The Fairhope Friends, Quakers, recently celebrated the centennial of the Friends School.
There’s a long list of interesting characters who have taken action to overcome racism and promote education in the South. For example, there was the rich Quaker woman in Pennsylvania, Anna T. Jeanes, born Apr. 7, 1822, a single white female, living in Philadelphia.
She lived through the horrors of the Civil War and was aware that the Emancipation Proclamation was only the first step towards eliminating racial inequality. She understood that until the end of the Civil War, it was illegal in the South to teach a black person to read or write and that the white political structure had created an entire race of uneducated people.
She knew of the many ways whites were continuing, after the Civil War, to suppress blacks in the South, including Jim Crow laws and violent acts by the KKK. Jeanes was particularly troubled by the fact that the whites took steps to ensure that the blacks remain illiterate after the Civil War by refusing to provide funds for the education of rural families in the South. In the strictly segregated South, black schools received little more than the worn-out, discarded books from the white schools. So the black community found buildings and teachers to begin the long process to educate their race.
Quakers have a rich history of working to alleviate social injustice and place a high value on education. Jeanes had the financial ability and social connections to respond to wrongs relating to the education of blacks in the South. And she did. After donating $220,000 to several programs involving the education of Southern black students, in 1907 Anna T. Jeanes donated $1 million dollars to hire black teachers as supervisors in those schools and to improve Black communities in the South.
The Jeanes Foundation became known as the Negro Rural School Fund and was distributed by the General Education Board, established by the John D. Rockefeller Foundation. Providing a glimpse of her contacts, William Howard Taft, Andrew Carnegie, Hollis Burke Frissell, Booker T Washington and George Foster Peabody were members of its racially integrated Board of Trustees. That program was combined under Booker T. Washington's guidance with the Rosenwald building fund.
One of the schools funded by Jeanes through the Negro Rural School Fund was built in 1914 in Point Clear at the intersection of Twin Beech Road and Section Street in Baldwin County. The supervisors there, like the other Jeanes workers, focused on “doing the next thing needed.” The school served our local black community until it burned in 1952. The school was later rebuilt on the west side of Section Street. The Jeanes Foundation paid for supervisors at this school, and many other schools throughout the South, until the late 1960s when black teachers and students were absorbed into integrated schools.