Overview of African American Education Before Integration

Through the hard work of many people, Henderson County’s Black schools endured, persevered, and often prospered in less than ideal circumstances.

The story of the advances in education for Black students in Henderson County, from the years following the Civil War to the eventual integration of the city and county schools in 1965, tells of the hard work of many people who endured, persevered, and often prospered in less than ideal circumstances. The heroes were many, including the outstanding educators who gave tirelessly of themselves to see that an opportunity for education was offered to all the children of Henderson County. Many Henderson County natives educated during the period of segregation tell of some teacher (or teachers) who inspired them to attain as much in life as they had it in them to achieve. Encouragement was the norm. The Black school system often existed in overcrowded conditions and the students had to use second-hand textbooks. Though the system was generally under funded by the School Board, through the dedication of the teachers, principals and parents, the goal of quality education remained strong throughout these years. In spite of the odds, the schools continued to offer students a chance to compete in a society that all too often resisted their achievements and denied them equal access to opportunity. The institution of education (along with the church) nurtured the hope that there was a better day coming, and for one hundred years, from 1865 to 1965, the light of this hope shone brighter in Henderson County as steady progress was made toward quality and equality in education.

From A Brief History of the Black Presence in Henderson County by Gary Franklin Green