Boarding Students at Piney Woods Country Life School
Source: Piney Woods and It's Story
It is known by many, that before the 1960s there were more than 100 boarding schools for African Americans. From the 1880s onward, these schools had a tradition of educating young black boys and girls for their future. Many are familiar with the legacy of Palmer Memorial Intitute, and also that of Piney Woods Country Life School. And in Oklahoma we had Oak Hill Academy .
High School Boarding Schools thrived at Historically Black College Campuses
However I recently realized that many college and universities also had boarding schools for black children as well. Recently, while reading an old edition of the Crisis Magazine, the official publication of the NAACP, the advertisements from the historically black institutions caught my eye. I noticed that in several of the ads, there were references to academies--to train students on the high school level. I was surprised to see how many of the historically black colleges taught children as well as young adults on their campuses.
At Tougalaoo College 4 scholarships were given
to those with high exam scores in 8th and 9th grades.
Source: Crisis Magazine, May 1918
At Livingstone College in North Carolina, a primary school as well as a preparatory school provided educational foundation for young learners.
A grammar school and HS Academy existed at Livingstone
At Atlanta University there was a primary school, a four year academy and the college, as well.
In 1914, a book was written about the Oak Hill Academy in Oklahoma. In that book an extensive list of all black independent boarding schools appeared, reflecting the need for a strong educational foundation that needed to be formed in thousands of black communities during an increasing era of Jim Crow segregation.
List of Black Boarding Schools, in 1914
Source: The Choctaw Freedmen, Oak Hill Academy by Robert Flickinger, 1914
So, after taking note of the prevalence of these institutions, I am compelled to ask, what happened to these preparatory schools?
Could and should these some of the HBCUs institutions today consider re-establishment of such schools again?
Since so many schools 4 year colleges and universities had high schools and even preparatory schools, should that legacy be re-examined again? The schools thrived during the years when education was perceived to be the primary road away from poverty and despair for the community. These were painful years during a harsh Jim Crow system.
Was the National Training School in Durham, NC
a preparatory school for for No. Carolina A & T?
Can the histories of the independent schools also be learned? Are there archives at the HBCUs that reflect the histories of these boarding schools for young boys and girls?
A century ago, the reverence for learning was deeply a part of the community, and the work that went into the development and maintenance of these schools involved a devotion that extended beyond the ordinary. The community worked to support those schools, and now, the world consists of a public funded school system, with most children now attending the public schools. But---it is also widely known that in many cities large and small, that system does not work very well.
Biddle University became Johnson C. Smith University. In 1918 the institution also offered a high school.
These ads reflected another time, but education provides a need that continues with each generation. And there are wonderful stories that come from these institutions. These places planted the seeds for growth and learning that passed from decade to decade. And upon the dusty soil of those long forgotten places, lie the legacies and souls of that which those former slaves and their parents longed.
Are there lessons to be learned from the successes of these schools? Perhaps it is time to rediscover their legacies and to tell their stories.
We must make the effort to not only find the archives that tell these stories, but we must also devote ourselves to preserving the histories of those institutions. Those teachers now long gone, carried so many into a new era, and these places should never be forgotten as part of the pilars of our history.