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The Constitutional Moment: Reconstruction and Black Education in the South

David Tyack and Robert Lowe
American Journal of Education
Vol. 94, No. 2 (Feb., 1986), pp. 236-256
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1084950
Page Count: 21
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The Constitutional Moment: Reconstruction and Black Education in the South
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Abstract

For a brief period after the Civil War, blacks gained a measure of political influence in Southern states. They used this nascent power first in a grass roots movement to build, fund, and staff schools. Then they joined with Radical Republicans in the Congress and with allies in Southern constitutional conventions during Congressional Reconstruction to establish free and universal public education. This article examines these political campaigns and the new constitutional frameworks that established schooling as a basic right for both races and that created new structures for the governance and finance of public education. These campaigns broadened traditional tenets of republican ideology to include the exslaves, but when white supremacists overthrew Reconstruction governments in the 1870s, the crusade stalled. Diminishing educational opportunity for blacks accompanied the loss of political rights and influence. Despite grave inequities that emerged between black and white schools, the principle of universal education remained in these constitutions. Although Reconstruction failed to transform the political economy of the South, it did leave an educational legacy vital to the survival and regeneration of black people.

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