Peabody Education Fund Essay

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The Peabody Education Fund was the first of several philanthropic foundations established by Northern industrialists during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that focused on education in the Southern United States. George Peabody, a New England merchant and banker, established the fund in 1867 to support the growth of common schools throughout the South. Capitalized by bonds worth more than $1 million, the monies were to be distributed without restriction to those in need.

The fund initially supported state-controlled public education, granted scholarships to students who were preparing to be teachers, and promoted the HamptonTuskegee model of industrial education for Blacks. By 1871, the fund had established a racially based system of assistance to public schools. The fund’s allocation to schools for African Americans was two thirds the amount of aid dispersed to schools for Whites.

Led by its first general agent, Barnas Sears, the fund concentrated on increasing the number of “normal schools.” Perhaps the most notable institution founded under this initiative was the Central Normal College of the South, later renamed Peabody Normal College, in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1875. In 1911, the fund’s remaining activities were incorporated into the Rockefeller philanthropy general education board.


  1. Curry, J. L. M. (1969). A brief sketch of George Peabody and a history of the Peabody Education Fund through thirty years [Reprint]. New York: Negro Universities Press. (Original work published 1898)
  2. Dillingham, G. A. (1989). The foundation of the Peabody tradition. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

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