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STATE POLITICS AND THE FATE OF AFRICAN AMERICAN
PUBLIC SCHOOLING INT FLORIDA, 1863-1900
SHERYL MARIE HOWIE
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS IN EDUCATION
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Sheryl Marie Howie
TABLE OF CONTENTS
AB STRAC T ................ .............. iv
1 INTRODUCTION ................. ...............1.......... ......
2 EDUCATION INT FLORIDA .............. ...............13....
Responding to the Demand for Education for Freed Slaves, 1863-1867 ...................14
Political Response to Educational Demands, 1865-1867 ................ ............... .....19
Factionalism in the Republican Party, 1868-1872.................. ..............2
Implementing Public Schooling for All Children, 1868-1876 ................... ...............26
Political Frustration and the Accomplishments in Education, 1872-1876 .................35
Election Results of 1876 and the End of Reconstruction ................. ............... .....39
Education Objectives Altered for African Americans, 1877-1886 ............................43
Democrats and the Legalization of Segregation, 1882-1900. ................... ................. 47
Unequal Opportunities in Education for African Americans, 1886-1900 .................. 50
William Sheats and the Orange Park Normal and Industrial School ................... .......54
3 SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION ................. ...............63................
LIST OF REFERENCE S ................. ...............68................
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .............. ...............74....
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in Education
STATE POLITICS AND THE FATE OF AFRICAN AMERICAN
PUBLIC SCHOOLING INT FLORIDA, 1863-1900
Sheryl Marie Howie
Chair: Sevan Terzian
Maj or Department: Educational Leadership, Policy, and Foundations
The purpose of my study was to examine the influence Republican Party
factionalism and discriminatory education legislation had on the development of a public
education system for African Americans between 1863 and 1900. From 1863 to 1868,
Florida' s government was controlled by former Confederates and secessionists who
passed laws that reinforced the conditions of slavery, if not the institution. The
Reconstruction Act of 1867 removed these government leaders, and ushered in an era of
Republican rule and paternalistic compassion for freed slaves.
From 1868 to 1876, Republicans and Northerners sympathetic to the plight of
African Americans established formal education systems for blacks. The Freedmen's
Bureau, Northern benevolent societies, and local citizens worked to establish public
schools for all children. Initially, Northern educators espoused an academically rigorous
curriculum for black schools; but the disintegration of the Freedmen' s Bureau, and
dramatically reduced funding from benevolent societies, forced educators to compromise
education, and to accept the growing vocational and agricultural education for blacks.
Southern whites resisted funding schools for blacks, and state educators and legislators
conceded to segregated schools, to increase the attendance of whites in public schools.
Factions within the Republican Party, however, prevented unity, and resulted in the lost
election of 1876. The fate of African Americans was surrendered to Southern white
Under Democratic legislators, civil rights for blacks quickly diminished.
Segregation was legalized, and education funding for black schools was reduced; but
funding increased to white schools. With unequal funding, the development of black
schools lagged behind that of white schools. Vocational and agricultural education for
blacks replaced the academically rigorous curriculum in black schools. With the passage
of stricter certification laws, reduced funding to black schools, and a less academically
rigorous curriculum, it became more difficult for black teachers to pass the examination
requirements for state certification. In 1896, many black schools were unable to open
because of a lack of teachers.
The inability of the Republican Party to unify during Reconstruction, and
legislation that legalized segregation, increased requirements for teachers, and reduced
funding to black schools combined to prevent the establishment of a formal education
system for blacks that would provide equal educational opportunities.
On Friday, April 10, 1896, the Clay County Sheriff (under the direction of the
Florida State Superintendent of Education, William N. Sheats) arrested B. D. Rowlee, the
principal of Orange Park Normal and Industrial School in Orange Park, Florida, along
with five teachers and the pastor of the Orange Park Congregational Church. They were
not taken to jail, but were required to post bail by the following Monday. Their crime:
"teaching young people of two races under the same roof."l This action by Sheats is one
example of the restrictions some Southern whites imposed on education for blacks. White
Floridians like Sheats believed in the innate inferiority of African Americans, and
supported legislation to prevent the mixing of the races. Education for freed slaves met
with resistance from many Southern whites; but from 1868 to 1876, Northern and
Southern Republican leaders attempted to establish a system of education for all of
Florida' s children. With both state and federal support, education advocates worked
diligently to expand educational opportunities for the freed slaves. These efforts were
disrupted, however, by the disbandment of the Freedmen' s Bureau, the withdrawal of
federal troops, and the proliferation of factions within the Republican Party. In the mid
1870s, Florida' s government came under Democratic control, slowing the process of
S"Arrest of Our Teachers in Orange Park, Florida," in The American Mlissionary 50 (May 1896):
146-147; State of Florida v. B.D. Rowly [sic], Julia E. Rowly [sic], Edith M. Robinson, Hellen
[sic] S. Loveland, O.S. Dickinson, T.S. Perry, Miss A.M. Ball, Indictment, Circuit Court Minute
Book #2, 293 (Records of the Fourth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, Clay County Courthouse,
April 6, 1896).
education for black children. As Democrats regained control of state and district school
superintendent offices, an already segregated school system became even more unequal.
In this study, I examined the public school system established for African
Americans in Florida, focusing specifically on the attitudes and influence of Northern and
Southern educators, the political power struggles within the Republican Party leading to
the fumbled election of 1876, and the white supremacist actions of members in the
Democratic Party that obstructed the development of an academically rigorous education
system for blacks in Florida. State and county superintendent reports and letters from
school administrators and teachers suggest that the segregation of schools began during
Reconstruction, and that the education system established for Florida' s black children
after Reconstructionn was not equal to the education offered to white children. In addition,
the later reports indicate that state teacher training for blacks did not prepare them
academically to help nurture future political and economic leaders among their black
students, greatly hindering the advancement of African Americans in Florida.
From 1865 to 1868, the Florida legislature (consisting mainly of ex-Confederate
officers and soldiers) passed laws and policies aimed at dominating the freedmen and
discouraging northern philanthropic organizations from opening schools for blacks.
These legislators abolished slavery in name only, creating Black Codes that legalized
violence and intimidation against blacks. The intervention of the United States
government helped facilitate a Republican government in Florida, one that supported
black enfranchisement and education for all children, regardless of color. The
Republican-led government appointed state and district superintendents of public schools
who bolstered the efforts of educators to establish a public education system for all of
Florida's children. The Freedmen's Bureau, benevolent societies from the North, and
local residents worked to provide school buildings and hire teachers.
The Republican Party, however, was unable to provide the unifying force needed to
sustain political power. The divisions among Radical Republicans, Loyalist Republicans,
and Conservative Republicans were so strong that the Republican Party lost the election
of 1876 to Democrats. Beginning in 1877, Florida' s black and moderate/liberal white
influence in politics and education rapidly declined. In addition, Jim Crow laws and
increased intimidation prevented political action among blacks. Laws initiated by
Superintendent Sheats in 1895 made teacher certification requirements more demanding,
and prohibited the instruction of black and white children in the same schools. The latter
restriction was directed specifically at the Orange Park School, and of its policy of not
turning any child away, regardless of color. The state action against the Orange Park
School was not an isolated incident, but part of the discriminatory political policies of
white supremacist government officials. A growing animosity among many whites
toward education for blacks, pressure from the local and state governments, and a fire
that burned most of the Orange Park school buildings forced the school to eventually
close, leaving the state with only one teacher education institute for blacks--the Colored
Normal School in Tallahassee. These events frustrated the development of teacher
education and institutions of higher education for blacks in Florida, and ultimately
weakened the educational opportunities for Florida's black children.2
SSee Florida Constitution, 1865, Art. IV, Sec. 4, Sec. 5, Art. VI, Sec. 1, Art. IX, Sec. 1, Art. XVI,
Sec. 3: William W. Davis, The Civil War and Reconstruction in Florida (New York: Columbia
University, 1913); Jerrell H. Shofn~er, Nor Is It Over Yet: Florida in the Era ofReconstruction,
1863-1877 (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1974); Joe M. Richardson, "Christian
Abolitionism: The American Missionary Association and the Florida Negro," in the Journal of
Negro Education 40 (Winter 1971): 35-44; Canter Brown, Jr., Florida 's Black Public Officials,
Since my study focuses on politics and education in Florida, it depends mainly on
Florida sources. However, the historical framework of Reconstruction and Post-
reconstruction forms an important foundation. The historical analysis of Reconstruction
has produced multiple conclusions, with a changing cast of heroes and villains. The
traditional interpretation of Reconstruction that dominated the first half of the twentieth
century depicted Radical Republicans and "carpetbaggers" as invading the south and
using illegal means to create a black supremacist government, thereby maintaining
control over Southemn whites. William Davis' book The Civil War andReconstruction in
Florida aligned with this conservative pro-south theory. Davis interpreted the return of
southern conservatives to government in 1876 as a restoration of state control.3
Challenges to this interpretation of history came from historians who were more
sympathetic to the Republican cause, like W.E.B. DuBois and Francis Simpkins. In a speech
to the American Historical Association, DuBois noted that the accomplishments of Southemn
Reconstruction governments included a democratic government, new social legislation, and
free public schools. He recognized the financial problems these governments created, but
argued they were due to black leadership that was ignorant of legislative processes and
easily swayed by opportunistic whites.4 Economic historians were also more sympathetic to
1867-1924 (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1998); Joe Richardson, "Nest of Vile
Fanatics: William N. Sheats and the Orange Park School," in The Florida Historical Ottarterly 68
(April 1986): 394-407.
SSee Davis, The Civil War and Reconstruction in Florida, 1913.
4 See W.E.B. DuBois, Black Reconstruction in America (New York: Russell and Russell, 1973);
Francis B. Simpkins, The South Old and New: A History, 1820-1947 (New York: A.A. Knopf,
1947); W.E.B. DuBois, "Reconstruction and its Benefits" in The American Historical Review 15
(July 1910): 795-799.
Republicans and characterized the era as tragic but necessary to move the national economy
forward. Howard K. Beale emphasized the need "to stop passing judgments on persons and
to begin studying forces."' He examined the Civil War and Reconstruction from a national
perspective, identifying the changes in political, economic, and social institutions. Although
Beale and historians like him recognized the impact national expansion had on events of the
late nineteenth century, Eric Foner later concluded that they ignored the "dominant race
issue in favor of economic interpretations."6
During the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, historians revisited Reconstruction
history. Revisionist historians reinterpreted Reconstruction politics and concentrated on
the lives of southern blacks, concluding that the progress made during this era was
positive and forward-looking. For revisionists, Radical Republicans and freedmen were
the heroes. James McPherson compared Black Power of the 1960s with the desire that
blacks had during Reconstruction to gain more control over and participation in political,
economic, and social institutions, including education. Although some historians
questioned this new interpretation, it was the post-revisionists who disputed the
revisionist theory and questioned if there had been any real political, economic, or social
change for blacks during Reconstruction. In Origins of the New .South, C. Vann
Woodward condemned the south for its inability to solve economic, political, and social
problems originating in slavery and racism. He argued that there was no "new south" and
chronicled its deficiencies. Woodward and other post-revisionists viewed blacks during
Reconstructionn as passive victims, arguing that the North was not strongly committed to
5 Howard K. Beale, "On Rewriting Reconstruction Historv" in The American Historical Review
45 (July 1940): 810.
6 Eric Foner, "Reconstruction Revisited" in Reviews in American History 10 (Dec. 1982): 82.
the freedmen, which was demonstrated by the disbanding of the Freedmen' s Bureau in
1872, and the final removal of federal troops in 1877. More recently, historians have
emphasized that the roles played by Moderate Republicans were more influential than
those of Radical Republicans in changing policy and law in favor of black
enfranchisement. Although the new laws aided blacks and whites, historians like Jerrell
Shofner argued that moderate Republican governments were more concerned with
maintaining national ties and upholding the Constitution.7
The study of the history of education in the South appears to follow the same
historical framework as Reconstruction history. In his book Public Education in the
Snlub, Edgar Knight analyzed the progress of education by examining the influence
politics, economics, religion, and social structures had on education. He argued that
education in the South after Reconstruction was "subordinated to less worthy interests as
a result of ills which had their beginnings in reconstruction."" Regarding Reconstruction
in Florida, Knight said, "The complete control of the State by people who were
unsympathetic if not hostile to Southern sentiment accounted in very large measure for
the failure of the school system to grow and develop."9 In a footnote, he claimed that the
appointment of Jonathan C. Gibbs to state superintendent further served to alienate
SJames M. McPherson, "White Liberals and Black Power in Negro Education, 1865-1915" in
The American Historical Review 75 (June 1970): 1357-1386: C. Vann Woodward, Origins of the
New South, 1877-1913 (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1971); Jerrell H.
Shofner, Nor Is It Over Yet: Florida in the Era ofReconstruction, 1863-1877 (Gainesville:
University of Florida Press, 1974).
8 Edgar W. Knight, Public Education in the South (Boston, MA: Ginn and Company, 1922): 337.
9 Ibid., 358-359.
Floridians. What he failed to note is that during Reconstruction, nearly 49% of Floridians
were African Americans, most in support of Gibbs as superintendent.10
Robert Morris provided a more balanced historical perspective in REading~. 'Riting,
an2dReconstruction, which focused on the northern influence on education in the South from
the early years of the Civil War through 1870, when the Freedmen' s Bureau withdrew from
educational activity. Morris attempted to reconcile the negative attitudes toward northern
teachers, held by historians like Knight, with the more idealistic writings of historians like
W.E.B. DuBois. He noted that the "idealism and lofty goals" of northern teachers were
"tempered by pragmatism and an awareness of the need for sectional accommodation."l
Morris' examination of the actions of governments and communities, and more specifically
of teachers in the classroom, was reflective of revisionist history, which is most evident in
his analysis of the positive influence of northern benevolent societies. His coverage of
Florida education is minimal, as is the case with most education historians, but this may be
due to his claim that education in Florida from the Civil War to 1870 was developing more
slowly than in most other southern states.
Ronald Butchart echoed the sentiments of post-revisionist historians in his book,
Northern Schools, Southel~ nI Blacks, an2dReconstruction. He explored the expectations of
northern white educators with those of southern blacks, indicating that their obj ectives were
not always in agreement. Butchart acknowledged both the compassion and paternalism of
benevolent societies and northern educators. He provides even less coverage of Florida
'o Ibid: Campbell Gibson and Kay Jung, Historical Census Statistics on Population Totals By
Race, 1 790 to 1990, and By Hispanic Origin, 1970 to 1990, For The United States, Regions,
Divisions, and States (Washington, D.C.: Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau, 2002).
SRobert C. Morris, Reading, 'Riting, and Reconstruction (Chicago, IL: The University of
Chicago Press, 1976): x.
education than Morris, not even mentioning Gibbs and his contributions to education. James
Anderson offered an extensive history of African American education from 1860 to 193 5,
and supported Butchart' s argument that northern educators and southern blacks did not
agree on the goals of education. According to Anderson, African Americans readily
accepted help from the Freedmen' s Bureau, benevolent societies, and even Southemn whites,
but the "values of self-help and self-determination" motivated African American aspirations
to control their own education.12
These historians considered important issues in education for African Americans in
the South after the Civil War, but rarely, if ever, included information on Florida.
Examining education from the state and local perspective is necessary, however, since
education in the United States is controlled almost entirely by state and local
governments. Demographics, economics, activities of northern philanthropic
organizations, and attitudes of government officials and the local population all
contributed to the nature of public education in the South. The extent and interactions of
these elements created distinct problems for each state government.
Nita Katharine Pyburn offered the only comprehensive history of education in
Florida. Using primary sources, including legislation, superintendent reports, and
newspaper accounts, she examined the development of education from 1822 to 1903.
Pyburn discussed the contributions of private academies prior to and after the Civil War,
but did not mention the work of the American Missionary Association or the National
Freedmen' s Relief Association of New York, both of great importance to the
12 Ronald E. Butchart, Northern Schools, Southern Blacks, and Reconstruction (Westport, CT:
Greenwood Press, 1980): 104, 126, 129, 168; James D. Anderson, The Education of Blacks in the
South, 1860-1935 (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1988): 5.
development of education in Florida during Reconstruction. The data cited are extensive,
but she provides no critical analysis and viewed Florida' s education system after the Civil
War as an extension of the system established before the war. In addition, the only
differentiation she made between black and white schools involved budget expenditures
and population. Pybumn gave no indication that there was any evidence that blacks and
whites in Florida were educated differently.13
As with all historical research, it is impossible to account for every political, economic,
and social aspect of a time period, and especially one as complicated as American
Reconstruction. Since education systems in the United States have traditionally been
controlled by state and local governments, with little intervention from the federal
government, this paper refers to the education systems in other states only when they
contribute to the depiction of education in Florida. In addition, this paper does not examine the
plight of poor white children in Florida, which James M. Denham attempted in his study of
the culture of the Florida crackedt' through the accounts of travelers. According to Denham,
most poor whites in Florida had a strong loyalty to popular democracy, a hatred of American
Indians, and a firm sense of racial superiority over blacks. Poor whites were not usually treated
well by wealthy plantation owners, and did not consider themselves Confederates, but their
disdain for government interference may have prevented them from aligning with the Union.
Admittedly, poor whites were, in some cases, worse off than some blacks. They were not,
however, deliberately excluded from voting, nor were they intimidated by violence to stay
away from the polls. The poll tax was not a direct act against poor whites, although it may
have affected some who did vote. Laws were not passed to deliberately prevent poor white
13 Nita Katharine Pyburn, The History of the Development ofa Single System of Education in
Florida, 1822-1903 (Tallahassee, FL: The Florida State University, 1954)
children from attending schools. In the United States, and especially in the South, skin color
was a strong determinant as to how you were treated and what rights you were granted.14
The purpose of this paper is to examine two key trends reflected in pivotal events in
the history of education in Florida between 1863 and 1900: Republican Party
factionalism that prevented any unifying effort to protect the rights of blacks, and
discriminatory political and education policies intended to segregate and disenfranchise
blacks. The foundation of any education system determines its ability to provide a future
generation with the knowledge necessary to participate in the economic, political, and
social aspects of society. By examining how political actions and officials influenced the
establishment of a public education system for African Americans in Florida, we can
better assess the contributions of this system to the democratic ideal of equal educational
opportunities for all citizens. By drawing on the work of historians and educators, and on
public and private records left behind by those who experienced Reconstruction, this
paper attempts to frame some of the frustrations that drove the policy and the people
during a very volatile time in Florida's history.
The establishment of an equal public education system in Florida during
Reconstructionn was undermined by the political actions of Republican officials. When the
Republican Party organized in 1867, the only obj ective its members agreed on was the
abolition of slavery. Radical Republicans were divided into two factions-Conservative
Radical Republicans and Liberal Radical Republicans. The Conservative Radical
Republicans endorsed enfranchisement, full civil rights for blacks, and peaceful
14 JanleS M. Denham, "The Florida Cracker Before the Civil War as Seen Through Travelers
Accounts" in The Florida Historical Quarterly 72 (April 1994): 453-468: C. Vann Woodward,
The Burden of Southern History (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1993): 104-
opposition to the Black Codes. The Liberal Radical Republicans supported
enfranchisement and civil rights, but also approved of redistribution of property to blacks,
by violent means if necessary. Moderate Republicans were also divided into two
factions--the Conservative Republicans and the Loyalist Republicans. Conservative
Republicans sought a close alliance with local and federal white power, and supported a
gradual admission of blacks into the political arena. Loyalist Republicans advocated
enfranchisement and civil rights, but were led by local white men instead of the northern
men of the Conservative Radical faction. While no faction was exclusively black or
white, and members shifted alliances frequently, the radical elements attracted more
blacks and the moderate elements drew more whites. The result of these factions,
however, was an unstable Republican Party, which greatly hindered the goals of those
who supported equal educational opportunities for African Americans. Most public
school superintendents who served between 1868 and 1876 advocated equality in
education, which required a government that supported this philosophy. Most white
Democrats in Florida, however, were not inclined to support education for blacks. The
inability of Republicans to unify once they gained political representation eventually led
to the Party's demise, and halted the work of educators to further the cause of equal
educational opportunities for Florida' s black children.
A legacy of the Republican government during Reconstruction was the segregation
of public schools. Due to white sentiment and the desire of educators for all children to
attend public schools, Republican state officials agreed to allow segregation in districts
and towns that opposed mixed schools. When Democrats gained political power in 1877,
segregation of schools soon became a requirement of all schools in the state. Legal
segregation and white resistance to public funding of black schools gave opportunity to
unequal funding for African American education. In addition, laws initiated by State
Superintendent Sheats stipulated uniform teacher examinations and limited the duration
of second and third class teacher certifications. Teachers with second and third class
certificates had to progress to a higher class certificate within two years or lose
certification. Both black and white educators complained that these new requirements
would greatly decrease the number of teachers and the number of schools in operation,
but black teachers and schools were affected more severely.
Most black and white teachers from the state were products of the state schools. White
students, however, had more secondary schools and colleges available to them for teacher
training than black students. Sheats reported in 1896 a total of ten public and private
institutes of higher education, and about eighteen public and private secondary schools that
provided teacher training for white students. In contrast, black students had one public and
one private institute of higher education, and only one high school for blacks." The lack of
opportunities for teacher training for blacks, the more stringent teacher certification
requirements, and the segregation of schools created a pattern of unequal education for
African Americans in Florida. African Americans were required to pass the same teacher
examinations as whites, but were not provided the same opportunities for teacher education.
Without state and local government officials supportive of equal education for blacks and
whites, formal education for African Americans suffered in Florida.
'5 Lincoln Academy in Tallahassee and Union Academy in Gainesville, both schools for African
Americans, provided two-month teacher courses to prepare teachers for certification examinations.
They were not considered secondary schools since neither offered coursework for students above
the eighth grade.
EDUCATION INT FLORIDA
Before Florida became a state in 1845, the territorial government passed legislation
for private academies, apprenticeships, and schools for the destitute. An act passed in
1834 authorized a lottery to raise funds for maintaining a school in St. Augustine that had
previously been sponsored by the Spanish government. Based on government records,
there was much discussion about the importance of education. In November 1844
however, there were only four free schools in Florida with a total of fifty students. There
were a number of academies, which were attended by those students whose families
could afford the tuition. From 1858 to 1860, the state paid teachers at thirty-three schools
in seven counties. Most of the schools were in session for three months and had less than
forty students. Although there is no indication that the students at these schools were all
white, southern states did not take on the responsibility of educating black children before
Reconstruction since most at this time were children of slaves.16
In addition, prior to the Civil War there were laws against teaching slaves how to
read; however, the decision to educate slaves was often left to their owners. Rebecca Hooks,
a former slave from Lake City, Florida, was a house servant and the offspring of her master,
and as a result was taught to read and write along with the white children of the house. Her
16 Nita Katherine Pyburn, Documentary HistorvqfEditcation in Florida, 1822-1860 (Tallahassee,
FL: The Florida State University Press, 1951): 15-18, 80: Nita Katherine Pyburn, The History qf
the Development qfa Single System qf Editcation in Florida, 1822-1903 (Tallahassee, FL: The
Florida State University, 1954), 4-23: Curtis L. Stevens, "The Rise and Development of
Universal Education in Florida During Reconstruction" (Masters thesis, Florida Agricultural and
Mechanical College, 1953): 2-16.
step-father was allowed to buy books for Rebecca, which he did with some of the money he
earned from selling comn whiskey. Douglas Dorsey, a former slave to a family in Suwannee
County, Florida, had the responsibility of carrying the schoolbooks for the master' s children.
Willie Matair, one of the master' s sons, taught Douglas "the alphabet and numbers.""
When the master' s wife found out, she struck Douglas across the face and threatened to cut
off his right arm if he was caught reading or writing. She then severely whipped both boys.
Andrew Simms, a slave living on the William Driver plantation in Florida, said: "The old
Master say we can teach ourselves but we can't do it. Old Klem Bowman owned the place
next door to Mister Driver. If he catch his slaves toying with the pencil, why, he cut off one
of their fingers." I Prior to Reconstruction, education for blacks and poor whites in Florida
was very limited, or nonexistent.19
Responding to the Demand for Education for Freed Slaves, 1863-1867
After the Civil War, the commitment of many blacks to education and their desire
to be politically informed indicated the importance they placed on enfranchisement.
Education, especially learning how to read and write, was necessary to read voting ballots
and employee contracts. According to an interview with Willis Williams, a former slave
from Tallahassee, blacks showed a great interest in education. He remembered schools
first being taught by Northemn white women, but than replaced by blacks who had gained
only rudimentary knowledge during slavery. As a young woman, Amanda McCray
remembered attending a school where a white teacher taught her how to read. She said
'7 Library of Congress, "Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States From
Interviews with Former Slaves," The Federal Writers Project, 1936-1938, vol. 3 (Washington,
D.C.: Library of Congress Manuscript Division, 1941), 95-96.
's Ibid., 296.
19 Ibid., 172-175: Pyburn, The History qf the Develop~ment qfa Single System ofEducation, 4-23.
black teachers soon replaced the white teachers, but the instruction was basically the
same. According to McCray, black teachers were revered by black children and many
black girls expressed a desire to teach, especially since this was one of the few
employment opportunities open to black women.20
In 1865, there were already schools for blacks operating in Florida and taught by
both blacks and whites. The American Missionary Association (AMA) and the National
Freedman' s Relief Association of New York (NFRA), both non-denominational
benevolent societies, were two of the organizations that established schools prior to 1865.
These schools were open to all children, but most white parents refused to send their
children to schools with blacks. Without an organized government and with support from
the Freedmen's Bureau, northern benevolent societies were able to open schools in the
south, even when challenged by the white community.21
The main work of the AMA was Christian missionary and educational undertakings
throughout the United States and around the world. In 1861, the AMA sent missionaries and
teachers to aid the black population in areas of the south controlled by northern troops.
AMA leaders believed no race should be dependent upon another for development, and their
obj ective was to cultivate leaders from the black community, who would then help protect
the rights of their fellow African Americans. To reach this goal, the organization
20 Stevens, "The Rise and Development of Universal Education," 57-59; Anderson, The
Education of Blacks in the South, 4-11; Gerald Schwartz, "An Integrated Free School in Civil
War Florida" in The Florida Historical Quarterly 61 (October 1982): 159; Library of Congress,
"Slave Narratives," 2 12-2 16, 347-3 54.
21 Butchart, Northern Schools, 3-21; John T. Foster, Jr., & Sarah Whitmer Foster, "Aid Societies
were not Alike: Northern Teachers in Post-Civil War Florida," in The Florida Historical
Quarterly 73 (January 1995): 308-324; Joe M. Richardson, "A Northerner Reports on Florida," in
The Florida Historical Quarterly 40 (April 1962): 381-390; Schwartz, "An Integrated Free
emphasized training blacks to be teachers. AMA officers advocated a broad liberal
education for blacks similar to that of northern schools, and established in their first schools
a liberal arts curriculum. Religion may not have been a subj ect of study in all AMA schools,
nonetheless, teachers often emphasized the responsibility that blacks had to God, country,
family, and community. Topics such as patriotism, thrift, punctuality, honesty, and industry
were the underlying messages delivered through the AMA curriculum.22
The NFRA was organized to provide missionaries and educators in the Sea Islands off
the coast of South Carolina. With the cooperation of the United States government, the
organization sent supplies, teachers, and plantation superintendents, including William
Channing Gannett from Harvard Divinity School, to participate in the Sea Island experiment.
Its purpose was to help ex-slaves on the islands leamn the "rudimentary arts of civilized
life."23 The NFRA, like the AMA, viewed slaves as inferior due to the conditions of slavery,
but believed that with education they could overcome the ill-effects of slavery. In Florida, the
NFRA sponsored Chloe Merrick and Comelia Smith in 1863 to teach a black school in
Femandina. They divided the school into three academic levels and found the students
learned very quickly. They soon had over 100 students and opened a second school, hiring
two assistants. Merrick and Lizzie Smith took one school with 130 students, and Smith and
22Augustus F. Beard, A Crusade ofBrotherhood: A History of the American Ab~ssionary
Association (Boston: The Pilgrim Press, 1909; reprint, New York: The AMS Press, 1972), 23-32;
"Constitution," in The American Mlissionary 32 (January 1878): 27-28.
23Morris, Reading, 'Riting, and Reconstruction, 3-12: Butchart, Northern Schools, 3-19.
Miss Harris had the other school with about 125 students attending. Merrick also opened an
orphanage, purchasing an abandoned plantation with the help of the Freedmen' s Bureau.24
Another NFRA school, taught by Mrs. Loveridge and Miss Abbie Burch, had both
black and white students, and Catherine Bent taught black students in Gainesville. The
NFRA also had schools in Micanopy, Ocala, Silver Springs, Sumterville, Palatka, and
Lake City. When the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands (Freedmen' s
Bureau) arrived in Florida, President Andrew Johnson ordered the return of abandoned
lands to the original owners. The plantation where Merrick' s orphanage was located was
returned to its owner, which caused tension between the Freedmen's Bureau and the
NFRA. When the NFRA lost funding due to differences between the secular and religious
societies that supported them, it had to close some of its schools in Florida. In June 1866
the NFRA had thirteen schools, one orphanage, twenty-seven teachers, and over 1,600
students in Florida. By 1869, there were only five NFRA teachers in Florida, and their
financial support had been assumed by the black communities.25
The first AMA teacher in Florida is believed to have been in St. Augustine in 1863.
By 1865 there were AMA schools in Key West, Jacksonville, Strawberry Mills, and on a
plantation south of Jacksonville along the St. Johns River. Schools in Tallahassee, Ocala,
Monticello, Gainesville, and Magnolia soon followed. Like the NFRA teachers, AMA
teachers found themselves with more students than they could accommodate. Carrie
Blood in Monticello taught a total of 255 students in her day, night, and Sabbath schools.
Maggie Gardner and Emma Eveleth taught 108 students in a dilapidated building in
24 Foster & Foster, "Aid Societies Were Not Alike," 308-324; Sarah Whitmer Foster & John T.
Foster, Jr., "Chloe Merrick Reed: Freedom's First Lady" in The Florida Historical Quarterly 71
(Jan. 1993): 280-300.
25 Foster & Foster, "Aid Societies Are Not Alike," 308-324
Gainesville. Harriet Greely, an AMA teacher in Jacksonville, had sixty-one students
ranging in age from twenty to seventy-five. She found that young, black males were
interested in night school so they could learn to read the names on voting ballots. The
AMA teachers were paid through contributions to the association and initially not
assisted by the state or county governments.26
Although the first AMA schools were elementary schools, which blacks of all ages
attended, AMA teachers and agents soon realized that both graded and secondary schools
would be needed within a few years. Most AMA teachers believed African Americans could
leamn as well as or better than most white students. Due to their enthusiasm for learning,
most black students advanced quickly and were in need of higher levels of instruction in a
short time. AMA administrators did not consider missionary schools a permanent solution to
the educational needs of blacks in the south. The AMA hoped to tumn management of
primary schools over to state and local governments, but this was not always successful.
Much of the south was economically devastated by the war and was not capable of
sustaining the expense of schools. In addition, many southern whites were resistant or
outright hostile to black education, especially when taught by northern whites who
advocated freedom and equality for freedmen.27
26 JOe Richardson, Christian Reconstruction: The American Mlissionary Association and Southern
Blacks, 1861-1890, (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1986): vii, 38-39; H. Greely to G.
Whipple, 23 January 1865, 9 May 1867 (Special Collection, P.K. Yonge Library, University of
Florida, Gainesville) microfilm, 148D.
27Richardson, Christian Reconstruction, 37, 112-115, 190-193, 218-222: Clara M. DeBoer, His
Truth is Mlarching On: African Americans Whno Taught the Freedmen for the American
Missionary Association, 1861-1877 (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1995): 7-10: Stevens,
"The Rise and Development of Universal Education," 2, 25-28: Anderson, The Education of
Blacks in the South, 21-23.
Freed slaves demonstrated a great desire for education and quickly filled schools
established by Northerners. Northern philanthropic organizations and educators
understood how education contributed to the economic, political, and social well-being of
society, and attempted to establish a formal education system for Florida' s children,
specifically for African Americans. Their success was dependent, however, on a state
government supportive of their efforts.
Political Response to Educational Demands, 1865-1867
Southern whites responded to the outpouring of educational opportunities for freed
slaves with considerable political restraint. After the war, Southemn state governments were
reestablished under President Johnson' s Reconstruction plan, and in October 1865 the
Florida Legislature convened to write a new constitution. William Marvin, a former federal
district attorney and judge and the newly appointed governor of Florida, had opposed
secession but was not in favor of equality for blacks. Although he cooperated with federal
agents to bring about fair treatment of blacks, he also supported legislative policies that
legalized violent and oppressive acts. Marvin recommended to legislators a vagrancy law
that would ensure the control of former slaves. According to this law, a citizen' s complaint
to a court official would lead to the arrest of any "able-bodied person who was wandering or
strolling about."28 In addition, former slaves who entered into a contract with white
plantation owners could be charged with vagrancy if they were disrespectful, insolent, or
refused to work. He charged the convention with the responsibility of protecting the rights
of freedmen, but not extending to them the right to vote, which won him support from
former slave owners and secessionists. The maj ority of the delegates at the convention were
former Confederate officers and soldiers, and legislation reflected the attitudes of southern
28 Florida, Laws ofFlorida, (1865-1866): 62.
plantation owners and secessionists. The expected victories of African Americans as a result
of the Civil War were not evident from what was written in the constitution. The
constitution did abolish slavery, but it also stated that only white men could be elected as
state and local representatives, only white men could serve on juries, and qualified electors
were limited to free white males over the age of twenty-one. With the vote limited to white
males, the state elections of November 1865 resulted in a large majority of ex-Confederates
and secessionists and a very small contingency of Unionists in the state assembly.29
In that year, David Walker, a conservative and former member of the Whig Party,
ran unopposed for governor of Florida. Walker was a state senator in 1845 and opposed
secession but supported the state after its withdrawal from the Union. In his first address
to the Florida assembly, Walker clarified his position regarding the rights of African
Americans by admitting he could not in good conscience give blacks the right to vote.
The prospects of black enfranchisement appeared unlikely, since nearly all local and state
offices were held by ex-Confederate officers and soldiers or sympathizers to secession.30
The 1865 Florida elections brought complaints from Republicans in the United States
Congress. In a speech before the Senate, Charles Sumner (Rep., Mass.), an avid
abolitionist, condemned the elections in Florida:
We have the [Florida] constitution itself which this recent pretended convention has
undertaken to put forward a constitution which, after recognizing the abolition of
slavery and therefore the citizenship of those who were once slaves, proceeds
29 JOe M. Richardson, "Christian Abolitionism: The American Missionary Association and the
Florida Negro," in the Journal ofNegro Education 40 (Winter 1971): 35-44; Florida Constitution,
1865, Art. IV, Sec. 4, Sec. 5, Art. VI, Sec. 1, Art. IX, Sec. 1, Art. XVI, Sec. 3; Joe Richardson,
"Black Codes," in The Florida Historical Quarterly 47 (April 1968): 366-380; Shofner, Nor Is It
Over Yet, 34-45; Davis, The Civil War and Reconstruction in Florida, 361-367.
30 Davis, The Civil War and Reconstruction in Florida, 409-411; Stevens, "The Rise and
Development of Universal Education," 40; Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America 's Unfinished
Revolution, 1863-1877 (New York: HarperCollins First Perennial Classics 1989): 254-261.
actually to decree their disenfranchisement; and Senators are expected to recognize
such an instrument as a republican form of government-an instrument that begins
with the denial of equality to nearly one-half of its citizens!31
Sumner' s accusations were echoed by Radical Republicans in Congress, but were ignored
by Florida legislators, and they voted in 1866 against ratification of the 14th Amendment,
which recognized African Americans as full citizens. Although the Amendment did not
guarantee voting privileges, it penalized states that did not extend these rights, and
prohibited from state or national office any person who previously engaged in
insurrection or rebellion against the federal government or aided those who did. This
constraint eliminated nearly all of the southern political leaders from running for office.32
The political office restrictions, heated antagonism between President Johnson's
support of state rights, and the U.S. Congress advocating full citizenship for African
Americans sent mixed messages to state legislators and military commanders. When
Johnson removed military courts from the southern states, handing law enforcement back
to the state courts, many thought this meant the end of military rule. Surprisingly,
however, Governor Walker emphasized in speeches that military rule remained in effect,
and he fully cooperated with Maj or General John G. Foster, commander of occupation
forces in Florida. It was the sentiments and rulings of many local judges and juries that
provoked accusations of racial bias from Foster and other federal agents.33
Racial bias became even more explicit when a conservative maj ority at the
legislative session of 1866 passed the Black Codes, which were laws aimed specifically
31 COngressional Globe, Senate, 39th COngress, 1st Session, 312-313.
32 Shofner, Nor Is It Over Yet, 46-47.
33 Davis, The Civil War and Reconstruction in Florida, 409-41 1; United States Constitution,
Amendment XIV, Sections 1-3; Foner, Reconstruction, 254-261; Shofn~er, Nor Is It Over Yet, 46-
at controlling the black population. These laws, which defined an African American as
one who was at least one-eighth black, forbade African Americans from carrying
firearms, allowed courts to apprentice children of vagrants and indigent parents,
prohibited interracial marriage, regulated work contracts that favored employers, and
enforced a vagrancy law that allowed the courts to sell for labor anyone convicted of
vagrancy who could not pay the $500 bond. In addition to j ail sentences and fines,
whippings and the pillory were included as appropriate punishments for crimes. Colonel
Thomas Osborn, a Freedmen' s Bureau agent, obj ected, and argued that these laws
violated the constitutional rights of blacks. When the Florida attorney general John B.
Galbraith declared some of the laws unconstitutional, legislators amended them to
include whites, but most of the laws applied almost entirely to African Americans.34
The Freedmen's Bureau tried to control the movement of blacks by keeping them on
the plantations as paid workers, both for their own safety and for the economic recovery of
the state. Military officials worried that former slaves would leave the plantations without
having a way to support themselves financially. By contracting with plantation owners,
freed slaves would at least be employed and not fall victim to the vagrancy laws.
Freedmen' s Bureau agents mediated contracts and disputes between former slaves and the
white plantation owners. Many plantation owners were notorious for violating contracts, but
the agents found the contract disputes easier to resolve than large numbers of unemployed
blacks that the federal government would need to support.35
34Foner, Reconstruction, 199-200: Shofner, Nor Is It Over Yet, 51-57.
35Morris, Reading, 'Riting, and Reconstruction, 27-29; Edward K. Eckert, "Contract Labor in
Florida During Reconstruction" in The Florida Historical Quarterly 47 (July 1968): 35-51;
Frederick B. Rosen, "The Development of Negro Education in Florida During Reconstruction:
1865-1877 (Ph.D. diss., University of Florida, 1974), 48-50.
In 1866, representatives from the Freedmen's Bureau recommended separate
schools for blacks with white teachers. The Florida legislature complied and a bill was
passed making segregated schools legal in Florida and operated at no cost to the state.
Funding would be provided through a one-dollar tax on every adult black male and
through fees paid by teachers for teaching licenses. Included in this bill were stipulations
on the licensing of teachers, which gave control of licensure to the state government, an
action taken to prevent white northern teachers from teaching in the state. Blacks in
Florida had very little money, but many found a way to pay the one-dollar tax. The funds
from this tax, however, were misdirected by state legislators into the state general fund
and never allocated to the black schools.36 In demanding tuition, the state government
under Governor Walker severely limited the ability of blacks to acquire a formal
education. The Black Codes made it easier for freed slaves to be accused of vagrancy and
other illegal acts, thereby subj ecting them to work without pay.
President Johnson' s policy of Reconstruction only encouraged the disenfranchisement
of African Americans and angered many Republicans in the U. S. Congress. The national
elections of 1866 resulted in a Congress dominated by Radical Republicans who favored
enfranchisement of African Americans. Against the wishes of Johnson, these men launched
the Reconstruction Act of 1867, which reinforced military rule in the south, required
ratification by southern states of the 14th Amendment, and ordered southern states to write
new constitutions, which Congress had to approve before being recognized by the Union.
The new constitutions had to extend voting privileges to African Americans and be
36 Shofner, Nor Is It Over Yet, 56-57.
approved by a maj ority of registered voters in each state. The federal government assumed
the responsibility of registering voters throughout the south.37
Under the leadership of white Democrats and former Whigs, Florida legislators
passed laws that discriminated against freed slaves and discouraged education for African
Americans, eliminating slavery in name only. The intervention of the United States
Congress eliminated these legal restraints and prepared the way for a government that
was more sympathetic to the needs of African Americans.
Factionalism in the Republican Party, 1868-1872
In preparation for the upcoming election, the Republican Party began organizing in
Florida, but the results produced a splintered party. Initially, these factions may have
been advantageous to the Republican Party since each segment was located in a different
part of the state and solicited political participation in those areas. The Conservative
Radical Republicans, located in Middle Florida and supported by the Baptist church,
endorsed enfranchisement and equal rights for blacks. Their philosophy of peaceful
opposition to Florida' s Black Codes stood in stark contrast to the Liberal Radical
Republicans' militant stance. Located in West Florida and backed by the African
Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), the Liberal Radical Republicans endorsed
education, enfranchisement, civil rights, and the redistribution of property, by violent
means if necessary. They also extracted commitments from blacks not to vote for any
southern whites. Loyalist Republicans were based in Jacksonville and advocated
enfranchisement and civil rights for blacks, but their leadership consisted more of local
men instead of the northern transplants of the Conservative Radical Republicans.
Conservative Republicans wanted an even closer alliance with local and federal white
37 Foner, Reconstruction, 275-277.
power, espousing the need for a gradual admission of blacks into the political arena. The
leadership of Harrison Reed, a former federal postal agent, gave them a statewide
influence. Each Republican Party faction rallied both black and white Republicans to
vote, but they also reinforced ongoing internal party antagonism. The Republican Party's
inability to unify once it had gained political representation would eventually lead to its
demise as a political power.38
Despite the Republican Party divisions, a slight maj ority of Florida voters,
including African Americans, approved a constitutional convention, and in January of
1868, Republican and Democratic delegates gathered in Tallahassee. Republicans held a
large maj ority but were evenly split between moderates and radicals. Consequently, the
factionalism demonstrated during campaigning persisted throughout the convention.
Little was accomplished during the first two weeks of the convention as radicals and
moderates vied for power and political control, often resorting to physical violence. It
was only with the intervention of federal troops that the legislators were able to attend to
the business of government. This only served to embarrass the party and fuel arguments
from Democrats that blacks were not capable of political participation.39
In February 1868, the new constitution was approved by Florida voters and Harrison
Reed, a Conservative Republican, was elected governor. The new constitution gave him
generous authority for appointments to most state and local government positions, and while
Reed did appoint black Republicans to offices, including Jonathan C. Gibbs as Secretary of
38Shofner, Nor Is It Over Yet, 143-144; Cantor Brown, Jr., Florida 's Black Public Officials 1867-
1924 (Tuscaloosa, AL: The University of Alabama Press, 1998): 1-9.
39Stevens, "The Rise and Development of Universal Education," 47-48: Richard L. Hume,
"Membership of the Florida Constitutional Convention of 1868: A Case Study of Republican
Factionalism in the Reconstruction South," in The Florida Historical Ottarterly 51 (July 1972): 2-19:
Shofner, Nor Is It Over, 178-189: Brown, Florida 's Black Public Officials, 10-13.
State, he did not relinquish control of any commission to any blacks and most maj or
appointments were reserved for Northemners. To establish support for the new government,
Reed appointed both Democrats and Conservative Republicans to state office, which
alienated some Radical and Moderate Republicans. In addition, because federal law
prohibited state elected representatives to hold more than one office, Reed's appointments
prevented some state elected representatives, mainly Radical Republicans, from serving in
the offices for which they were elected. Angered by Reed' s appointments, Republicans
accused him of various crimes and voted to impeach him from office, but the senate refused
to act and adj oumned without voting on the impeachment charges. This was the first of four
impeachment attempts on Reed, which only served to further divide Republicans and
provided Democrats an opportunity to malign and embarrass the state govemment.40
In the 1870 elections, both Republicans and Democrats committed fraud, some poll
inspectors delaying identification of voters until the polls closed and others stuffing the
ballot box. The illegal activities of Republican Party members and the ongoing bitter
competition between Republicans frustrated both black and white constituents. 41 The
inability of the Republican Party to unite politically could leave the rights of freed slaves
to the mercy of a state government unfriendly to African Americans.
Implementing Public Schooling for All Children, 1868-1876
Despite the party divisions and infighting that frustrated attempts to establish a
stronger Republican government, education policy moved forward during these early
years of Reconstruction. The new constitution provided a broader framework for public
education in Florida than any previous action by the state. Legislators extended education
40 Brown, Florida 's Black Public Officials, 15-17, 92; Shofn~er, Nor Is It Over Yet, 198-224.
41 Shofner, Nor Is It Over Yet, 213-214, 225-231.
to "all the children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference," and this
was to be accomplished through a "uniform system of Common Schools, and a
University" that would be free to all between the ages of four and twenty-one.42 To
receive state education funds, counties or school districts were required to raise at least
one-half of the amount apportioned by the state to each county for that year, and to
maintain a public school for at least three months out of the year. The amount of money
appropriated to each county from the common school fund would be in proportion to the
number of children in the eligible age range. Funding would come from property taxes,
proceeds from federal and state land sales, fines collected by the state, donations by
individuals for education, and through a per capital tax. Legislators also established the
office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, who would oversee all aspects of the state
common schools and the university.43
Although Reed's education policy favored all children, in 1869 he recommended
that the state provide no money for education, as required by the constitution, since funds
were not available. Most counties could not raise or collect the tax money needed to
support common schools, and white residents were not inclined to pay taxes for schools
that would educate black students. In addition, Florida' s economy had not recovered from
the war and a poor crop season in 1867 required the federal government to allocate
rations. Despite the financial obstacles, the newly appointed Superintendent of Public
Instruction, C. Thurston Chase, was determined to create a public school system that
would rival those of the North. Chase began his time in office by examining the public
42 Florida Constitution, 1868, Art. VIII.
43 Florida Constitution, 1868, Art. VIII; Thomas Cochran, The History of Public School
Education in Florida (Lancaster, PA: New Era Printing Company 1921): 34-48; Pyburn, The
History of the Development ofa Single System ofEducation, 88-97.
schools of the "most approved systems of the older states" within the Union and
determined the best attributes to emulate in Florida.44
With funds difficult to find at home, he turned to groups like the Freedmen's
Bureau and the AMA to help finance schools. Bamnas Sears, the General Agent of the
Peabody Fund, offered over $6,600 to the Florida public schools. Chase noted in his 1870
report that Sears wished "all the towns which we aid to come into your system of legal
public schools."45 Normally, the amount allowed by the Peabody Fund would have been
$2,000, but Sears said Florida' s public school system was more advanced than most
southern states, so he awarded them more money. The Peabody Fund was used to support
segregated urban schools with a population of at least 100 students, and with at least one
teacher for every fifty students. The Peabody Fund concentrated funding on schools for
white students, arguing that the aid provided through the Freedmen's Bureau and
philanthropic organizations were meeting the educational needs of black children. In this
way, Sears and the Peabody Fund supported segregation of schools in the south. The
Peabody Fund did benefit some black schools, but the maj ority of the money, about 93%,
went to white schools.46
Chase was influential in government policy and encouraged legislation that accepted
responsibility for teachers of freedmen who had been employed by the state but had not
been paid, as was the agreement with the previous administration. His greatest praise went
44 COchran, History qf Public School Education in Florida, 49-78: Florida, Rep~ort qf the
Superintendent qfPublic Instruction (1869), 3-8: Florida, Rep~ort qf the Sup~erintendent qfPublic
Education (1870), 3, 14: Richardson, Ci he mate r Reconstruction, 110.
45 Florida, Rep~ort qf the Sup~erintendent qfPublic Education (1870), 48.
46 Ibid., 14: F. Bruce Rosen, "The Influence of the Peabody Fund on Education in Reconstruction
Florida," in The Florida Historical Ottarterly 55 (January 1977): 311-321: Anderson, The
Education qf Blacks in the South, 280-281.
to the teachers from Northern benevolent societies who "came at a time when freed children
were cast suddenly at the threshold of a new life, unused to the responsibilities and ignorant
of the duties thus thrust upon them."47 Chase' s comments and requests for AMA teachers
are not surprising since he had received a paid appointment in 1867 to the AMA bureau as
special agent for school construction. His correspondence with AMA officials requesting
teachers for Florida schools indicates Chase' s continued relationship with the AMA. He
forwarded two requests from Marion County, one for four teachers and another for seven
teachers. Chase also gave a positive progress report on three AMA teachers previously sent
to Florida and teaching in public schools. In the late 1860s, the AMA began transferring
management of its established schools to the state. Chase reported that in October of 1869
there were about 100 active schools in Florida. By January 1870 there were 250 schools
with a total student population of about 7,500. The increase in the number of schools may be
partly due to better reporting by county superintendents, since many took office for the first
time late in 1869 and were unable to collect data in time for that year' s report.48
One AMA school that shared funding with Duval County and the Freedmen's
Bureau was Stanton Normal School in Jacksonville. Lucelia E. Williams served as
principal of the school for seven years, two of those under the auspices of the AMA.
According to the 1869 teacher reports, the Freedmen's Bureau owned the building that
housed the school and the Duval County School Board provided some funding. In 1869,
the school had six teachers and 3 82 students enrolled, three of them white. In the early
47 Florida, Report qf the Superintendent qfPublic Instruction (1869): 3-8.
48 COchran, History qf Public School Education in Florida, 49-78: Florida, Report qf the
Superintendent qfPublic Instruction (1869): 3-8: Butchart, Northern Schools, 103-104; C. T.
Chase, Tallahassee, to E. P. Smith, New York, 22 December 1869 (Special Collection, P.K.
Yonge Library, University of Florida, Gainesville) microfilm, 148E: Richardson, "Christian
1870s, the AMA experienced a decrease in contributor funding and attempted to
consolidate the work being done by the association. When the Freedmen's Bureau left
Florida in 1876, Stanton Normal School closed due to lack of funding.49
In the 1868 summer session of the state assembly, Chase pushed for more extensive
education laws. Included in his legislation was a bill that removed the required oath
teachers had to take prior to being certified and prohibited books of a "sectarian
nature."so The oath had been required to prevent northern teachers from being licensed to
teach in Florida. Prior to the vote on the bill, Democrat Alexander L. McCaskill inserted
a section that would allow counties and districts to create segregated public school
systems without losing state funding and that would prohibit black teachers from teaching
white students in any public school or state university. The bill was indefinitely
postponed by a close vote of 11-10, but it is unclear whether the dissenters were against
racially mixed schools or against prohibiting black teachers to teach white children."
A similar bill was introduced and passed in 1869. Although the bill did not
mandate segregated schools, it did give counties the right to create separate schools for
blacks and whites, thereby leaving the issue of school segregation to the counties.
Most Southern whites did not accept mixed schools and refused to send their children
to schools attended by blacks. Granting school districts the power to segregate schools
was a compromise made by educators hoping that more white children would attend
49 Teacher's Monthly School Report, Stanton Normal School, 1869 (Special Collection, P.K.
Yonge Library, University of Florida, Gainesville) microfilm, 148D, 148E: "Lucelia E.
Williams," in The American Mlissionary, 89 (March 1896): 89: Arthur White, "State Leadership
and Black Education in Florida, 1876-1976" in Phylon 42 (2d Qtr. 1981): 168-171.
"0 Florida, Journal of the Senate for the First Session, Fifteenth Legislature (1868), 225.
public schools. In addition to creating schools, the state and county superintendents
were given the power to certify teachers. There were three levels of teacher
certification, but the county boards of public instruction determined the requirements
for each level. Certifieates would be granted to graduates of the Department of
Teaching at the State University (which was not in operation at that time) or to
successful teachers. Candidates also had to maintain a good moral character, possess
the skills necessary to manage a school or classroom, and take the oath prescribed by
the state Constitution. Teachers were charged one dollar for the certificates, and
county superintendents were given the authority to revoke certification after giving
proper notice to the teacher and instructions on how to appeal the decision.52
Officials with the AMA complained that the teacher licensing acts of 1866 and
1869 restricted the work of their teachers in Florida. Most northern teachers had the
necessary teacher training to pass a certification exam, but taking the oath to uphold
the laws of Florida might have been a concern for teachers who considered themselves
residents of their former states. In addition, the authority given to county boards of
public instruction for certification requirements was very broad. There were no
statewide certification criteria, therefore, each county board of public instruction could
determine who was qualified to teach. Since board members were selected by the
county superintendent, and the superintendents were appointed by the governor, there
was probably legitimate concern from the AMA when Governor Reed appointed many
conservatives to local offices. Although Reed's appointees may have supported public
education, they may not have supported northern teachers. During these early years of
52 Florida, Laws of Florida (1869), Chapter 1686, Sections 13, 19, 23-27; Richard B. Drake,
"Freedmen's Aid Societies and Sectional Compromise" in The Journal of Southern History 29
public education, however, there were no known cases of teachers who were denied
certification or charged with violating the requirements. According to Chase, county
officials were notoriously inattentive regarding their duties. Some county
commissioners refused to impose a school tax, and county superintendents neglected to
appoint and organize school boards. Their negligence may have worked in favor of the
AMA and other benevolent societies, but it inhibited the advancement of the public
education system. 53
After Chase's death in 1870, Henry Quarles was appointed to Einish the term as
state superintendent. Quarles cited money as the main barrier to the establishment of a
statewide public education system. Owners of large plantations refused to pay taxes to
support schools for their former labor force. According to Quarles, few of the over 250
schools in the state "would rank above good common schools," and he recommended that
schools prepare students to enter college or business.54 QUarTIS stated that the absence of
a state teacher' s college, non-uniform textbooks, lack of qualified teachers, and short
school terms hindered the work of the common schools. He intended to meet with state
educators to discuss ways to improve the education system, but his term ended and
Governor Reed appointed Rev. Charles Beecher, the younger brother of Harriet Beecher
Stowe, as state superintendent."
53 Florida Constitution, 1868, Art. VIII, Sec. 4, 14, 19: Florida, Report qf the Superintendent qf
Public Instruction (1870): 5, 7: Stevens, "The Rise and Development of Universal Education,"
54 Florida, Report qf the Superintendent qfPublic Instruction (1871), 5.
55 Ibid., 5-9; Forrest Wilson, Crusader in Crinoline: The 12fe qfHarriet Beecher Stowe (New
York: J.B. Lippencott Co. 1941): 38-39, 585-586.
Like Chase, Beecher depended on the AMA to supply teachers. In a letter to Rev.
George Whipple of the AMA, Beecher requested four teachers for Manatee County,
needing them to be "full of the spirit of the cross."56 A Mrs. Cedarholm accepted one of
these positions, but was under the impression she would be teaching black children.
According to Beecher, there were not enough black children in Manatee County to open a
state supported black school and "the whites being much democrats are not over
friendly."" Apparently, Manatee County officials chose to segregate schools, as state
law allowed. Florida law also permitted students from one county to go to school in
another county, if there were not enough students in their county to warrant a school.
Cedarholm suggested this action, but Beecher felt it best, probably due to white sentiment
in Manatee County, for her to teach elsewhere and suggested she relocate to Tampa,
where she could teach black children."
Although Beecher was supportive of schools for blacks, he was not willing to
overrule the wishes of local powers, even if it resulted in the neglect of education for
some black children. The attitude of Manatee County whites toward AMA teachers and
schools for black children was not unusual. Letters written by Northern teachers
continually stressed the disparaging treatment they received from both Southern and
newly-arrived Northern whites. White communities refused to board teachers or lease
buildings for their schools, and some teachers found the black families more welcoming.
Teachers were threatened by local whites, some by armed mobs. The AMA advised
56 C. Beecher, Tallahassee, to G. Whipple, New York, 24 July 1872 (Special Collection, P.K.
Yonge Library, University of Florida, Gainesville) microfilm 148E.
58C. Beecher, Tallahassee, to G. Whipple, New York, 29 October 1872, (Special Collection, P.K.
Yonge Library, University of Florida, Gainesville) microfilm 148E.
teachers to let the Freedmen's Bureau or the military handle cases of attack, but it did not
profess to be a pacifist organization. Teachers often armed themselves with weapons sent
from the AMA New York office and depended on the black community for protection.59
With each new election, AMA teachers and civil rights supporters feared that
government leadership would revert back to the Black Codes and oppression that existed
prior to the Congressional Reconstruction Act. In 1872, an AMA teacher in Gainesville
expressed her fear in a letter to Erastus Cravath, Field Secretary of the AMA.
But we tremble when we think what it will be, if the democrats get into power,
which I hope the Lord will prevent. We know what they have done when in power
and we have no reason to think they are any better now.... The law--which is
down in black and white-is that if a colored man steal a chicken he shall be
whipped and one who has been whipped shall be disfranchised. In that way they
would deprive the colored man of his vote.... These one-sided laws were made
since the war, when the democrats were in power, and there are men in this place
who helped to get them up. And they pretend to be great friends to the colored
people, but let them get into power again and these laws would be enforced, then
the colored man would find, to his sorrow, who were his friends.60
Northern teachers may have been most knowledgeable regarding the local problems faced
by blacks and their supporters. Their physical presence prior to Congressional
Reconstruction allowed teachers to witness some of the cruel acts of discrimination
perpetuated against blacks. The discrimination and contempt shown to teachers by the white
community reinforced teachers' beliefs that African Americans had few friends in the South.
Without a strong state government that protected the rights of African Americans, Northemn
teachers worried that the state would revert back to the Black Codes.
59 Florida, Laws of Florida (1869), Chapter 1686, Section 35; Richardson, I he stern,,
Reconstruction, 219-220: Joe M. Richardson, "We Are Truly Doing Missionary Work: Letters
from American Missionary Association Teachers in Florida, 1864-1874," in The Florida
Historical Ouarterly 54 (October 1975): 179-196.
61) E.B. Eveleth, Gainesville, to E.M. Cravath, New York, 29 October 1872, (Special Collection,
P.K. Yonge Library, University of Florida, Gainesville) microfilm 148E.
Political Frustration and the Accomplishments in Education, 1872-1876
The threat of losing the 1872 election to the Democrats was very real. Conservative
Republicans had grown weary of the fighting within their own party and wanted a
government that would advance economic development. As Republicans gathered in
Tallahassee in August 1872 for their party convention, Radical Republicans from Leon
County were noticeably absent. When the state central committee for the Republican
Party decided that both gubernatorial candidates from Leon County should appear on the
convention ballot, Leon County Radical Republicans refused to attend the convention.
Without the support of Leon County's large black population, Republicans could lose
control of the state government. The vote for the Republican candidate for governor
shifted between Ossian B. Hart and Marcellus L. Steams, both considered Loyalist
Republicans. Hart, an associate justice on the Florida Supreme Court, supported
emancipation and the intervention of the Freedmen' s Bureau in legal cases, which made
him a favorite among blacks. As a native Floridian and former slaveholder, however, he
appealed more to Loyalist and Conservative Republicans. Steams was a former Union
soldier and bureau agent and, as Speaker of the House, he had opposed Govemnor Reed' s
policies and supported the impeachment attempts on Reed. When Stearns won the
convention nomination, blacks who favored Hart decided to leave in protest. To prevent
another division in the party, Stearns quickly withdrew in favor of Hart. In response to
his sacrifice for the party, Stearns was then nominated for lieutenant governor.61
The Democrats viewed the division of Leon County Republicans as an opportunity to
gain some of the black vote. Democrats agreed to meet with blacks who had left the
Republican Party to form the Liberal Republican Party. William D. Bloxham was the only
61 Shofner, Nor Is It Over Yet, 276-280.
nominee about whom both sides could agree. After heated arguments, a majority of Liberal
Republicans voted to support the Democratic ticket, which included Bloxham for governor
and Robert W. Bullock for lieutenant governor. Liberal Republicans who voted against the
ticket left the convention in disgust, complaining that too much had been conceded to the
Democrats. Despite the divisions in the Republican Party, Hart and Steam won and
Republicans retained a small majority in both the senate and the house. The rigors of
campaigning were difficult for Hart and he contracted pneumonia, from which he never
recovered. His death in March 1874 elevated Steams to the office of govemor.62
From the election of Hart to the election of 1876, the office of Superintendent of
Public Instruction underwent a high turnover rate, with four men holding the position.
Charles Beecher was replaced in 1873 by former Secretary of State Jonathan C. Gibbs.
Gibbs was a national leader in education and was invited to speak on education in the
south at the thirteenth annual meeting of the National Education Association in Elmira,
New York. At this event, he argued for continued free education for blacks.63
Justice and equity demand that the magnitude of the education wants of the Southemn
States, and its intrinsic importance to the whole country, be laid before the public
mind from time to time, that men everywhere may understand that the education of
the mass is indissoluble from a healthy condition of free govemnment.... The desire on
the part of the colored people to obtain a knowledge of letters is truly astonishing; and
this desire is sustained by persistent effort. We are sending daily to the North, West
and East for competent teachers, and the supply is not equal to the demand.... The
four millions of newly enfranchised citizens demand in the name of justice the
nation' s solemn contract, that our national schools of leaming be free to all classes of
our citizens without distinction of race or color.64
As the former secretary of state and the current superintendent of public instruction,
Gibbs was fully aware of the fragile state of the Republican Party in Florida. Schooling
62 Shofner, Nor Is It Over Yet, 280-287.
63 Pyburn, The History of the Develop~ment ofa Single System ofEducation, 98-101.
64 Florida, Rep~ort of the State Sup~erintend'ent ofPublic Instruction (1874): 63-74.
for African Americans, especially for those without means to pay, could be endangered if
political power was lost to Democrats.
Superintendent Gibbs recommended that the county school boards be reduced from
five to three members to save the state money. He also reminded the legislature that county
clerks were still not reporting the quarterly fines that belonged to the school fund, as
required by law. Furthermore, Gibbs urged the state legislature to create and fund a teacher' s
institute as soon as possible due to the constant demand for teachers. Although this did not
happen during his tenure, he was involved in the decision to locate the Florida State
Agricultural College in Alachua County. He also compiled a list of state approved textbooks
to help guide teachers when choosing books for their classrooms. From 1871 to 1873, the
number of pupils in the state increased by about 12,000, and the resulting problems were
reflected in reports from county superintendents. Four counties reported they could not hire
enough teachers due to a lack of funds, and five counties reported building new schools to
accommodate additional students.65
Gibbs' report indicated that many school districts chose to segregate schools.
Dennis Eagan, the school superintendent from Madison County, said he did not usually
get involved with the hiring of teachers at white schools, although he stated that all
teachers had to pass the certification examination. He reported two black schools in his
district, both sponsored and taught by the AMA, and noted that white Northern teachers
had become more acceptable and were able to find accommodations with respectable
families. Manatee County Superintendent J.F. Bartholf also reported a black school
sponsored by the AMA, as did the superintendent from St. Johns County. C.E. Harvey
reported from Jackson County that Mr. L.M. Gamble, chairman of the board of
65 Ibid., 1-60
education, donated forty acres for a "colored school in Bethlehem."66 It is not entirely
clear if both blacks and whites chose to segregate their schools, but the divisions were
clearly made based on skin color.
On August 14, 1874, Gibbs suffered a stroke in his office. He was taken to his home
where he died later that day. His apparent good health fueled rumors of poison, but it was
never proven. Secretary of State Samuel B. McLin was appointed as Acting Superintendent
of Public Instruction by Govemnor Steams and quickly went to work encouraging the
improvement of school buildings. He believed the environment and facilities of the school
building and grounds affected how well students learned. McLin also addressed the issue of
uniform textbooks after hearing complaints from school officials and teachers regarding the
various textbooks children brought to class. McLin believed it would be more effective if
schools or counties chose their textbooks, and encouraged the superintendents to select the
best method for adopting uniform textbooks. He also urged the state to improve the
efficiency of county superintendents by requiring in-service training, thereby improving
their ability to evaluate teachers. McLin's term ended and he was replaced in 1875 by Rev.
William Watkin Hicks, who converted to the Republican Party after the appointment. The
quick tumover of superintendents during these later years of Republican rule made it
difficult to maintain consistent work in Florida' s education system. The needed
improvements in teacher training, standardized textbooks, and school buildings were never
fully addressed due in part to the brief tenure of superintendents. This instability was a
reflection of the state govemment.67
66 Ibid., 43
67Brown, Florida 's Black Public Qflicials, 3 1: Joe M. Richardson, "Jonathan C. Gibbs: Florida's
Only Negro Cabinet Member," in The Florida Historical Quarterly 42 (April 1964): 364-369.
Although most legislation enacted between 1868 and 1876 supported
enfranchisement for blacks and education for all children, Republican factions increased
animosity within the Party and frustrated both politicians and voters. Education for
African Americans gained momentum due in part to government officials who supported
equal educational opportunities for blacks and whites. The desire for white support of
public education compelled educators to submit to racist attitudes of the white
communities, and segregation of schools was allowed under Florida law. A weak
Republican Party, however, j eopardized the ability of government officials sympathetic
to the needs of blacks to maintain a strong influence in education policy, which
threatened the achievements made in education for African Americans.
Election Results of 1876 and the End of Reconstruction
The threat of Democratic control of the state government due to Republican
factionalism was very real. Fearing the outcome of the 1876 election, Dennis Eagan,
chairman of the State Republican Executive Committee, urged voters to unite: "The
enemy is in the Hield, and hopes to benefit by divisions in our ranks."68 With forty-seven
percent of the state population African American and only 2,000 whites in the Republican
Party, unity among Republicans was necessary to maintain government control.69
In 1876, Governor Marcellus Stearns was nominated for a second term amid
violent opposition from several county representatives who were denied access to the
convention due to their support for Republican state Senator Simon B. Conover.
Pyburn, The History qf the Develop~ment qfa Single System ofEducation in Florida, 106- 108:
Shofner, Nor Is It Over Yet, 295-296.
68 "LTo the Republican in Florida," Daily Florida Union, 30 June 1876.
69 Shofner, Nor Is It Over Yet, 288-289.
Conover' s constituents held their own convention, and both conventions sent delegates
to the national convention. Fearing a loss of Republican representatives in the federal and
state governments, Republicans from the national party convinced Conover to withdraw
from the race. Conover publicly requested that all voters support the Republican ticket,
but his followers continued their attacks on Stearns. Many black politicians were angered
by the actions of Northern white Republicans. Fuller M. White, the county commissioner
in Jackson County from 1872 to 1875, was quoted as advising "the negroes of Jackson
county [sic] to throw off the white carpetbaggers and organize a colored man' s party."70
African Americans were growing tired of the unfulfilled promises made by Florida
politicians from the north, and encouraged blacks to vote for southern blacks or whites
loyal to the federal government."
Democrats nominated George F. Drew for governor. Drew was a lumber mill
owner from Madison County who moved to the south from New Hampshire prior to the
Civil War. Although he claimed to be a unionist during the war, he had sold bridge
timbers from his lumber mill in Georgia to the Confederate army, which increased his
favor among Florida' s white conservatives.72
Tensions were high during the election, with fraud, bribery, and intimidation
used by both parties to gain votes. Federal troops were stationed throughout Florida
during the elections in an attempt to prevent violent acts against voters. Although the
elections of 1876 were less violent than previous ones, they were never more volatile,
70 As quoted in Brown, Florida 's Black Public Officials, 138.
71 Shofner, Nor Is It Over Yet, 300-313: Bess Beatty, "John Willis Menard: A Progressive Black
in Post-Civil War Florida" in The Florida Historical Ouarterly 59 (October 1980): 124-144.
72 Shofner, Nor Is It Over Yet, 300-313.
resulting in Democrats and Republicans contesting nearly all county returns. With
thirty-eight county returns needing review due to accusations of voter fraud, the
election board realized it would not meet the December 6 deadline for the electoral
votes to be cast. The national election, however, was now dependent on the results
from the Florida elections.73
With the arrival of national representatives from both the Republican and
Democratic Parties, Tallahassee became the focal point of the nation. Narrowing the
maj or disputes to nine counties, the election board, consisting of two Republicans and
one Democrat, concentrated on resolving the allegations in these counties. When the
examination was completed and the votes counted, Republicans Rutherford Hayes and
William A. Wheeler were declared winners of the electoral votes for United States
President and Vice President respectively; Democrats George F. Drew and Noble A. Hull
were named governor and lieutenant governor respectively. Appeals to the Florida
Supreme Court by the Republican Party in Florida did not change the outcome.74
The end of Reconstruction ushered in an era of rapidly declining opportunities
for African Americans. The Compromise of 1877 brought Hayes, a Republican, into
the White House in exchange for the removal of federal troops from the South and the
surrender of southern state governments to white Democrats. Prior to the 1876
election, Northerners had grown tired of the "negro problem." The withdrawal of the
Freedmen's Bureau followed by the decline in funding from philanthropic
organizations, and the repeal of the Southern Homestead Act of 1866 indicated
73 Jerrell Shofner, "Florida in the Balance: The Electoral Ballot of 1876" in The Florida
Historical Quarterly 47 (October 1968): 123-151.
74 Shofner, Nor Is It Over Yet, 310-331.
declining interest in the conditions of blacks in the South. In 1877, with Democrats in
positions of political power, Southern governments reduced taxes, opposed
compulsory education laws, and prevented further development of universal
education. Wages for laborers were reduced, the movement of blacks restricted, more
oppressive labor contracts initiated, and vagrancy laws reappeared. In Florida,
Governor Drew and Democratic legislators reduced taxes, closed the penitentiary, and
discontinued funding for the Agricultural College. The tax decrease was reversed two
years later due to fiscal problems, and the college was reopened. African Americans
suffered most by these policy changes, but advances made during Reconstruction
could not be halted entirely."
Southern whites realized that they could not do away with the education of African
Americans, but they reduced funding to black schools and increased funding to white
schools. In an effort to control education for blacks, Southern whites redirected
educational goals toward the Hampton-Tuskegee vocational model. Public education for
blacks became education for field labor and unskilled positions. For Southern whites,
"universal education was not conceived of as transforming the social position of any
labouring class... but a means to make society run more efficiently."76 White Southerners
were dependent on an illiterate work force and were agreeable to a public education
system that relegated blacks to the lower rungs of a social class system.n7
75Foner, Reconstruction, 567-568: Anderson, The Education qf Blacks in the South, 22-23.
76 Anderson, The Education qf Blacks in the South, 80.
77Foner, Reconstruction, 590-591, 602; Anderson, The Education qf Blacks in the South, 81-83.
Education Objectives Altered for African Americans, 1877-1886
Governor Drew stated in his address to the 1877 Florida assembly that blacks
would become good citizens through education, and that schools were cheaper than poor
houses and prisons. Drew appointed Democrat William P. Haisley as Superintendent of
Public Education. Haisley was the first to uphold a legislative act that required regular
meetings with the county superintendents and other school officers. In addition, he
created a state curriculum and held the first institute for training black and white teachers.
Since the state lacked a normal school, the Peabody Fund, which had shifted its primary
funding to normal education, offered three two-year scholarships to prospective Florida
teachers to attend the Normal Department at Nashville University. In 1879, they awarded
seven scholarships to Florida students. These were offered only to white teachers,
however, and Haisley believed black teachers also needed training to teach in the black
schools. He obtained a state grant for black teachers to attend two Florida graded schools
for blacks: Lincoln Academy in Tallahassee and Union Academy in Gainesville. The
two-month normal programs at the academies could not offer the same education as a
two-year program at Nashville University, but they were the best the state had to offer.
Along with increased teacher training, Haisley also reduced education expenditures by
decreasing the number of members on county school boards, which had been
recommended by Gibbs, and he reduced funding for subdistricts. This funding would
eventually be redirected to rural schools. Since the densely populated subdistricts usually
had a larger black population, however, this meant less money for black schools.'" The
78 Leedell W. Neyland, "State-Supported Higher Education Among Negroes in the State of
Florida" in The Florida Historical Quarterly 43 (October 1964): 106-107; Pyburn, The History qf
the Develop~ment qfa Single System qfEditcation, 122: Cochran, History of Public Education in
slow decline in educational opportunities for blacks had begun and, as predicted by the
AMA teacher, blacks were now Einding out who their friends were.
Like superintendents before him, Haisley voiced a concern for the lack of qualified
teachers and the absence of a state normal school. As he organized teacher institutes,
Haisley also pushed for legislation that would mandate the establishment of two state
normal schools. His first success was in 1880 at East Florida Seminary located in
Gainesville where a Normal Department was established. In 1883, a second Normal
Department opened at the West Florida Seminary located in Tallahassee; however, both
schools were for white students only. Haisley's successor, E.K. Foster, continued the
teacher' s institutes, conducting fiye for whites and two for blacks in 1883. In that same
year, the Florida legislature appropriated $1,000 for teacher institutes and summer normal
schools. It was Albert J. Russell, however, who began the institutes in earnest.79
Many teachers in Florida were products of the growing number of graded and
secondary schools, including Duval High School in Jacksonville (white), Tampa
Institute in Tampa (white), Lincoln Academy in Tallahassee (colored), and Union
Academy in Gainesville (colored).so In 1884, Russell organized two-month normal
schools for black teachers at both Lincoln and Union Academies. A total of forty-
seven teachers attended each school, eleven receiving second class teaching
Florida, 58-69, 74-75: Richardson, "Christian Abolitionism," 41-42; White, "State Leadership
and Black Education in Florida," 168-169.
79 Florida, Laws qf Florida (1881), Chapter 3282: Florida, Journal qf the Senate for the Ninth
Session (1877), 48: Florida, Report qf the State Superintendent qfPublic Instruction (1882): 20:
Pyburn, The History qf the Development qfa Single System qfEditcation, 122.
"0 According to state superintendent reports, there were no senior high schools for African
Americans in Florida in 1900. As of 1906, there was only one senior high school--Lincoln
Academy in Tallahassee. In 1922, Union Academy taught grades 1-9. See Report of the
Superintendent of Public Instruction (1900, 1909, 1922) for Florida.
certificates and forty receiving third class certificates. No teachers from these schools
received a first class teaching certificate. Russell also held one- and two-week teacher
institutes for both black and white teachers (at different times) in Quincy, Tallahassee,
and Madison. An institute for blacks was held in Lake City, and one for whites in Polk
County. The Normal Department at the East Florida Seminary already had fifteen
graduates teaching in the state, and there were twenty-Hyve more enrolled in 1883.
West Florida Seminary had just awarded its first two students with state teaching
licenses. By 1885, the seminaries had a total of ninety-six students enrolled in their
normal departments. Both departments offered white students a two-year program, and
graduates were awarded a state license of instruction, which allowed them to teach in
the state of Florida for life.8
This inequality of educational opportunity created obstacles not only for black
teachers, but also for the schools where they taught. Most black teachers were not being
offered the same education and training as white teachers, and this was reflected in the
state teacher examinations and the awarding of teaching certificates. Since black teachers
were only welcome as teachers in black schools, the students in these schools would not
receive the same education as students in schools with teachers who had received a
normal school education. As a result, African Americans completing the two-month
normal programs in schools like Lincoln and Union Academies would be inadequately
prepared for the certification examinations and would obtain the lowest class of
st Pyburn, The History qf the Development qfa Single System qf Editcation in Florida, 120- 125:
Murray D. Laurie, "Union Academy: A Freedmen's Bureau School in Gainesville, Florida" in
The Florida Historical Ottarterly 65 (October 1986): 164-175: Neyland, "State Supported Higher
Education," 106-108: Florida, Report qf the Superintendent qfPublic Instruction (1883-1884), 7-
certification.82 This pattern would only serve to perpetuate the disparity between black
and white educational opportunities, and would contribute to the political and economic
limitations of future African Americans.
Nearly every southern state had universities or normal schools for blacks, but in
1884 there were none in Florida. The American Missionary Association had sponsored
Stanton Normal School near Jacksonville, but it closed in 1876. Stanton Normal School
was the academic equivalent of a high school, and the AMA hoped to offer college level
courses as the students progressed, similar to what it had done in other states.83 AMA
officers had long held the belief that higher education constituted the only venue through
which African Americans could properly prepare for careers as teachers, ministers,
lawyers, doctors, and politicians, which AMA officials believed would prepare them to
take leadership roles among their own people. Benevolent societies may have believed
that African Americans were just as capable of academic success as whites, but they were
reluctant to give control of black schools to African Americans. By 1877, most
benevolent societies were more conservative in their ideology and compromised to
accommodate sectional differences. This meant, however, accepting segregation of
schools in the South and refocusing efforts to include vocational and agricultural
education for blacks. Integrating blacks into white society was no longer the goal of
82 Florida, Laws of Florida (1887), Chapter 3962, Sec. 1-4, Chapter 3809.
83 Schools the AMA helped establish were Fisk University and LeMoyne-Owen College in
Tennessee, Talladega College in Alabama, Straight (now Dillard) College in Louisiana, Berea
College in Kentucky, Atlanta University in Georgia, Tougaloo University in Mississippi, Avery
Institute in South Carolina, Huston-Tillotson College in Texas, the Theological Department at
Howard University in Washington, D.C., and Hampton University in Virginia. Their influence at
Hampton was reduced considerably when AMA officers opposed the pedagogical ideas of
Hampton's leader, Samuel C. Armstrong; Joe M. Richardson, Christian Reconstruction: The
American Missionary Association and Southern Blacks, 1861-1890, (Athens: University of
Georgia Press, 1986): 121-140.
many Northern educators, and most benevolent societies accepted and supported the
pattern of inequality in the public education system of the South.84
Beginning with Republican leaders, segregation became the expectation in Florida
schools. Although laws demanding separate schools had not been passed, and there may
have been some mixed race schools in Florida, the state and county superintendents acted in
ways that advocated a racially separate education system to satisfy both blacks and whites.
In addition, laws regulating the separation of the races appeared more frequently after 1880.
With increased support for segregated schools, teacher training for African Americans
became imperative. State legislators, however, did not support teacher training for blacks, as
reflected in state expenditures for black schools."
Democrats and the Legalization of Segregation, 1882-1900
In the 1882 elections, Democrats retained the governor' s office and won heavy
maj orities in the House and Senate. Voters also approved a constitutional convention,
selecting only seven blacks as delegates to the convention. In comparison, the 1868
constitutional convention had nineteen black delegates. The convention delegates quickly
reduced the rights of African Americans by authorizing the legislature to demand a poll
tax and by mandating racial segregation in public schools. The poll tax, which prohibited
anyone from voting who had not paid the tax in the previous two years, threatened the
84 E.M. Cravath, "The Higher Education of the Negro," The American M~issionary 36 (December
1882): 370-372; Beard, A Crusade ofBrotherhood, 145-162; McPherson, "White Liberals and
Black Power," 1359-1360; Drake, "Freedmen's Aid Societies," 180-186; Butchart, Northern
85 White, "State Leadership and Black Education in Florida," 169; Florida, Laws ofnlorida
(1881), Chapter 3283; Florida, Laws ofnlorida (1883), Chapter 3446, 3447, 3448; Florida, Laws
ofnlorida (1869), Chapter 1686, Sections 23-27.
voting rights of many poor Floridians, a large portion of whom were black. This would
ensure a white majority at the polls.86
This was the first constitution to distinguish explicitly between education for
black and white children: "White and colored children shall not be taught in the same
school, but impartial provision shall be made for both.""' Although segregated schools
were probably preferred by most whites in Florida, the legal act to separate the races
reinforced racist attitudes, and laws were passed to control blacks politically,
economically, and socially. Other changes were more subtle, like the language used to
determine the type of schools the state would provide. In the 1868 Constitution, the
state had provided education for all children residing within the state "without
distinction or preference."s The new constitution simply stated, "The legislature shall
provide for a uniform system of public free schools, and shall provide for the liberal
maintenance of the same."89
Provisions made for the education of black teachers were, in reality, only small
gestures. The new constitution required the state government to establish, maintain, and
manage no more than two state normal schools "as the interests of public education may
demand."90 Since the state already had two Normal Departments at the East and West
Florida Seminaries, it was questionable whether they would provide one for black
86 Brown, Florida 's Black Public Officials, 144-145; Florida Constitution, 1885, Art. VI, Sec. 8,
Art. XII, Sec. 114.
87 Florida Constitution, 1885, Art. XII, Sec. 12.
88 Florida Constitution, 1868, Art. VIII, Sec. 1.
89 Florida Constitution, 1885, Art. XII, Sec. 1.
90 Florida Constitution, 1885, Art. XII, Sec. 14.
teachers. Although this did not prevent private organizations from opening a normal
school in the state, the fact that the two existing state schools were all white meant that in
1885 there was no state sponsored normal school for blacks. In addition, the 1885
constitution and laws passed in 1886 amended education laws and strengthened laws
regarding certification requirements for teachers. Making teacher certification
requirements more stringent without providing adequate teacher training for all teachers
seemed an unreasonable action against black teachers and schools. From 1881 to 1884,
the number of teachers in the state of Florida increased by 24%.91 During those same
years, the number of teachers holding first class certifications, which was the most
demanding level, increased by only 1%. Second class certifications increased by 3% and
third class certifications decreased by 7%, but the number of uncertified teachers
increased by 3%. The language used and most of the laws passed prior to 1877 worked
for blacks, but the language and laws after 1877 worked against them, changing de facto
segregation to de jure segregation. The Republican Party, once thought the savior of the
freedmen, was now powerless to prevent racially discriminatory legalization.92
The 1886 elections decreased further the representation of blacks and Republicans
in state government. Many counties that previously elected blacks to state offices elected
whites to the assembly. The House and Senate consisted of many young politicians who
advocated white supremacy and supported laws that would ensure white control. By
91 These numbers include the 28 counties that reported data for 1881, 1882, and 1884.
92 Florida Constitution, 1885, Art. VI, Sec. 8, Art. VIII, Sec. 6: Florida, Rep~ort qf the State
Sup~erintend'ent qfPublic Instruction (188 1-1882): 4, 8: Florida, Rep~ort qf the State
Sup~erintend'ent qfPublic Instruction (1884): 24.
1890, blacks had lost power in state government and retained little power locally.93
Moderate Republicans, still upset with the lack of Party unity, attempted to gain political
control by uniting with Democrats to form the Independent Party. Florida farmers, mostly
Democrats, were angered by the government sale of lands to northern railroad investors
and the high tariffs on shipping. Radical Republicans and Democrats attacked the
members of the Independent Party, but this once again split the Republican Party. The
Independent candidate running for governor won more votes than the Republican
candidate, but this only elevated factionalism in the Republican Party. Many rural
Republican voters, victimized by threats of violence and disenchanted with a party that
could not deliver on its promises, stayed away from the polls or voted for Democrats.94
Republican leaders could no longer rally voters to the polls.
Unequal Opportunities in Education for African Americans, 1886-1900
State Superintendent Russell's report of 1887 reflected the changes in the new
constitution--data were now presented for "White" and "Colored" public schools and
students. In that year, Dade, Holmes, Manatee and Pasco Counties reported having no
black teachers, and Manatee and Pasco reported no schools for blacks. The five black
schools in Dade and the one in Holmes were being taught by white teachers. In 1886,
there were a total of 540 black teachers and 1,715 white teachers in the state. H.N. Felkel,
the Principal Institute Instructor for the teacher training institutes held in 1886, reported
that there were many teachers with little or no teacher training. Felkel said the purpose of
the teacher institutes was to provide a uniform curriculum and stimulate interest in
education. State Superintendent Russell organized an institute in DeFuniak Springs,
93 Brown, Florida 's Black Public Officials, 55-69; Florida, Laws of Florida (1887), Chapter 3742.
94 Brown, Florida 's Black Public Officials, 60-61.
Walton County, which was about 100 miles west of Tallahassee and 75 miles east of
Pensacola. About 300 teachers attended, but there is no indication if this was a mixed
race institute. Of the twelve Florida counties within a 100 mile radius of DeFuniak
Springs, there were a total of 3 17 white teachers and 128 black teachers (26 of them in
Leon County and 32 in Gadsden County).95
The institute in DeFuniak Springs was free, but teachers were responsible for all
other expenses. Since black teachers were paid less than white teachers, it may have
been more difficult for black teachers to attend the institutes. Of the five counties with
the greatest number of black teachers, Alachua (50), Marion (41), Madison (3 8), Duval
(32), and Gadsden (32), only one was within 100 miles of the institute. As a
compromise, Russell held one-week institutes for black teachers in Nassau and
Madison counties, and two-week institutes for black teachers in Leon and Columbia
counties. White teachers were also offered one- and two-week institutes in Santa Rosa,
Holmes, Brevard, Nassau, Baker, Bradford, Madison, Calhoun, and Polk counties. In
addition, nine white high schools offered teacher education courses and the graduates
were employed as teaching assistants in the primary grades. There were apparently no
high schools for African Americans in operation at this time, although Union and
Lincoln Academies, neither yet offering education through grade twelve, offered six-
week normal courses to African American teachers.96
In 1886 there were 141 teacher candidates enrolled at the East and West
Seminaries, nearly 40% above enrollment for the year before. Although the normal
95 There are now fourteen counties within a 100 mile radius of DeFuniak Springs: Florida, Report
of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (1887): 3-14, 18.
96 Florida, Report of the State Superintendent ofPublic Instruction (1887): 3-14, 18: Laurie,
"Union Academy," 164-175.
institutes for blacks reached more teachers than the Normal Departments in the East and
West Seminaries, they were in no way equivalent in instruction. The seminaries offered
two-year programs covering not only academic subj ects included in the teacher
certification examinations, but also courses specific to the profession of teaching. The
summer normal schools and teacher institutes were opportunities to share professional
knowledge, but not extensive enough to improve academic knowledge required to pass
The two state normal schools were Einally opened in October 1887, beginning a
two-year teacher education program in each. Felkel was named president of the white
school and Thomas DeSaille Tucker was president of the black school. The White
Normal School in DeFuniak Springs opened with fifty-two students, and the Colored
Normal School in Tallahassee opened with forty-seven students. Graduates obtained a
"life certificate of the first class" that allowed them to teach anywhere in the state without
having to renew their certification.98 Most students entering these schools, however,
needed remedial work before they could begin the academic studies for the normal school
level. The need for remedial work among the state's most promising scholars is
indicative of the level of education Florida' s public schools were able to provide. Prior to
the opening of the normal schools, most of the students admitted would have found
positions as teachers with only a basic education. According to the superintendent's
report of 1890, the White Normal School had dormitories for both male and female
students, but the Colored Normal School did not. The inadequate housing and
97 Florida, Report qf the Superintendent qfPublic Instruction (1883-1884), 7-15: Neyland, "State
Supported Higher Education," 105-106.
98 Florida, Report qf the State Superintendent qfPublic Instruction (1889-1900), 15.
employment opportunities for black students prompted Tucker to request relocating the
school to Highland where they would have ample buildings and land for farming.
Although he did not believe in a strict agricultural or vocational education, Tucker knew
farmland would provide food for the schools, thereby decreasing the need for students to
find work outside of the school. The Morrill Act of 1890 provided the funds needed to
relocate the school.99
Even if these schools were identical in every respect, the educational opportunities for
prospective white teachers in Florida far outweighed those for blacks. In addition to the
increased number of white high schools providing normal school courses, the Florida
Normal School and Business Institute in White Springs, incorporated in 1887, was a private
school for white students. Completion of their state approved teaching program would
confer first class teaching certificates to all graduates without examination. In 1889, the state
appropriated $5,000 to this school in exchange for free tuition for one white female and one
white male student from each senatorial district.1oo
The legal segregation of schools was a continuation of Reconstruction education
policy, but created more problems for black teachers and students due mainly to unequal
funding of schools. Since blacks were forced to attend and teach black schools, these
schools had to be prepared to educate future teachers. Two of the oldest black schools in the
state--Lincoln and Union Academies--were still graded schools and did not yet offer
secondary level courses. Graduates from the black graded schools received no more than an
99 Florida, Report qf the State Superintendent qfPublic Instruction (1887), 3-17: Florida, Report
qf the State Superintendent qf Public Instruction (1889-1900): 15-20: Neyland, "State Supported
Higher Education," 106-112.
'00 Florida, Laws qfnlorida (1889), Chapter 3869.
eighth-grade education. Normal institutes and summer normal schools were not a substitute
for two-year normal programs offered almost exclusively to white students.
William Sheats and the Orange Park Normal and Industrial School
Recognizing the need for teacher training for blacks in Florida, the AMA attempted
once more to open an institution of higher education. After Stanton Normal School closed
in 1876, the AMA had very little activity in Florida. In 1881, the organization provided
support for a Fernandina minister and in 1884 for two teachers in St. Augustine. The
Orange Park Normal and Industrial School, both a day and a boarding school, opened in
1891 with a principal and seven teachers. Located on the St. John's River in Orange Park,
Clay County, land was donated by the town with the understanding that children from the
town would be able to attend, whether black or white. The AMA agreed and the school
opened with twenty-six students, seventeen of whom were boarders. Four months later
there were seventy-eight students, forty boys and thirty-eight girls. The closing
ceremonies for the first year included recitations, displays of academic and manual work,
and a student debate over the education of girls, which concluded with the decision that a
family with one girl and one boy should educate the girl since the boy had a better chance
of obtaining an education on his own. The racially mixed audience was impressed by the
accomplishments of the students, which improved the school's reputation among white
families. From 1892 to 1895, attendance was about 100 students annually. To
accommodate state regulations and community attitudes, the children were racially
separated, with blacks and whites assigned to different floors in the boarding house.
Everyone ate in the same room, but blacks and whites sat at different tables. The only
time blacks and whites were together was in the classroom and when the boys played
games on their own. Although the AMA and the community appeared content with this
arrangement, state officials were less supportive. The school caught the attention of State
Superintendent Sheats, whose actions were greatly influenced by his fears of interracial
marriage and his insistence that the preservation of the white race was paramount to
maintainmng social order.'"
In 1895, under the leadership of Sheats, teacher certifications became more
stringent and were standardized for all districts. The certification for the third class
required examinations in orthography, reading (both oral and written), arithmetic,
English, grammar, composition, United States history, geography, physiology, and theory
and practice of teaching. The average passing grade for all exams was sixty percent with
a grade of no less then forty percent in any one subj ect area. The second class
certification required examinations in the same subj ect areas as a third class certification
but with a passing grade of seventy-five percent and with a grade of no less then fifty
percent in any one subj ect area. The first class certification required the same
examinations as the third and second class but added examinations in civil government,
algebra, and physical geography.102
The average passing grade for all exams was eighty percent with a grade of no less
then sixty percent in any one subj ect. Only the state superintendent could award a state
'ni '.Nc\l Appointments," The Anzerican hissionary, 35 (February 1881): 45: "List of
Missionaries and Teachers," The Anzerican hissionary, 37 (February 1883): 44: "List of
Missionaries and Teachers," The Anzerican hissionary, 38 (February 1884): 47: "List of
Missionaries and Teachers," The Anzerican hissionary, 39 (February 1885): 45: "Orange Park
Normal and Industrial School," in The American M~issionary, 46 (May 1892): 152-153: "Orange
Park, Fla," in The American M~issionary, 46 (June 1892); 192-194: G. S. Dickerman, "Orange
Park, Fla" in The American Mlissionary, 46 (July 1892): 234-235; B. D. Rowlee, "Normal and
Manual Training School, Orange Park, Fla" in The American M~issionary 49 (August 1895): 263-
264; Joe M. Richardson, "The Nest of Vile Fanatics: William N. Sheats and the Orange Park
School," in The Florida Historical Quarterly, 64 (April 1986): 400-401.
'02 Florida, Report of the State Superintendent ofPublic Instruction (1895-1896): 23-26.
teaching certificate, and eligible teachers had to have at least 24 months of teaching
experience and hold a first class certification. Third class certificates were good for two
years only in the county they were issued. Second class certificates were good for three
years and first class certificates for four years, both of which could be accepted by any
county superintendent. All graduates from the state normal schools earned a first class
certification without having to take the examination. Teachers with third and second class
certifications had to prove they were working toward a first class certification and sit for
exams before their certification expired. If satisfactory progress was not made, the
superintendent could revoke their certification.103
Creating uniform teacher examinations would have been a positive step in public
education except for the unequal educational opportunities offered future black teachers.
Most of the teachers in Florida were products of a high school education and possibly
some teacher training. To pass the certification exams, however, teachers would need
additional education. Black teachers had fewer opportunities than white teachers for
continuing education since there was only one normal school available to them and there
were fewer normal institutes organized for blacks, and they usually met for shorter
sessions. In the 1895-96 school year, 116 schools did not open due to a teacher shortage.
Most were black schoolS.104
In 1896, county superintendents reported schools not opening due to a lack of
teachers. Superintendent A.M.C. Russell, from Hernando County, said uniform
examinations improved the quality of teachers but "our negro population has suffered on
'03 Florida, Laws ofnlorida (1895): Chapter 4331.
104 Butchart, "Secondary Education and Emancipation," 162-163; Neyland, "State-Supported
Higher Education," 106-107; ''Extracts from Address by Miss Helen S. Loveland," in The
American M~issionary 50 (January 1896): 19.
account of failures of negro teachers to pass."'os From 1893 to 1896, Hernando County
conducted eight teachers' institutes and summer normal schools annually. Seven schools
in Clay County were without teachers and Liberty County could not meet the needs of the
black schools due to lack of teachers. With fewer educational opportunities for black
teachers, stricter certification requirements, and less funding for urban schools where
large maj orities of blacks lived, education for blacks was greatly hindered. Separate was
certainly true, but equality was not to be found. According to one AMA teacher from
Orange Park: "Theoretically, in the United States all men, whether white or black, enj oy
equal civil liberties; practically, in the South, they do not."106
The legislation that gave Sheats national attention made it a penal offense for
any school, private or public, to instruct or board students of the two races together.
This law, passed in 1895, greatly impacted the AMA normal school in Orange Park.
AMA officials argued that the Sheats Law was passed specifically against the Orange
Park School, since they claimed there were no other schools in the state in which both
races attended. In addition, Sheats was interfering in the choices made by a community
to sponsor a private school. When the Orange Park School reopened after winter break
in 1896, the staff and students continued classes as before, but waited expectantly for
arrests to be made. Sheats adhered to the letter of the law and in April 1896 had the
principal and teachers arrested. The AMA hired lawyers and took the case to the
Florida courts, arguing the law was a violation of the 14th Amendment and
discriminated against teachers by restricting them in a way that no other profession
'05 Florida, Report of the State Superintendent ofPublic Instruction, (1895-1896): 264.
106 Ibid.: Richardson, "The Nest of Vile Fanatics," 394-407; '-E\1t;racts from Address by Miss
Helen S. Loveland," 20.
was restricted--one based entirely on race. The courts agreed, and a telegram arrived
during the AMA convention in October 1896 that stated, "Sheats law this day declared
unconstitutional and void." When read before the convention the "audience was
carried off its feet," applauding what they considered a triumph for "Christian religion
and Christian civilization."'o7 It appears that the only strong argument Sheats had
against the school was that both black and white children attended the school, although
they were kept separate in every area except the classroom. Whether he had the legal
right to interfere with a private school, funded entirely by private donations and
approved by the community, was questionable and reveals his obsessive nature
regarding mixed-race schools.
The Orange Park School reopened in December of 1896, but under much different
circumstances. White parents were no longer comfortable sending their children to the
school. In 1897, Sheats tried to convince the legislature to close the Orange Park School,
stating he had evidence that the school was manipulating the attendance of unsuspecting
white children. A. F. Beard, the newly-appointed principal of the school, responded to
Sheats' request for information on the school for the 1896 superintendent's report with a
reiteration of the school's original goals, the excellent reputation of AMA schools in the
south, and a reminder that state funds were never used to maintain the school. Beard
stated that the "number of students was increasing until the events of last year,"
indicating the detrimental affect the law and arrest had on the school.'0s The 1898
superintendent' s report on the Orange Park School noted a student population of 103,
'07 Florida, Laws qfnlorida (1895): Chapter 4335; White, "State Leadership and Black Education
in Florida," 168-171; "Our Orange Park School and the Florida Persecution," in The American
Missionary, 50 (December, 1896): 379-380.
'0s Florida, Report qf the Superintendent qfPublic Instruction (1896): 188
seventy-five of whom were boarders. The Green Cove Springs Junior High School for
blacks, a free public school, opened in 1906, possibly reducing the number of black
students at Orange Park. A decrease in attendance due to the intervention by Sheats,
attitudes among whites in the community, and a fire that destroyed most of the buildings
combined to close Orange Park Normal and Industrial School, leaving the state with only
one normal school for African AmericanS.109
In his report of 1900, Sheats indicated there were normal schools at Florida State
Agricultural College, John B. Stetson University in Deland, and Rollins College in
Winter Park. However, these were schools for whites only. In addition to these schools,
there were other schools of higher education for whites: Florida Conference College in
Leesburg had a normal course in place, Florida Normal School and Business Institute in
White Springs received state funding for some of its normal school students, and Jasper
Normal Institute in Jasper already had fifty-five graduates in 1896.110 With fewer
educational opportunities available to African Americans, teachers for black schools
would continue to be supplied by black graded schools, like Lincoln and Union
Academies. The education received by black teachers would not be equivalent to the
education received at the normal schools in colleges and universities available to white
students. Based on these different levels of education, the knowledge black teachers took
into their classrooms would be limited in comparison to the knowledge attained by white
109 Richardson, "The Nest of Vile Fanatics," 394-407; Florida, Report qf the Superintendent qf
Public Instruction (1896): 186-189, (1898): 257-258, (1906): 38-40.
110 Florida, Report qf the State Superintendent qfPublic Instruction (1887), 3-17, 18, 22: Florida,
Report qf the State Superintendent qfPublic Instruction ( 1894- 1896) 1 02- 184: Florida, Report qf
the Superintendent qf Public Instruction (1900), 91-99, 117-138: Sidney Johnston, "The Historic
Stetson University Campus in Deland, 1884-1934," in The Florida Historical Quarterly 70
(January 1992): 281-304.
teachers. Due to no fault of their own, both black teachers and black students would be
denied the same education as white teachers and white students.
Sheats continued the tradition of teacher institutes, conducting eleven for white
teachers and three for black teachers over the summer of 1899. He organized the three
black institutes in counties with the highest numbers of black teachers, but decided that
there were not enough black teachers in other counties to warrant the expense of
additional institutes. Since all fourteen institutes presented the exact same information,
Sheats claimed that "there was not the slightest discrimination in the conduct of the
[institutes] for white and black."ll Sheats said, "The schools were designed to impart
professional instruction, and not intended to take the place of the regular work of
secondary or Normal Schools, or to be used merely as helps in securing teachers'
certificates."112 According to Sheats, the institutes and summer normal schools were
opportunities to share professional knowledge, not classes to increase the knowledge base
of future and current teachers with second and third grade certificates who needed to text
for a higher class certificate. In the same report, however, Sheats contradicted himself,
stating that the teacher institutes and summer normal schools were a replacement for
those who could not attend normal schools or colleges and "the only hope of reaching
them is through the medium of the short term Schools for Teachers."113
Although a greater percentage of black teachers (25%) attended the institutes than
white teachers (18%), this could be because some white teachers spent summers out of the
state and were not available to attend. The more obvious indicators of lessening support for
"'Florida, Report of the Superintendent ofPublic Instruction (1900), 122.
112 Ibid., 119.
113 Ibid., 123-124.
black teachers are the certifications awarded and the cost per pupil for education. In 1898, of
the 2,124 white teachers employed by the state, 520 (24%) held a life or first-class teaching
certificate, 1,135 (53%) held a second-class certificate, and 469 (22%) held a third-class
certificate. Of the 662 black teachers, 31 (5%) held a first-class teaching certificate (none
held a life certificate), 330 (50%) held a second-class certificate, and 301 (45%) held a third-
class certificate. Of the white teachers, 259 (12%) had graduated from a normal school,
while only 54 (8%) of the black teachers had a normal school education.114 With few
opportunities for black teachers to obtain a normal school education or attend college, less
funding for black graded schools, and the additional demands of Sheats' uniform
examination law, one wonders how black teachers would gain the knowledge needed to pass
the examination for a first-class certificate.
In 1873, Gibbs had reported that state expenditures for education per pupil were
about $2.23. In 1887, Russell reported it to be about $3.46 per pupil. In 1900, Sheats
reported the expenditure per pupil as about $6.03. He was the first superintendent to
break down education expenditures per pupil by race. In 1900, the average state
expenditure for white students was $7.78/pupil, and for black students $3.20/pupil. The
cost per county varied greatly, with Jefferson County showing the greatest disparity,
$8.93/white student and $1.19/black student. Holmes County showed the greatest
consistency, spending $2.63/white student and $2.51/black student. Taylor County spent
no money on black students. The 61 black children of school age either attended white
schools or, more likely, did not attend school in that county. The counties with the
greatest numbers of black students showed the greatest disparities in how much they
spent per pupil. These per pupil expenditures provide some explanation for the difference
114 Ibid., 91-99, 117-138.
in the illiteracy rate between black and white children. According to the 1900 census, 4%
of white children between the ages of ten and twenty-one were illiterate, compared to
20% of black children in the same age range. 11
These numbers indicated the need for increased efforts to educate black teachers
and children. The attitude of racial superiority held by Sheats and many other whites,
however, prevented them from identifying some of the real problems in Florida' s
education system: a lack of adequate teacher education for African Americans, reduced
funding for African American schools, and teacher certification requirements that
demanded a level of education unavailable to most African Americans in Florida.
" t Florida, Report of the State Superintendent ofPublic Instruction (1873), 24; Florida, Report of
the State Superintendent ofPublic Instruction (1887), 18, 22; Florida, Report of the
Superintendent ofPublic Instruction (1900), 84, 86, 88, 112-115
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
State legislative policies after 1876 and the brewing Republican factionalism prior
to that year proved a double-edged sword against Florida blacks. Although policy during
Reconstruction helped enfranchise and educate blacks, these advances were continually
threatened by antagonistic factionalism within the Republican Party. As many legislators
and school superintendents worked hard to bring about some form of equality in
educational opportunities for blacks, Republicans worked just as hard to disrupt the unity
within their own party. Once Democrats gained the political maj ority in 1877,
Republicans were practically powerless to stop any legislation that disenfranchised blacks
and resumed some of the oppressive, discriminatory practices of antebellum Florida.
Laws written by state superintendents of public education and passed by state legislators
legalized the segregation of schools, created stricter teacher certification requirements,
provided less funding for black schools and gave fewer educational opportunities for
prospective and employed black teachers.
By 1898, white students had the White Normal School, Normal Departments in the
East and West Seminaries, Jasper Normal Institute, Florida Conference College, Rollins
College, and John B. Stetson University for teacher education. African American students
had only Orange Park Normal and Industrial School in Orange Park, the nascent Cookman
Institute in Jacksonville, and the Colored Normal School in Tallahassee, which, after 1890,
received nearly all of its financial support from the federal government under the Morrill
Act of 1890. As a proponent of the Hampton-Tuskegee vocational and agricultural
education for blacks, Sheats insisted that the president of the Colored Normal School change
the curriculum to focus on industrial and normal school education. Colored Normal School
President Thomas DeSaile Tucker disagreed. Born in Sierra Leone, West Africa, Tucker had
graduated from Oberlin College in 1886. He had taught public school and practiced law
before accepting the presidency at the Colored Normal School. Tucker believed that a
rigorous literary foundation was necessary for all students, while Sheats argued that practical
agricultural and mechanical education should be emphasized. The White Normal School
provided its students with a liberal education, with the blessing of Sheats. 116
In 1900, Sheats charged Tucker with serious negligence in running the school and
convinced the state board of education to have him removed. Tucker defended himself
against the accusations, but the board sided with Sheats. Tucker was replaced by Nathan
B. Young, an Oberlin graduate and professor at Georgia State College. After Young took
over as president, he reorganized the curriculum to accommodate the desires of Sheats.
Although the normal school was a priority, especially with the growing numbers of black
children in the state, the curriculum was no longer the rigorous liberal one offered by
Tucker' s educational ideology or by the White Normal School." Without proper
training, fewer black teacher candidates could pass the certification examinations and
black schools would not have adequate numbers of teachers."
Although the racially motivated attitudes and actions of the Democratic Party
were not the fault of a splintered Republican Party, the responsibility for the loss of
116 Neyland, "State-Supported Higher Education Among Negroes," 110-122.
117 Ibid.: Florida, Report qf the State Superintendent qfPublic Instruction (1900), 196-202.
''s Richardson, "The Nest of Vile Fanatics," 394-407; Florida, Report qf the Superintendent qf
Public Instruction (1898), 3.
political power that allowed the Democrats to gain control and create policy that
disenfranchised blacks and weakened their educational opportunities can be blamed in
part on both black and white Republicans. From 1868 to 1876, the Florida legislature,
while under the care of representatives who recognized the need for education for
blacks, supported efforts by benevolent societies and the Freedmen's Bureau to help the
state of Florida establish a system of education for all of its children. State educators
conceded to optional segregated schools hoping to increase the number of white
children attending public schools. Free public schools, however, were not fully
accepted by whites until after Reconstruction. By then, Northern educators and
defenders of African American education had surrendered to a less academically
rigorous education for blacks. In a region rooted in the exploitation of a social minority,
schools were unable to teach the equality, freedom, and liberty underlying the U.S.
Constitution. Education should have been the center of the attack on inequality and
racism, but it instead surrendered to the enemy.
The allowance for segregated schools soon became a legal demand under Florida's
Democrats, and consequently provided opportunities for increased unequal funding of
schools. The lack of teacher education for African Americans, and the segregation and
certification laws passed after the government returned to Democrats, made it more
difficult for black teachers to obtain certification or to continue teaching, thereby denying
qualified black teachers for black schools. Ironically, the decision by the Florida Supreme
Court that declared illegal the forced segregation of blacks and whites at the Orange Park
School was decided after the United States Supreme Court handed down a different
ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson. As an Orange Park teacher observed: "Almost every day
brings some illustration that though slavery is dead its barbarism survives."119
The depiction of Radical Republicans as the redeemers of blacks in the South does
not account for the variety of political priorities in Reconstruction Era Florida. Most
Moderate Republicans in Florida did not want immediate enfranchisement of blacks but a
gradual transition that would eventually give them rights as citizens. This was in strong
contrast to the Liberal Radical Republicans who not only demanded enfranchisement but
also full civil rights and redistribution of land. These factions within the Republican Party
included both black and white members, many of whom were willing to transfer
allegiance to another faction when it suited their goals. As illustrated at the conventions,
maintaining power and control within the party was more important than the unity
necessary to win elections. Compromise was not an alternative for some of these men.
Once in office, most Republicans continued to work against their own party, frustrating
attempts to move policy and the state toward a more equal society. The inability of the
Republican Party to unite for the purpose of making life better for blacks prevented them
from being a force for change. This is most notably reflected in the racially unequal
education system established by Democrats after the election of 1876, and most notably
during the reign of Superintendent Sheats.
With the Republicans unable to maintain political power, Democrats were free to
create policy and pass legislation that diminished the rights of blacks. To be sure, most
blacks and liberal white educators were aware of the link between education and
enfranchisement. If a man could not read the names on a ballot, how would he know for
whom to cast his vote? By attacking education for blacks, Democrats could keep most
119 ~.E1.Einact from Address by Helen S. Loveland," 380.
blacks illiterate and unable to vote, thereby halting their liberation from the trappings of
slavery, if not the institution. The foundation built by Republicans for the education of
African Americans in Florida may have been segregated, but the school superintendents
attempted to equalize funding and supported an educated teaching force. When
Democrats assumed the role of foundation builders, they chose to focus on segregation,
creating a system that was unequal and that did not support equal educational
opportunities for everyone. What was reflected in the actions of many white Democrats
and Republicans, however, was the belief that the races needed to be kept separate, and
for many, the belief that blacks were innately inferior to whites.
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Sheryl Marie Howie received a Master of Arts in Education, in social foundations
from the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida. She received a Bachelor of Liberal
Arts in history from Virginia Wesleyan College, Norfolk, Virginia. She completed the
teacher education program at Virginia Wesleyan College, and received her Virginia
teacher certification for secondary social studies education.