A New Era in Building Black Educational Activism in Goochland County 1911 1932

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In this article, we will delve into the history of black educational activism in Goochland County, Virginia, from 1911 to 1932. We will explore the efforts made by African Americans in the community to increase educational opportunities for themselves and their children during the Jim Crow era. Through archival records and oral histories, we will uncover the connections between these local efforts and the wider struggle for civil rights in the South.

Key Points

  1. African-American Educational Activism in the Jim Crow Era: Despite white resistance, black communities fought for equal educational opportunities during the Jim Crow era. They utilized various strategies such as writing letters, appearing before local school boards, fundraising, and threatening litigation in order to assert the right to an education equal to that of white children.

  2. The Julius Rosenwald School Building Program: To improve educational opportunities for African-American school children, communities tapped into the growing philanthropic support for southern education. One significant source of support was the Julius Rosenwald Fund. African Americans in Goochland County benefitted from this funding, which helped them secure better treatment and educational resources.

  3. Power and Agency of Rural Black Communities: The struggle for educational equality in Goochland County reflects the power and agency of rural black communities during the Jim Crow era. These communities effectively mobilized to advocate for better treatment and educational opportunities, both within their local context and in the wider civil rights movement. Their grassroots activism was informed by and informed regional and national figures and organizations.

  4. The Challenges of Unequal Educational Opportunities: Throughout the Jim Crow era, white officials offered various rationales for the unequal educational opportunities provided to black students. Some feared that a meaningful education for African Americans would upset the racial and economic order, while others believed that African Americans were biologically inferior and not suited for an equal education. Despite the separate but equal doctrine established by the Supreme Court, local officials often refused to fund black and white schools equally.

  5. Goals of African-American Educational Activism: African-American communities in Goochland County fought for various goals in their educational activism. These goals included adequate school facilities, longer school terms, high-quality teachers, transportation, and the right to a classical or liberal arts education. Their broader objective was to have a stake in local society and politics, recognizing the importance of education for their children.


The history of black educational activism in Goochland County from 1911 to 1932 highlights the resilience and determination of African-American communities during the Jim Crow era. Despite significant challenges and resistance, they fought for equal educational opportunities for themselves and their children. These efforts were part of the wider civil rights movement, with roots stretching back to Reconstruction. By examining the struggles and achievements of black communities in Goochland County, we gain a deeper understanding of African-American activism, educational philanthropy, and southern educational history.

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