Technical or Academic Training
for African Americans?
At the same time as many teachers were beginning to organize there was a growing debate about what kind of education African American children should get. W.E.B. DuBois believed that schools and colleges for African American children should include all of the same courses and curriculum as white schools did in order to promote equality. Booker T. Washington on the other hand felt that African American schools should be practical and train African American children in the type of jobs that were available to them. By his opinion students should simply receive technical training. Within these schools girls learned things like cooking, washing, and sewing. White donors mostly favored Washington’s model and the number of technical schools for African Americans began rising around the country.
Following this model Mary McLeod Bethune founded Daytona Educational and Industrial School for Negro girls in 1904. The girls were taught basic academics and also learned things like how to do laundry, clean houses, make brooms and raise chickens. In addition to academics and technical skills Bethune taught her students to respect themselves and she gave them the confidence to excel at everything they did in life. Over time, Bethune’s school was expanded to a high school, junior college, and finally to a college which was renamed Bethune-Cookman college, and still exists today.
In Washington D.C., Nannie Helen Burroughs started a similar school called the National Training School for Girls and Women. In addition to the regular coursework and technical skills, Burroughs required her students to take a course in African American History in order to reinforce racial pride.