The Anna T. Jeanes Foundation, also known as the Negro Rural School Fund, was established by Quaker heiress Anna T. Jeanes in 1907. She directed that her estate of $1 million was to support the “rudimentary education” of African Americans in the rural South. The foundation or fund, administered by the Rockefeller Foundation’s General Education Board, supported special supervisory teachers who offered guidance to Black rural school teachers, who might be poorly trained and lacking other support. More than one half of the salary was paid by the fund, and the remainder was paid by the county board of education. The initial plan was to employ a Jeanes teacher at a demonstration center in the county, one who would also serve as a supervisor of the rural Black schools within the county school system.
But it was the work of one Black teacher, Virginia Randolph, in Henrico County, Virginia, that would ultimately define the role of the Jeanes teacher. The daughter of slaves, Randolph began teaching at sixteen after she graduated from high school. She then established her own Mountain Road School where she paired the teaching of industrial arts of cooking and sewing with the moral values of cleanliness and orderliness. Jackson Davis, Henrico school superintendent, applied for a grant from the Negro Rural School Fund and adopted Randolph’s model for the rural Black schools. The leaders of the fund were so impressed with Randolph’s work in Virginia that they hired her as the first supervising industrial teacher in 1908.
Randolph’s instructional model became known as the Henrico plan and formed the basis for the work of the fund in each of the Southern states that allowed Jeanes teachers into their Black rural schools. For Jeanes teachers, education was about the whole community and its welfare, with the school as the agency that would teach people how to live better. Under the guidance of the Jeanes teachers, Black schools came to resemble settlement houses where students and their parents learned more than just “the 3Rs”—they learned about health, sanitation, and nutrition, and homemaking skills as well. The teachers also worked outside of the schools by consulting with ministers and speaking at churches on school-related issues, and they lobbied White politicians on school boards for financial support of Black teachers and their students.
By 1911, the fund employed 129 teachers across the South, most of whom were Black women; the first group of Jeanes teachers had no college training. By the mid-1930s, 45 percent had obtained their bachelor’s degrees, paid for by the fund, through summer courses at Hampton Institute. While the number of Jeanes teachers had grown to about 500 by 1950, their role was being impacted by the societal and cultural changes occurring across the nation. The Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision declared segregated schools unconstitutional; the passage of the Smith-Hughes Act provided funding for vocational education at rural high schools; the civil rights movement had begun; and industrial training for African Americans was viewed as outdated. The fund and its teachers stopped their work in 1968.
- Jones, L. A. (2002). Mama learned us to work: Farm women in the new South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
- Leloudis, J. L. (1996). Schooling and the New South: Pedagogy, self, and society in North Carolina, 1860–1920. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
- Woodfaluk, C. S. (1992). The Jeanes teachers of South Carolina: The emergence, existence, and significance of their work. Unpublished dissertation, University of South Carolina, Columbia.
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