From Cotton Field to Schoolhouse: African American Education in Mississippi, 1862-1875

From Cotton Field to Schoolhouse: African American Education in Mississippi, 1862-1875

by Christopher M. Span

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In the years immediately following the Civil War—the formative years for an emerging society of freed African Americans in Mississippi—there was much debate over the general purpose of black schools and who would control them. From Cotton Field to Schoolhouse is the first comprehensive examination of Mississippi's politics and policies of postwar racial education.

The primary debate centered on whether schools for African Americans (mostly freedpeople) should seek to develop blacks as citizens, train them to be free but subordinate laborers, or produce some other outcome. African Americans envisioned schools established by and for themselves as a primary means of achieving independence, equality, political empowerment, and some degree of social and economic mobility—in essence, full citizenship. Most northerners assisting freedpeople regarded such expectations as unrealistic and expected African Americans to labor under contract for those who had previously enslaved them and their families. Meanwhile, many white Mississippians objected to any educational opportunities for the former slaves. Christopher Span finds that newly freed slaves made heroic efforts to participate in their own education, but too often the schooling was used to control and redirect the aspirations of the newly freed.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781469622217
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 12/01/2014
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Christopher M. Span is associate professor of education policy, organization and leadership and associate dean for academic programs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Span brings attention to the valiant and heroic efforts African Americans made on behalf of their children's education in a state known for virulent opposition to black progress. This well-researched, well-written book erases a void in the literature of black education in the South during this period.—Linda Perkins, author of Fanny Jackson Coppin and the Institute for Colored Youth, 1837–1902

From Cotton Field to Schoolhouse juxtaposes explorations of economic, educational, and political issues throughout several periods and across a variety of perspectives. This interplay compellingly supports Span's argument that the activities of freedmen were challenged in a range of venues but that the external obstacles were insufficient to cripple freedmen's aspirations. Meticulously researched, deeply contextual, and carefully crafted, this book will be a critical context work for contemporary conversations.—Vanessa Siddle Walker, author of Hello Professor: A Black Principal and Professional Leadership in the Segregated South

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