Degree Name

EdD (Doctor of Education)


Educational Leadership

Date of Award

August 1986


The educational efforts of the first fifty years of the 1700s for the Gullahs, black slaves brought to South Carolina's low country, were a by-product of the Church of England's concern for the souls of heathens. Through the Church's offspring, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, missionaries were sent to South Carolina beginning in 1702. By 1704, Samuel Thomas, the Society's first missionary there, reported that he had taught about twenty blacks to read, and by 1743 the Society opened a school for blacks in Charleston despite a 1740 law prohibiting slave education. Using two black slaves as teachers, the Society's school continued until 1764, "graduating" about twenty students a year. After the Revolutionary War, the free person of color population grew in numbers and influence, establishing the Brown Fellowship Society, the first non-white benevolent society in Charleston. One of its activities was the education of members' children. Other societies followed suit, and by 1834 there were dozens of private schools in Charleston for free persons of color. While an 1834 law created additional restrictions on the education of the free persons of color, many private schools continued to operate. As early as 1861, teachers from the North, under the auspices of freedmen aid societies, arrived in the sea islands to help the blacks adjust to their new status. In 1865, their efforts were coordinated by the federal government under the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. With a new state constitution in 1868, the public schools of South Carolina were reorganized. Although tremendous gains were made, by 1870, the majority of the black students were still studying only spelling and reading. After the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision which created a "separate but equal" school system, the actual situation was anything but equal, with black schools in session a shorter term and a higher pupil-teacher ratio for black students. The education of the Gullahs from 1700 to 1900 was the result of compromise, and the blacks suffered from a lack of educational opportunities, not a lack of intellectual abilities.

Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access