GA-JCTS Newsletter

The newsletter of the Gilmore Academy-Jackson County Training School Alumni Association, Inc.

 

Vol. 2 No. 3

September 1999

 

 

Tax-Exempt Status Granted

On August 31, 1999, the Internal Revenue Service approved the Association’s application for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. Contributions, including dues, to the organization are now deductible as charitable contributions on the donor’s federal income tax return.

 

Book In Final Stage!

The history and publication committee, under the able leadership of Sarah Speights Pender, spent the summer laboring over the Association’s project to document and preserve the history of African American life in Jackson County. By July 1, the committee submitted 219 photographs to the publisher and the accompanying text followed on September 15.

 

The 128-page publication will include acknowledgments, an extensive introduction, and 219 black-and-white images with accompanying text divided into the following  chapters: 1. Slavery, Reconstruction and Jim Crow; 2. Marianna Area Scenes; 3. Family Life; 4. Religion; 5. Places of Work; 6.Black Businesses; 7. Pre-Schools; 8. Jackson County Training School - sports & classes; 9.Union Grove and other county schools; and 10. Clubs and organizations.

 

The book, expected to be published before the end of the year, would not have been possible without the dedicated work of  Sarah S. Pender, Queen B. Brown, Lucy Hawthorne, Barbara H. Dixon, and many members of the community who contributed photographs, information or other assistance.

 

Year 2000
Homecoming

The 2000 annual meeting and homecoming celebration will be held in Marianna on June 29 - July 2 in Marianna. The 1998 committee chairpersons agreed  to continue in their roles. Preliminary plans include the essay/oratorical contest, spelling bees, and a “be-out-day” at the Panama City Beach, banquet at the air-conditioned National Guard Armory, banquet, worship service, and annual meeting. Details will be included in the next newsletter.

 

Destiny of Race Uncertain?

The end of the Civil War in 1865 marked the beginning of freedom for thousands of  African Americans. The 1866 report of the Florida superintendent of common schools for freedmen illustrates the attitude of State officials about them. The following report was submitted to Governor David S. Walker on  November 8, 1866.

 

I was appointed Superintendent of Common Schools for Freedmen for the State, by your Excellency on the 7th day of April. I had been prior to this time, assistant superintendent. Mr. Hobbs and myself had so arranged it that in the absence of funds for immediate action, he would go North to get funds, while I should travel throughout the State to establish schools.

 


I immediately commenced this work by organizing Sabbath schools in connection with the ministers with whom I sought co-operation. We also urged through the press, and from the pulpit, the necessity of our engaging heartily in the instruction of our colored people as a matter of policy and protection, as well as a matter of humanity and Christian [sic] benevolence, and that no one should do more readily than the Southern people, a work that we have been doing all our lives.

 

We of the South have been the best missionaries the world ever knew, receiving this black race from English and New England ships as barbarians, we have brought them to the social and religious status which they at present enjoy.

 

The history of the colored missions in the South is unparalleled in the annals of missionary labor throughout the world, as is shown by the simple fact that near four hundred thousand of this race were connected with the churches of the South before the war. We have existed formerly as master and servant, under reciprocal obligations, and now that these relations are dissolved, and not by any act of the colored people, it is our duty to extend to them that help and assistance that he has a right to claim at our hands, living in our midst, with the wisdom needful for self-government and self-control. These claims as an enlightened and Christian people we cannot throw off.

 

In commencing this work last January, I met everywhere, a kind reception, and hearty response. The generally expressed opinion was that we ought to do it.

 

Sabbath Schools

I formed Sabbath schools, with the assistance of ministers and others, in the principle localities in the state, cultivating the kindest feelings between the servants and their employers. These schools have been taught by the whole people; ladies and gentlemen of our country, who have regarded it truly as a noble work and no loss of position to instruct these ignorant people who have served us so faithfully.

 

Day Schools

I found a general desire among the planters to have day schools, and some had teachers employed, paying half the expense themselves. They were ready and willing to provide or build school houses. From early in the spring to the first of summer, I organized 24 schools, with an average number of pupils from twenty-five to one hundred and fifty.

 

Night Schools

There has been connected, as a general thing, a night school, for the instruction of the adults, who learn their books around the pine fire.

 

The Progress of these Schools

These schools have been marked by a most earnest perseverance on the part of the teachers, while the pupils take the liveliest interest, and numbers who have only gone four months read and spell readily, and take great delight in learning, show great proficiency in figures. To what extent their minds can be improved I cannot say, but feel satisfied that they will receive a practical education that they may be able to read the word of God, understand more clearly their moral duties, have a better basis for their religion; for a religion they will have, whether right or wrong, and be made better citizens, better neighbors and better men.

 

Lack of Funds

Having no books, and no funds to draw on by which I could procure them, and no money to pay teachers, I felt if I had these helps, I could educate the whole State, such was the anxiety for books. All that was needed was to put a book in the hands of these blacks, you secured the object; he would find some one to teach him.

 

My Trip North for Funds and Books

The noble action of our State was every where lauded. I found in comparing our condition with other Southern States we were much in the advance with our freedmen. In Washington City, where I presented the matter as a State action, it was approved, and aid was promised in the way of school books. In Philadelphia I saw some parties of wealth, who approved of our movement highly, but gave me no money; I receive some fine donations of books. In New York, I received some donations of books, but only small amounts in money, it being an unsuitable time of year to present the matter publicly. Many were willing to endorse my noble object who would give me references but no money. I was driven partly, (as I had not a fair opportunity) to the conclusion, with all their professed love for the colored people that we must educate them ourselves.

 

The Terms of Tuition

Were first fixed at fifty cents per pupil and fifty cents from the tax fund; but finding that the pupils did not pay in enough to support the teacher, I changed it to one dollar. The poor and the indigent are supported by the tax fund.

 

The Teachers

Have been most all colored, of good moral character, delighting in their work, maintaining good discipline, men of energy, and many of them well qualified to teach. They have persevered under the greatest discouragements, hardly getting enough to supply the wants of nature. They have come to me with their tales of sorrow, saying they did not wish to give up their schools, but could not live by them I have wept for their state, and tried to cheer them with the rewards of another world. Out of forty-five teacher I never have heard of a single complaint against them.

 

Demand for Teachers on Plantations

I have constant demand for teachers on the plantations; the best laborers are going where they can have the advantage of a school, and it is a matter of interest to have a school house and teacher to work a plantation.

 

Lack of Teachers

We shall want some forty teachers to supply the possible demand. I still hope that the false and groundless feeling that it is a matter of disgrace to teach a colored school will pass away, and may of the young men of our county, maimed and out of employment, will offer their services. My object is, at an early day, to visit Savannah and Charleston to get educated colored men for the plantations.

 

The Action of the Florida Legislature

has been highly commended by other States, and I have received letters from Superintendents of Education of other States for copies of our school law.

 

The South, we say, is the best fried of the colored people. This sentiment I hope will be carried out fully, and I trust the day is not distant when every State will establish a school system for the poor, white and black. I would simply say I think it advisable that the school law should be so amended as to embrace the poor of our State, and thus remove the objection that has been made to this school act for freedmen.

 

What may be the destiny of this race I know not, but it is self-evident that our peach, happiness, and well-being depends upon their improvement and moral elevation. Nothing short of this can fit them for the condition in which they are thrown. We have no reason to hate the black man, he has done nobly. It has been by his strong arm that we possess our wealth, while on the other hand, the white man has ever been his friend, protector, and provider, and in sickness and old age, he has not been forgotten - who can forget the faithful old servant that nursed him.

 

We are under the strongest obligations to help him in his present condition, with that assistance he needs in counsel, and otherwise, to make him what he should be; we did so in slavery times, we should do it more in times of freedom. If he should not act with that correctness and honesty his new relation requires, it is only what might be expected, and it is only a further argument for our leading him on to a true enlightenment, while our doing it will be our defense and the glory of our land.

 

In closing my report, I must say what I have said all the while, that it is no loss of position to teach a colored school. We shall soon have a Normal school in operation to be conducted by Dr. Scull and associate teachers of the first position, and other I could name, who are engaged in this work, the best people of the land. It is a work worthy of humanity; it is acting in the great order of heaven - a work the Son of God came down to do - to ransom their immortal souls. As prophecy points to the time when “Ethiopia shall stretch out her hands to God,” the colored race thrown by a strange providence in our midst, enlightened, christianized and save, shall carry the bread of life to the perishing millions of Africa. “The Lord will hasten it in His time.”

 

I herewith close my report by giving you the general statistics of our schools. The approximate numbers is as follows:

                                 No.                    Total

Day Schools              35                    1,526

Night Schools            30                    1,200

Sabbath Schools     60 to 100            1,500

Receiving private

    Instruction, about  2,000               6,226

Most of the day and night scholars attend the Sabbath schools, therefore deduct about 1,000

Supposed number under  instruction,  5,226

 

All of which is respectfully submitted,

            Very truly and respectfully,

                        Your ob’dt servant

                        E. B. Duncan

                        Sup’t Common Schools for Freedmen

 

[Editor’s Note: Church-sponsored elementary schools provided the only form of education for Blacks in Jackson County until 1922, when the Gilmore Academy was established for students in grades 1-12. Most of the church-based schools closed in the 1950's.]

 

I Dream A World

     I dream a world where man

     No other will scorn,

     Where love will bless the earth

     And peace its paths adorn.

     I dream a world where all

     Will know sweet freedom's way,

      Where greed no longer saps the soul

      Nor Avarice blights our day.

     A world I dream where black and white,

      Whatever race you be,

       Will share the bounties of the earth

       And every man is free,

      Where wretchedness will hang its head,

        And joy, like a pearl,

        Attend the needs of all mankind.

        Of such I dream‑

         Our world!

 

                                         ‑ Langston Hughes