Training Poor Whites: The General Education Board and Southern Education

by Edward-John Bottomley

Jan 1, 2017
The early years of the General Education Board are usually studied in reference to its efforts to shape the education of African-Americans. The board took a racist paternalist stance which encouraged the industrial education of blacks, such as through its support and funding for the Tuskegee Institute of Booker T. Washington. And it discouraged or, at least, did not encourage, the higher education of African-American education in areas such as the liberal arts. Yet, in an era where support for the education of African-Americans was politically and physically dangerous, the Rockefeller philanthropies were unusually progressive and, through the GEB, contributed millions of dollars of funding for black schools and colleges. What is often forgotten is that the education of blacks was not a priority of the early years of the GEB. Instead, as W.E.B. Du Bois confirmed, 'it put stress on and gave precedence to the education of whites'. In the early years of Rockefeller educational philanthropy, the Southern and General Boards of Education made sure that the focus was on Poor Whites.
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