5 Afro Americans that changed the dynamics of education in US

The words by Luther King Jr. were rightly said to ignite the light of courage, spirits, and wisdom in the people to shine like a star in the darkness of slavery.

Education in the USA has evolved over time. Today children have access to everything. They can sit at home and get home tutoring at the same time have the power to learn. Technology has transformed everything and education has evolved over time.


Modern education gives more facility, flexibility and better accessibility of resources to individuals. Now students can study as per their convenience through online tutoring classes. However, this situation was a piece of a dream for the black people, where “how to learn“ was not the question but “why to learn” was the biggest struggle they had to face.

What was Black Slavery?

Going back to history, it all started from 17 or 18th century where people were kidnapped from the continent of Africa, forced to do slavery in the American colonies. They were exploited to work as indentured servants and labor in the production of crops such as tobacco and cotton. These people were treated as slaves. Slave owners used to make their slaves completely dependent on them.

They were usually prohibited from learning to read and write, and their behavior and movement were very restricted as compared to white people. Many owners also took sexual liberties with slave women, and rewarded obedient slave behavior with favors, while rebellious slaves were brutally punished. If to sum up, the people who were brought from Africa were humiliated and treated like a slave. To be more correct, they were like prisoners in the jail who were restricted, punished and looked down on.

History of Black Education

As mentioned above, the colored people were not allowed to read and write as this was the thing of supremacy. The need and demand for education started to become more prominent by mid of the 1800s. From 1865 to 1871 a handful of black colleges were founded including Fisk University, Lincoln Institute (now Lincoln University), the Augusta Institute (now Morehouse College), and Alcorn College (now Alcorn State University). By 1900, more than 2,000 students had obtained degrees from black colleges. The changes happened when in 1954 the Supreme Court asked all states to rectify their school policies to incorporate equal opportunities for black and white students.

With the civil rights movement in 1960, the desegregation of public education started to happen. By 1971 the majority of schools in the Southern states had achieved racial integration, following the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that were made for color equality.

This movement (Reconstruction) was like a wildfire that got spread across and people asked for justice, equality and right to education. Some of the personalities that became part of this journey to break the chains of slavery changed the dynamics of education in the USA forever. These people studied, fought and struggled to set an example of motivation to others that helped to change the education dynamics of the country.

Alexander Twilight- the first African-American to receive a bachelor’s degree in America


Graduate from Middlebury College in 1823. Alexander was elected to the Vermont General Assembly in 1836, he became the first African American to serve in a state legislature in the United States. He was also licensed as a Congregational preacher and worked in education and ministry all his career. In 1829 Twilight became principal of the Orleans County Grammar School.  In 1847, Twilight moved to Quebec, Canada for five years, but then returned to serve as headmaster in Brownington.

Kelly Miller- the first Black mathematics graduate student


Miller received his early education in one of the local primary schools established during Reconstruction and, based on the recommendation of a missionary; attended the Fairfield Institute in Winnsboro, South Carolina from 1878 to 1880. Awarded a scholarship to Howard University, he completed the Preparatory Department’s three-year curriculum in Latin, Greek, and Mathematics in two years (1880-1882), and then attended the College Department at Howard from 1882 to 1886.

Miller was of the thought that people with higher education would be capable to lead in the difficult political and social circumstances following the defeat of Reconstruction. He said that black Americans need to secure higher education in their own institutions to grow and prosper.

Virginia Randolph- the United States’ first “Jeanes Supervising Industrial Teacher”


Randolph was known for her vocational training, with her distinctive educational style of involving parents, creativity, and common sense. She improved industrial skills and education in black. With the freedom to design her own agenda, she shaped industrial work and community self-help programs to meet the specific needs of schools. She promoted the style of study that was interactive and interesting.

Her ideology could be reflected even today where there are multiple online learning interactive platforms and other ways that promote self-learning and recreational learning style that was initially started from Virginia. Interesting and recreational studying.

Inez Beverly Prosser- the first African-American female to receive a Ph.D


Inez graduated valedictorian from Yoakum Colored High School in 1912 and then received a degree in teacher training from Prairie View Normal College where she was also valedictorian (Warren, 1999). Inez then accepted the position of a teacher in Austin after her degree, where she took up classes at Samuel Huston College. In approximately 1924, she graduated with distinction from Samuel Huston with a major in education (Warren, 1999). The lady was the first person to get a doctorate which was an iconic achievement for Black American especially women.

Booker T. Washington- the founder of teachers’ college Tuskegee Institute for blacks


Washington founded the teachers’ college Tuskegee Institute for blacks in 1881 in Alabama and was famous for teaching African-Americans to help themselves through education and hard work. He was the first one who motivated them to study and work by themselves probably one of the homeschooling initiatives to have learning under the guidance of parents at home convenience. Booker Taliaferro Washington was an American educator, author, orator, and advisor to multiple presidents of the United States. Between 1890 and 1915, Washington was the dominant leader in the African American community and of the contemporary black elite that spread the wave of self-education amongst the people.

In Today’s Time

From then to now the blacks have come upfront fought the slavery with all pride and are now vocal about their rights. They are open to every opportunity be it sitting in the schools with white kids or getting online homeschooling from the best of teachers as per their convenience. They are authors, orators, and educators. All the big organizations today work in harmony to empower real talents. Let us have a look at how UNICEF is contributing to the black month below.

Today everyone supports you for what you are as a person and contribute value to the world rather than what color you carry.


They all suffered but they all survived and stayed strong. The life of Blacks was not easy but they fought for their rights and each joined their hands in harmony to bring equality. And the positives always attract positive and today we have people like Mr. President Obama, Oprah Winfrey, etc who stand tall and now are celebrated iconic personalities that have broken the chains of racism all across be it education, culture or rights.

Cheers to bravery!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *