myself included, have not done a decent enough job clarifying what education prior to Brown v. Board of Education (1954) looked like.  Students know that Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) upheld state segregation laws, stating that separate spaces for races could be equal.  In the era of Plessy, what did black educational institutions look like compared to white institutions?  How did what they teach differ?  What were the reasons for the differences in what students were taught or how students were taught?

To answer these questions, I plan to have students study two texts: James D. Anderson’s The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935, as well as excerpts from Jacqueline Jones’ A Dreadful Deceit.  Anderson’s work is a great resource because it places race and education into political, economic, and cultural frameworks.  It will also fit nicely with the layout of my U.S. History II course into chronological sections.  The book does a good job discussing the various types of African American education models, such as the Hampton model, and delving into theory behind various educational models. Jones’ book is an in-depth look at Holtzclaw’s life and the establishment of the school at Utica, using many of his own words.  Using this book will not only give students a look into black education in the south, but will highlight Holtzclaw’s struggles as well as successes.

Lesson Plan

Objectives (Students will):
  • Understand and be able to discuss various issues related to black education in the South during the postbellum period.
  • Explain the state of education for blacks in the south during the period 1860-1880.
  • Define and discuss the Hampton Model.
  • Identify the role of philanthropy in the black educational institutions throughout the South.
  • Assess the various ideological conflicts among stakeholders in black education.
  • Draw conclusions about normal schools and the function of teachers in transmitting beliefs and attitudes to the African American population.
  • Discuss the challenges for common schools in the period 1900-1935.
  • Compare the role of early black public high schools and high schools in the modern age.
  • Discuss the importance of black higher education in advancing ideas about race and mobility among the African American population.
  • Bi-weekly discussion boards, each discussing a chapter from works by Anderson or Jones.
  • Final paper discussing an issue in black education
  • Discussion
  • Rubric

This unit will be broken down into various readings throughout the semester of an online U.S. History II course. In addition to their regular textbook, students will read chapters or excerpts from the Anderson work, as well as Jacqueline Jones’ chapter on Holtzclaw. As students move through the semester, they will complete discussion boards on a weekly or bi-weekly basis that deals with their readings. Their final product will be an essay pertaining to the subject.


*For all discussion prompts, students are given the following specific instructions:
“In this discussion, you will be asked to think and write about an important issue from your reading. Your responses will be shared with your classmates in this discussion board.

First, read the prompt below.  Then, respond to all parts of the topic by typing in the “Reply” box below, and submit it. Use evidence from the text and the provided materials below to support your argument. Provide a full citation of the textbook, including in-text citations in your response.

Last, reply to at least two of your classmates’ discussions (you won’t see your classmates’ posts until after you post your first discussion).  Please keep your tone scholarly, and offer thoughtful responses to your classmates.

Please write in complete sentences, using proper grammar and mechanics, in paragraph form. Make sure to use textual evidence to support your discussion. Your discussion board post will be graded using the attached rubric (Appendix A).”

Discussion 1: Using Chapter 1 of the Anderson book, describe education for southern blacks in the period 1860-1880. Compare this to education for whites in this period.

What factors contributed to differences in education for blacks and whites in the south?

What surprised you about the reading? Please choose one or two things and discuss why you found them surprising.

Discussion 2: Using Chapter 2 of the Anderson book, describe the Hampton Model. Discuss how it was an “ideological antithesis of the educational and social movement begun by ex-slaves.”

What were the merits of this educational model? What were the challenges or drawbacks?

What surprised you about the reading? Please choose one or two things and discuss why you found them surprising.

Discussion 3: Using pages 103-109 of the Anderson book, as well as Chapter 5 of the Jones book, discuss the differences between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois. Why was it so impossible for there to be a compromise among their respective camps? What are the merits of each of their positions? What are the drawbacks?

How did Holtzclaw exemplify Washington’s theory and or model of education? Why do you think Holtzclaw focused on Mississippi to start his school? What, if anything, could he have done differently in his pursuit to begin the institute at Utica?

What surprised you about the reading? Please choose one or two things and discuss why you found them surprising.

Discussion 4: Using Chapters 4 and 5 of the Anderson book, highlight important aspects of training for black teachers in the period 1900-1935. Do you think the training received was adequate? Why or why not?

What were the challenges to common schools for black children in the period 1900-1935? Why does the author subtitle this chapter “The Second Crusade?” What was required in order for these institutions to succeed?

What surprised you about the reading? Please choose one or two things and discuss why you found them surprising.

Discussion 5: Using Chapter 6 of the Anderson book, discuss black public high schools. Choose one of the high schools discussed in this chapter and summarize aspects about its leadership, mission, and student body.

Why does the author use the phrase “The Reproduction of Caste in the Uban South” in this chapter? Why is this reflected in black high schools?

How were the black public high schools discussed in Chapter 6 similar to or different from modern public high schools?

What surprised you about the reading? Please choose one or two things and discuss why you found them surprising.

Discussion 6: Using Chapter 7 of the Anderson book, discuss the foundations of black higher education.

What role did private donors (philanthropists) play in the foundation of higher education institutions for blacks?

What were the various types of schools established in this period? What were the theories behind the development of various schools?

How did black colleges and universities become alleged training grounds for the “apostles of liberal culture?” What does this mean? Why does the author choose to highlight this?

What surprised you about the reading? Please choose one or two things and discuss why you found them surprising.

Final Product:

In an essay of 3-5 pages, please choose a particular subject from the Anderson book (for example: Washington vs. DuBois, the Hampton Model, etc.) that you would like to learn more about. Please view this website for suggested readings, most of which are newer scholarship and may provide different perspectives on issues in Anderson’s book.

Your essay will be graded based on content, structure, and quality of writing. A successful essay will contain an introduction, including a thesis; address a specific problem or question; provide evidence to support your thesis and address various topics; contain scholarly analysis and reflection; possess good structure. Please remember, in addition, that academic writing should not contain pronouns such as I, me, etc. This essay will be graded based on the attached rubric (Appendix B).

In your essay, please discuss why the topic you have chosen is significant to African American education in the South, and provide a brief overview of what Anderson has to say about your topic. Collect research from at least two more modern sources and discuss their findings. Compare and contrast their position on your topic and compare it with Anderson’s. Other questions you might address: How has this topic impacted African American education through the 20th century? Do you still see this issue in more modern times? How has education evolved? What, if any, alternatives can you suggest for this issue?



Appendix A: Discussion Rubric

Appendix B: Essay Rubric