College of Arts and Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy in History (PhD)


Edward Waldron


Black Higher Education, Reconstruction, Missionary Societies, American Baptist Home Mission Society, ABHMS, Shaw University, Benedict College, Virginia Union University, Black Colleges, Baptists, Freedman's Bureau, Post-Civil War, Higher Education History, Slave literacy




This work examines how White and Black Baptist worked together to form and developed three historically Black Colleges immediately after the Civil War in the most contested region of the Eastern seaboard—Shaw University, Virginia Union University and Benedict College. After the Civil War, there were different schools of thought on how to fill the void in African American education. Ex-slaves, Radical southerners, Freemen, Northern Baptist, Black Baptist, Southern Baptists, and missionary organizations from various denominations all offered varying perspectives on what forms of educations were relevant for the newly emancipated slave. Some held to the notion that industrial education was the only appropriate form of education for Blacks, while other believed that Blacks had the right to a liberal arts education like their White counterparts. Before the Civil War, Blacks were largely self-taught or taught how to read for religious or economic reasons. Certain historically factors in the 1830s (i.e., the Nat Turner revolt), made slaveholding states leery about promoting slave literary. In fact, prohibitions against slave literacy were passed and rigorously upheld through most of the south. While some institutions of higher education existed for Black students in the North, by the close of the Civil War only 2% of Blacks could read and/or write. While the federal government—through the Freedman’s Bureau—played a significant role in getting the three Black colleges under consideration off the ground, it was the alliance between Black and White Baptist that proved most instrumental. Specifically, Northern Baptists and the American Baptist Home Mission Society (ABHMS) worked closely with Black Baptist Churches and Black leaders in founding and expanding the educational philosophy and physical campuses of these schools. Lastly, it should be said that philanthropic dollars also contributed to the building and sustenance of these Black educational efforts.

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