African American Private Academies Essay

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Dissatisfied with a second-rate education, Africans in America and African Americans historically have opened independent schools or private academies in attempts to either integrate segregated schools or gain influence over the policy, curriculum, and instruction of schools operated for them by European Americans.

In the 1800s, Black parents complained that private schools operated by White religious and benevolent societies did not expect enough of Black students. Frustrated, African Americans established charitable societies (African Woolman Benevolent Society, The Phoenix Society, and the Society for the Promotion of Education Among Colored Children, Savannah Education Association, the American Missionary Association), which in turn established over 150 thriving private academies.

These academies provided high quality education for Black youth in an inhospitable South where a poor establishment view of Black intelligence denied educational opportunity to African Americans. The instruction in academies was highly structured and inclined toward college preparation. In fact, this schooling led easily to college admission. The typical academy did not emphasize industrial education, but did focus on respect for the dignity of labor.

Today half a dozen private academies for African Americans are still in operation, forming the Association of African American Boarding Schools. The schools are Laurinburg Institute, Laurinburg, North Carolina; Piney Woods Country Life School, Piney Woods, Mississippi; Southern Normal School, Brewton, Alabama; Pine Forge Academy, Pine Forge, Pennsylvania; and Redemption Christian Academy, Troy, New York.


  1. Institute for Independent Education. (1991). On the road to success: Students at independent neighborhood schools. Washington, DC: Author.

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