Project

PhD, History, University of Cincinnati

Program

ACLS Emerging Voices Fellowships

Department

American Studies

Work Affiliation

University of Virginia

PhD Granting Institution

University of Cincinnati

Position Description

"Leadership in the Shadow of Jim Crow: Race, Labor, Gender, and Politics of African American Higher Education in North Carolina, 1860-1931"

This project illuminates the complex interplay between African American higher education, self-help, gender bias, capitalist exploitation, white supremacy, and politics in the state of North Carolina. At the core of the dissertation is an exploration into competing forces between black men and women who led and created opportunities at higher education institutions and the economic and political agenda of white supremacy. I argue the institutions were built environments for economic and social justice through their curriculum and various social organizations that responded to the local, state, and national issues facing black men and women. I further explore how these leaders' upbringing influenced a curriculum that instilled self-determination and community, which entailed an astute independent citizenry that would create economic and educational opportunities for rural and urban dwellers. Lastly, I illuminate how black leaders used the fear of integration as a tool to garner funds and resources in order to retain their institutions of higher education. The research not only explores how the state institutions were established as a compromise by white democrats seeking to appease African Americans in order to prevent federal intervention, but how these institutions, in many ways, were dual-controlled spaces that allowed the state government to regulate the education and labor of African Americans, while black leaders instilled ideas of racial pride, uplift, and entrepreneurship.
For some time, historians have studied black education through a regional analysis, centered mainly on blacks' gains in the South through self-determination, compromise, and accommodation. Because higher educational training for blacks focused on agriculture, mechanical, and liberal arts, historians have often dwelled on the ideas, advocacy, and works of a few prominent voices—Samuel Chapman Armstrong, Booker T. Washington, and W.E.B. Du Bois—whose debates, while pivotal to the study of black education, have overshadowed the critical work of leaders and practitioners who advocated and implemented education in their various states well before Armstrong, Washington and Du Bois dominated the national debate. My research reorients our attention by focusing on the work of black leaders such as James Walker Hood, the first African-American Superintendent of Education in North Carolina, Abraham Galloway, one of the first black legislators in the state general assembly who proposed legislation to create black state-funded schools, and Joseph Price, the president of Livingstone College and the first college president to advocate for the creation of a college of agriculture and mechanical arts for black people in North Carolina. Black state leaders formed a tight network, and their shared vision for education and a better life for the people they represented was critical to the success of higher education for African Americans in North Carolina. And although black men held most of the leadership positions at the state’s black institutions, my research shows that black women also played a crucial role in developing these institutions and did not hesitate to advocate for themselves when paternalistic leaders tried to limit their educational options. The way they created and supported spaces for themselves at these colleges and universities is crucial to our understanding of the collective consciousness and culture at these institutions.
Historically black colleges and universities have been discriminated against and underfunded for more than 150 years. My research not only illuminates how African Americans navigated these economic and social barriers in the past, but how they used these institutions as spaces for economic, political, and social progress to resist white supremacy. As the nation focuses on ways to redress financial and societal inequities, historical studies like mine help us understand the origins of inequality and insights into the possibilities for change.