Progression of Education Amongst African Americans

January 27, 2013 in 1920s-30s, 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s


Define education.  Education is the ability to progress as an individual.  It is the greatest equalizer.  Furthermore, it exists in such a manner that it can divide as well as equalize.  This picture of the dividing and equalizing nature of education can be vividly seen in the history of African Americans.

In an interview with Jennie Hopkins Wilson by KET  (, Wilson, born to slave parents discusses how minimal of an education she was able to receive.  Her “formal” education lasted only six years.  This limited education was all she needed to serve the tasks of cooking and agricultural labor from which she supported herself alongside her family.  In this way, education kept her in the slave like, subservient role historically served by her slave parents.  If all she learned was vocational tasks, it was all she would be able to do.

Although eventually granted education, blacks were still denied true equality as society progressed.  Separate but equal was not equal.  Students in black schools knew resources were better in white schools, and as such when integration became required by law in 1954, many decided to take advantage of them.  Among these was Alice Wilson, (also interviewed by KET, see above link), who joined friends in Western Kentucky in choosing to integrate.  In the documentary, opposition by whites was displayed largely, but I would be curious to know if there was such opposition on both sides. (A quick internet search did not lead me in a direction supporting or contradicting this idea, but I would like to look further).

Even when integration was legalized, strong opposition disabled black students from reaching their full potential within these systems. Teachers ignored black students, stealing their opportunity within the classroom.

1 response to Progression of Education Amongst African Americans

  1. I really like the way that you focus on education and the way that it has progressed throughout the years. I think that the point that you make about Jennie Wilson only being taught vocational tasks so that these tasks would be all that she would be able to do is a great and very interesting point to make! African Americans have been through much concerning their education and what they have had to go through to get equal opportunities as the white students and I think that you show this progression amazingly.

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