The Educated Citizen
Americans have long believed that a healthy democracy depends in part on free public education. The nation’s founders stressed that an educated citizenry would better understand their rights and help build a prosperous nation. Beginning in the early 1800s, the federal government and the states encouraged a public school system, largely under local control.
For millions of children, the American public school movement opened new opportunities. But millions of others were excluded because of their race or ethnicity. Segregated education was designed to confine these children to a subservient role in society and second-class citizenship.
Woodcut of early schoolroom, 1826-27
Classroom objects from late 19th and early 20th century
Sheet music and classroom lesson card, about 1830s
Teacher’s school bell and student’s slate, 19th century