Group of Children at the Model School, Fisk University, Nashville Tenn; circa 1899; please click here for full resolution view of the image.
Image Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-54757 (b&w film copy neg.); Call Number: LOT 11299 [item] [P&P]
After the Civil War, freedmen and their supporters engage in a major project: the creation of educational institutions in which African Americans could learn to read and write. For them, literacy, and also numeracy, were the key to progress and improvement.
One of those institutions was Fisk University, in Nashville, Tennessee. As noted at the University’s website,
In 1865, barely six months after the end of the Civil War and just two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, three men — John Ogden, the Reverend Erastus Milo Cravath, and the Reverend Edward P. Smith — established the Fisk School in Nashville.
The school was named in honor of General Clinton B. Fisk of the Tennessee Freedmen’s Bureau, who provided the new institution with facilities in former Union Army barracks near the present site of Nashville’s Union Station. In these facilities Fisk convened its first classes on January 9, 1866. The first students ranged in age from seven to seventy, but shared common experiences of slavery and poverty — and an extraordinary thirst for learning.
As part of its enterprise, the University created a Model School, for the education of local children. The above image shows children and adults holding hands in a circle, perhaps in a school yard.
Next year (2016), then, is the Sesquicentennial (150th) Anniversary of one of the trailblazers in the national movement to educate and improve the African American community. I encourage all of us to contemplate this great transformation, from enslavement to freedom, and how these African American institutions – which were created by an integrated leadership – were part of that transformation.