Traveling Exhibit - Panels


Brown v. Board of Education - In Pursuit of Freedom & Equality - Traveling Exhibit
Panel 2 - Education: A First Act of Freedom for African Americans

African Americans viewed education as a means of
self-determination and liberation.

Denied access to formal education under the nation's chattel slave system, African Americans placed a high value on literacy and schooling.

As public schooling spread, segregation by color became an issue. In 1849, Sarah Roberts was refused admission to the Boston Public School near her home. Represented by Charles Sumner (1811-1873) and Robert Morris, an African American attorney, Robert's father challenged the ruling. He lost the case, but the anti-segregation argument prevailed in 1855 as the Massachusetts Legislature banned separation by race.

After the Civil War in 1865, African Americans built, financed, and staffed schools for their communities. Newly elected black legislators voted for tax support of schools for blacks and whites. Churches and the United States government also established schools.

The Zion School of Charleston, South Carolina had 13 teachers and 850 pupils by 1866.
Courtesy Library of Congress. 

Abraham Lincoln School of New Orleans, Louisiana was one of the largest of the 4,000 schools established in the South by the Freedman's Bureau.
Harper's Weekly, April 21, 1866. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Phillis Wheatley (1753?-1784), achieved renown as a poet.
Courtesy Schomburg Library of Nineteenth Century Black Women Writers.

Frederick Douglass (1817?-1895), self-taught under slavery, became the nation's leading abolitionist.
Courtesy Amistad Research Center.

Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) excelled in science. His annual almanac was popular in American households.
Courtesy Amistad Research Center

Charles Sumner's legal brief for desegregation in 1849 anticipated the 1954 United States Supreme Court on desegregation.
Courtesy Library of Congress.