Good Morning POU.
Today, in our last entry, we take a look at how Jim Crow affected the education of African-Americans in this country.
Plessy v. Ferguson established a constitutional “separate but equal” doctrine that would never actually exist. The southern states refused to provide more than absolute bare minimum support to schools for black children. Indeed, many southerners resented ANY funds be devoted to educating “niggers”.
“If these Negroes become doctors and merchants or buy their own farms,” a southern woman told the celebrated journalist Ray Stannard Baker, “what shall we do for servants?”
The schools for black children were run down buildings, crumbling around them. Their books were the thrown out books from the all-white schools. Southern states made no pretense as to the lopsided division of resources to white and colored schools, devoting as much as ten dollars per white student for every dollar spent on a colored student and showing little interest beyond that meager investment.
“The money allocated to the colored children is spent on the education of the white children,” a local school superintendent in Louisiana said bluntly. “We have twice as many colored children of school age as we have white, and we use their money. Colored children are mighty profitable to us.”
Teachers were paid, at best, Forty percent of what white teachers earned for the same grade levels. In the 1930s, Louisiana paid white teachers and principals an average of $1165 a year. Black teachers and principals were making $499 a year. This was much better than neighboring states such as Mississippi were the white teachers and principals averaged $630 a year, while the black teachers and principals averaged a third of that, hardly more than the field hands.
The disparity in pay, published in local papers for all to see, had far-reaching effects. It would mean the most promising of colored people, having received next to nothing in material assets from their slave fore-parents, had to labor with the knowledge that they were now being underpaid by more than half, that they were so behind it would be all but impossible to accumulate the assets their white counterparts could, and that they would, by definition, have less to leave succeeding generations. It would mean a wealth deficit between the races that would require a miracle windfall or near asceticism on the part of colored families if they were to have any chance of catching up or amassing anything of value. The layers of accumulated assets built up by the better paid dominant caste, generation after generation, would factor into a wealth disparity of white Americans having an average net worth ten times that of black Americans by the turn of the 21st century, dampening the economic prospects of the children and grandchildren of both Jim Crow and the Great Migration before they were ever born.
The funding for public colleges were also deeply lopsided. In 1960, Mississippi gave $1,351 per student to white colleges, but only $718 per student to black schools. This disparity was the same in all of the states with public black colleges. It would take until the mid 1970s and early 1980s before lawsuits were filed by many of the black colleges, suing both the state and federal government for a failure to provide funding equitable to their enrollment vs the white colleges within their respective states. This lack of funding would contribute to a growing chasm in resources and the ability to provide the technology and facilities for the majority of black college students attending state HBCUs.
Although many strides have taken place, the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case still remains the most pivotal in attempting to rectify the disparities in funding for public schools between black and white students.