The General Education Board and the Racial Leadership of Black Education in the South, 1920-1960

by Sarah C. Thuesen

Jan 1, 2001
The history of northern philanthropy and southern black education is a familiar, yet unfinished, story. Historians have documented how private foundations, particularly the General Education Board (GEB), helped develop black education in the South, but those studies invariably conclude around 1930. It is true that GEB appropriations to southern black education peaked in the early 1930s. Nevertheless, the GEB continued to fund select programs in that field until it ceased operations in 1960. I surveyed part of the GEB papers this summer in order to determine the organization's priorities for black education during this later period. I quickly discovered that denied grant requests could reveal as much as the records of fund recipients. Throughout the thirties and forties, as African Americans organized in the South to gain greater control over their own schools, the GEB continued to fund white supervisors as its primary contribution to black elementary and secondary education. To be sure, many of these State Agents for Negro Schools held reputations as the leading white liberals in their communities.
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