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All Rights Reserved
Published February 1913

Composed and Printed By

The University of Chicago Press

Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.



State Supervisor of Rural Elementary Schools, Richmond, Va.

In March, 1908, there sat around a table in the office of the Superin-
tendent of Schools of Henrico County, Virginia, a group of men who
had been invited by him to consider ways of improving the Negro
schools of the county. A meeting of the Negro teachers had just been
held, the first meeting called to give them aid and encouragement.
Dr. H. B. Frissell, who was among the party, told of some extension
work that had been done by Hampton Institute in sending out a young
woman to visit the schools of Gloucester County, and to help the teachers
adapt their work to the home life of the people. After considerable
discussion the conference ended, but there was left a precipitate of definite
ideas. One was that a trained Negro teacher would be very helpful
to the other teachers, to visit their schools and encourage them, placing
more definite plans of work before them. Another was that such a
teacher might be secured who would introduce cooking, sewing, and in
some way help to place the life of the average Negro home on a more
satisfactory basis in the elemental; virtues of good citizenship. The
plan to engage such a teacher for the 23 Negro schools of the county
seemed good to the group of trustees, but it was not felt that the county
could afford experiments in Negro education. The Jeanes Fund for
Negro Rural Schools had recently been established, and Dr. James H.
Dillard was in charge of its administration. The situation was laid
before him and he heartily approved the plan and agreed to pay the
salary of the supervising industrial teacher.

The county was fortunate in securing for this work Virginia E.
Randolph, who had taught a rural school in the county for thirteen
years, and by her devoted and tireless efforts had transformed a shabby
little schoolhouse into a neatly whitewashed, two-room building, with
attractive grounds, which served as a school, Sunday school, and center
of all good work for the neighborhood. In October, 1908, she set to
work to visit the 23 Negro schools, meeting the people and teachers,
and asking their co-operation. The patrons were invited to the schools



and organized into Improvement Leagues, and soon all the schools
began to take on a different appearance. Simple repairs were made,
floors and windows were regularly washed, stoves were polished, walks
were laid off, and flowers set out in the yards. Regular periods were
set aside for sewing, mat-making, cooking, and various kinds of work
that were suggested by the materials at hand.

This was the origin of what Dr. Dillard called the "Henrico Plan"
of industrial training and supervision of Negro schools, and he adopted
this method very largely in administering the Jeanes Fund in the southern
states. The supervising industrial teacher is appointed by the county
superintendent, and works under his direction in as many of the rural
schools as may be reached, the salary being paid by the Jeanes Fund.
Where the teacher covers a large territory some provision is usually
made by the local school boards to defray the traveling expenses of the

The work thus inaugurated has steadily grown, both in effectiveness
and extent. It was carried on in 119 counties in the various southern
states last year through the Jeanes Fund, in co-operation with county
superintendents and school boards. In Virginia there were last year
17 supervising industrial teachers working in 18 counties. Five new
counties have taken it up this year, one county paying one-half the
salary of the industrial teacher, and another county paying the whole
salary from local funds. Almost every county makes provision for
traveling expenses.

In this paper I speak chiefly of work in Virginia which has come
under my personal observation. Reports from teachers in the states
farther south show that a change equally as great is being wrought


The conditions with which the supervising teacher has to work are
discouraging. A very real difficulty to many is that the work is new
and they do not know just what to do. Few definite instructions can
be furnished as the conditions vary so greatly, from county to county,
and from state to state. In Virginia, for example, in Henrico County,
with a Negro population of one-third of the whole, with a network of
trolleys and the progressive influence of a large city, where the farms


are small and the Negroes own little land other than their houses and
lots, conditions are very different from those in Charles City, the adjoin-
ing county, which has not even a village within its borders, where the
Negro population is two-thirds of the whole, where the farms are large
and the lands sparsely settled, and 15 per cent of the land is owned by
the Negro farmers. This, in turn, is very different from Lowndes County,
Alabama, where the Negroes outnumber the whites ten to one, and
where the type of farming is entirely different. Perhaps in one respect
they all were alike. The schools were very poor, so inadequate to exert
an appreciable influence for the betterment of industrial and rural
conditions that a great many people and school officials seriously ques-
tioned the good of "educating" the Negro. The trouble with the
Negro schools was that poorly trained teachers, in very crowded and
insanitary buildings, were attempting to teach to the ungraded and
unclassified assortment of boys and girls who came to them with the
utmost irregularity, the knowledge contained in the textbooks of the
course of study. It was not a matter of any wonder that the white
people felt that the states were getting a very small return on the money
invested in the maintenance of such schools.

That this attitude was the result of the absence of any definite
constructive policy these supervising teachers have proven, and their
work has done more than any other single cause to enlist the sympathy
and co-operation of the white people of the South in Negro education.

Every community is glad to have the sources of disease removed;
to see the character and moral habits of the laboring classes improved,
so that they will strive for higher standards in their work, in their homes,
and in their neighborhood life; and this is what one begins to see in the
Negro population of the counties where this work has been introduced.
It was inevitable that the forces working for the improvement of rural
conditions in the South should have a marked effect on the life of the
Negro, but these supervising teachers have been the means of bringing
these forces more directly to bear on a section of the population that
had been in the eddy of the stream of economic progress. Farm demon-
stration, the active efforts of the state boards of health in sanitation and
the prevention of disease, the new life which has been breathed into the
school systems of the southern states, following a constructive policy
of consolidation, making possible rural high schools, graded schools,
with better buildings, longer terms, and more adequate funds in these


matters the progress of their white neighbors has furnished the inspira-
tion ^of example to the Negroes, but there was necessary personal human
sympathy and practical wisdom to put these forces into effect. It
means much that the Negro is making comparative progress along
these lines; it also means much that the white people of the rural South
are coming to realize that improving the condition of the Negro, who
is at the lowest scale of life in the southern social order, improves auto-
matically the condition of every other man with whom that Negro
comes in contact.

To bring the Negro rural schools of the South to any degree of effi-
ciency, there was necessary, first, a stimulus of state aid or aids from
outside sources used through the machinery of the state-school system
which would enable different counties and school divisions to make a
practical demonstration which would, in time, attract the attention of
others; and in the second place, it was necessary to arouse the spirit
of self-help among the Negroes; and third, this would in time bring
about a more generous spirit on the part of local school boards with
reference to the distribution of school funds. This is now being worked
out under this method of supervision and industrial training. The
stimulus and necessary funds have come from the Jeanes Foundation,
which has been so judiciously applied to various counties in the southern
states; the supervising teachers have aroused the spirit of self-help on
the part of Negro citizens, and this spirit in turn is being met with a
more generous response by the local school boards.


Under the direction of the supervising teacher, various Negro com-
munities have been organized into school-improvement leagues, and
they have provided much needed equipment in the way of desks, black-
boards, and additional room. They are beginning to erect new buildings
to take the place of the miserable shacks which have often served as
school buildings. In almost every case the funds raised by these school-
improvement leagues have been supplemented by money from the
public funds, and in these ways the improvements are being provided.
I visited, last February, with the supervising teacher in one of the coun-
ties of Virginia, a schoolhouse which consisted of one small room, perhaps
15 by 20 feet, with lo-foot pitch. The only furniture consisted of 14
old home-made double desks, and painted blackboards, much used and


worn out. There were two small windows on each side. The enrolment
at this school was 72 pupils, with an average daily attendance of 40.
How this number of pupils could crowd into this room was equally a
mystery and a shame. The Improvement League had commenced
work on an additional room and the school board had made an appro-
priation to supplement the efforts of the patrons, who besides contribu-
ting in money gave their labor to erect the added room. It is readily
seen that a two-room building is inadequate for this number of pupils
should they all attend, and perhaps it is well for the health of the com-
munity that the average daily attendance has been less than one-half
the enrolment. Conditions here were somewhat worse than one usually
sees, and yet I know of three other one-room schools, quite as crowded,
in this county, but through the efforts of the supervising teacher they
are each adding an extra room. One wonders what a teacher, in a
schoolroom as crowded as each of these, can do with pupils who attend
school only one-half or two-thirds of their time. It is unnecessary to
add that the teaching is very poor, and that the influence of the unwhole-
some environment tends to undo the constructive work of the teacher.
The supervising teachers give help to the teachers in these schools,
showing them how to grade the pupils in some sort of way, but they are
wisely giving most of their time trying to improve the conditions under
which the teacher and pupils have to work.

In another county there was a school not so badly crowded, but
with poor and irregular attendance. The supervising teacher organized
a league to help the teachers make simple improvements and persuaded
the patrons to send their children more regularly to school. Their work
interested the county superintendent who induced the school board
to double the capacity of the building and thus through their united
efforts a most attractive building has been erected with proper lighting
and heating. The league then painted the building and fenced in the
grounds, and the pupils planted out flowers and laid off the yards and
walks. The influence of this school with these improved conditions
has been such as to make necessary a third room, which is now being
erected by the joint efforts of the league and the school board; and a
third teacher will soon be provided. The school is, therefore, reaching
out more and more to all of the colored children within its district, and
their training is becoming more and more adequate.

These examples could be multiplied. The term for the colored


schools is being lengthened in very much the same way. In the average
county in Virginia the length of term of the schools for colored children
is not over five months. The school-improvement league in many cases
raises money to pay the salary of the teacher and extend the term from
two weeks to two months. The local school boards are encouraging
this, and in one county where the term has been regularly five months,
the board agreed to extend the term for two weeks provided the leagues
would extend it for an additional two weeks. Eighteen of the twenty
schools in the county met this condition and thus had a six months'
term. While the Negroes are thus contributing for a longer term for
their schools out of their poverty, it must be remembered that school
funds in the average county are far from adequate and that any increase
in the absence of state aid must be very gradual. On the other hand,
the fact that the Negro citizens pay for a part of the added month to
the school term causes them to send their children regularly, and to give
the school more earnest support than they otherwise would do.


Of the 2,300 colored teachers in the public schools of Virginia the
great majority have had no training for their work. Except for about
80 graduates from the State Normal School at Petersburg, and perhaps
10 or 12 graduates of Hampton Institute, who take up work hi Virginia
each year, there are no teachers coming into the work with professional
training. The colored high schools in a few of the cities and a few
private schools of secondary grade in the state are doing much to supply
the need, but few of these teachers drift into remote rural districts which
have to depend on such teachers as they are able to secure locally.
Usually these have had no other training beyond a one-room school
and perhaps a few summer schools. The fact that more than one-third
of the colored teachers in the state have been attending a summer
school during the past few summers is encouraging. In most counties
the teachers have been organized as a branch of the Negro Teachers'
and School Improvement League of the state, and meet regularly once
a month, taking up at each meeting a definite program. Such meetings
are being encouraged by the division superintendents, and the super-
vising teacher is in many counties doing effective work in helping
teachers adapt the course of study to the needs of their schools.

Few pupils remain in the one-room schools long enough to get


above the fifth grade. In Henrico County, for example, which has been
having a nine months' term for colored schools for some years, there
was only one Negro pupil in the entire county in the seventh grade last
year. The county industrial school which was opened this year for
pupils above the fourth grade, enrolled 64 pupils, and 10 of these are
in the seventh grade. The mornings are devoted to academic work
and the afternoons to industrial work. As graded schools are established
having adequate facilities and from two to four teachers, pupils are
remaining in school for a longer time. In these schools better trained
teachers are secured, also longer terms. Under the state graded-school
fund, which is distributed by the State Board of Education for the main-
tenance of two-, three-, and four-room schools erected and conducted
on plans approved by the State Board of Education, this type of school
is being greatly encouraged. Already a number have been erected,
and the number will probably be doubled this year. A feature of the
work in each of these schools is practical industrial training in addition
to more thorough teaching of the regular branches. The usefulness of
these schools in their respective communities is evidenced by the cordial
support they are receiving from both the local school boards and the
Negro citizens, and such schools will in time do much to supply a more
capable force of teachers for the rural schools.


In most of the counties an exhibit is held at the close of each school
year, of the various articles of industrial work made in the schools.
The exhibit is usually held at the county seat or in the business center
of the county, and some kind of a program is provided, and simple
prizes are awarded. These exhibits have been of great importance in
popularizing this type of education among the Negroes, in encouraging
the Negro children, and in demonstrating to the white citizens the
usefulness of this training.

There is usually held each year a meeting of the supervising indus-
trial teachers in each state, at some convenient point. In Virginia
for the past three years they have met at Hampton Institute at the time
of the Farmers' Conference, bringing with them exhibits of the work
from their respective counties. These exhibits have been of great value
in improving the character of the work in each county and in stimulating


local interest. The teachers also find it much easier to talk about the
different phases of their work when they have the opportunity of com-
paring the exhibits of the various counties.

The introduction of industrial work into the Negro schools has
not always been easy. Many of the parents object to their children
doing anything at school but study and recite from books. In many
cases the preacher has publicly opposed it, but more often he has joined
with the supervising teacher in her efforts for the schools. In one county,
soon after the supervisor began work, this issue was raised and the
preacher took up the cause and urged the people to contribute funds
for better school buildings, for equipment and material for industrial
work. In his exhortation he was attacked by members of his congre-
gation who differed from him. The issue got into the local papers
and became so warm that a vote was taken asking the preacher to resign.
By this time, however, the white people realized the situation and the
courage of the preacher, and they with his faithful followers prevailed
on the congregation to withdraw their action. Today this preacher is
a real leader in the county with the confidence of all classes. The
colored schools have made great progress and the industrial classes are
doing regular and effective work.

In other communities the opposition lasts longer. Recently I
visited a school where the teacher is unable to have any regular day or
period for industrial work, because if the parents know of it they will
keep their children at home on these days. In another county the
supervising teacher was speaking to a meeting of patrons in a school at
night. In the course of her remarks she condemned the common
dances and festivals which nearly always resulted in drinking and a
cutting or shooting affray, and urged amusements of a different
kind. This so enraged some of the young people that from the dark-
ness outside a bottle of ink was thrown through the window at the
teacher and its contents emptied on her dress. The court records
showed that nearly all of the Negroes in the penitentiary or jail from
that county were there as a result of "cutting and shooting at Negro

These examples could be multiplied, showing the courage and devo-
tion of the supervising teachers in their contact with the ignorant and
prejudiced masses of their race.



It will be seen from the tabulated statement showing definite results
of the work of supervising teachers in Virginia during the term of 1911-
12 that in the 18 counties there are 469 Negro schools, and that 299 of
these were visited regularly by the 17 supervisors. The length of term
ranged from 5 to 9! months, but an average of 6 months was maintained
by reason of the fact that 121 schools with a short term extended the
term for one month. There were 9 new buildings erected and 1 2 enlarged
at a combined cost of $6,268.15, which does not include labor and
materials given; 12 schools were painted, 69 whitewashed, 37 sanitary
outhouses were built, and 102 schools used individual drinking cups.
There were 348 improvement leagues organized, and they raised for
school improvement $13,744. 16.

The entire cost of supervision in these counties was less than
$7,000.00, so that these teachers have brought into the school funds
twice the cost of their salaries and expenses. Nearly every school
that was built or enlarged was the result of the efforts of the improve-
ment leagues co-operating with the local school boards, which have
dealt more liberally with the Negro schools since the Negroes have shown
such a disposition to help themselves.

But these figures, as illuminating as they are, do not tell all the story.
Back of this record of progress, there is a new spirit of self-help, a new
interest in the home, in the farm, and in the country neighborhood, and
it marks the beginning of a co-operative movement for improvement
in other ways. The teaching has been stronger, the attendance has
been more regular, and the work of the schools has been more practical
than ever before.

Superintendent Coggin writes of the work in Charles City County
as follows:

With reference to the work in Charles City, I can say that the County
School Board in its last meeting said that the results were such that they could
not think of giving it up. All the men are very much pleased and are heartily
supporting it.

I can see here a new interest in home life and an effort is being generally
made to make home comfortable and beautiful. Cleanliness and politeness
with industry have been emphasized with good results. A new spirit is seen
among the teachers and a more earnest effort is being made to make their work
mean something to the community in which they teach. The work as it is
being done here is encouraging to the entire citizenship.



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One of the most interesting developments of the work is the co-
operation of the supervising industrial teacher with the farm demon-
stration agent in working during the summer months with clubs of
girls who raise home gardens and can the vegetables and fruits of the
gardens for winter use. This feature of the work was taken up in
Virginia last year and four of the supervising teachers were employed
during the summer months; this year eight were employed for the
entire twelve months of the year. Under this plan, at the close of the
school term, they organized Girls' Home Garden Clubs. They visited
the girls in their homes, met them in groups, gave them practical instruc-
tions for their gardens, and taught canning, cooking, and sewing in the
homes. In many ways the summer work of these teachers has proven
of even greater value than their work with the schools, for they are
touching directly the homes of the people and bringing about changes
that are having a far-reaching effect. In the summer of 1911 this work
was inaugurated in four counties and a fair start was made. The
gardens were cultivated with varying success; many practical difficul-
ties were encountered, but in all, the girls put up under the direction of
the teacher, about one thousand glass jars of vegetables. The tabulated


Online LibraryJackson DavisSupervision of rural schools for Negroes → online text (page 1 of 2)