Alternate Author Name(s)

Ronald Eugene Butchart

Document Type


Date of Award



African Americans, Black people, Education, Southern States, History

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Richard M. Dalfiume

Second Advisor

Sarah Elbert

Third Advisor

Walter E. Hugins


The northern white men and women who organized the first schools for the American blacks in the South, during and after the Civil War, did so for a wide variety of reasons. They were often in sharp disagreement with one another over ends and means. Each took as his point of departure a particular view of the future of the Afro-American in American society, and shaped his educational ideology around that vision. Some assumed that the freedman, like all other Americans, would move into the mainstream, free to do and become what he chose, limited only by his own intrinsic worth and effort. Others, however, expected black men and women to form a distinct subordinate caste in southern society.

This study attempts to delineate the conflicting sets of ideas that motivated northerners to raise millions of dollars for freedmen’s schools. It also seeks to understand the impact of those ideas on the work of rival freedmen’s aid societies, on teachers, curriculum, Freedmen's Bureau, southern whites, and on the freedmen themselves. Both the ideologies and the reality of freedmen’s education is placed in the larger historical framework of Reconstruction, race relations, educational institutions, and economic development.

To facilitate the analysis, the study is divided into three parts. The first is an introductory chapter that introduces the groups that worked in the South, discusses their methods, and provides a narrative of the origins of their work. Part II focuses on ideologies, arguing that the aid societies fell into two distinct groups, espousing contradictory ends, based on divergent visions of the ultimate role of Afro-Americans in American life. Part III analyzes the application of the ideologies in practice.

A fundamental assumption underlying the research and writing is that the success or failure of Reconstruction and of black education must be measured in terms of their contribution to the full realization of black freedom. In that sense, “Educating for Freedom” is an ironic title, for the architects of Reconstruction failed to concern themselves with blacks, but rather turned their attention to the problems of white conciliation and accommodation. Black education quickly became a tool designed to aid in the process of reassuring white supremacy and bourgeois hegemony, and of pressing the South toward fuller integration into the American industrial capital system.