Campus News

Education professor’s book sheds light on teachers of African Americans after Civil War

Schooling the Freed People: Teaching, Learning, and the Struggle for Black Freedom
Ronald Butchart
University of North Carolina Press

The commonly held belief that formal education for African Americans following the Civil War was solely the work of privileged, single, white Northern women motivated by evangelical beliefs and abolitionism has been shattered in a new book written by Ron Butchart, professor and head of the College of Education’s department of elementary and social studies education.

Schooling the Freed People is a comprehensive quantitative study of the origins of black education in freedom.

The book is a result of a three-year study Butchart began in 2006 with a $318,775 grant from the Spencer Foundation. He scoured the archives of all of the freedmen’s aid organizations, as well as the archives of every Southern state, to compile a vast database of more than 11,600 individuals who taught in Southern black schools from 1861-1876.

Through this analysis, Butchart uncovered some surprising revelations: One-third of the teachers were African Americans; black teachers taught longer than white teachers; half of the teachers were Southerners; and even the Northern teachers were more diverse than had been previously believed.

He believes the answers he found can speak directly to the achievement gap between black and white learners.