Before the 1860s most of the South had only a rudimentary public school system. After the Civil War, southern states ultimately created a dual educational system based on race. These separate schools were anything but equal.
Yet, the commitment of African American teachers and parents to education never faltered. They established a tradition of educational self-help and were among the first southerners to campaign for universal public education. They welcomed the support of the Freedmen’s Bureau, white charities, and missionary societies. Black communities, many desperately poor, also dug deep into their own resources to build and maintain schools that met their needs and reflected their values.