I was very pleasantly surprised to find so many photographs of African-Americans attending school during the late 19th century and early 20th century. These photographs are all in the Library of Congress.
You will notice how nicely dressed the students are, which is very contrary to ideas that some people may have about African Americans at the turn of the century.
Above is a photo circa 1902 of an African-American teacher and students. The children are learning about corn and cotton.
African-American girls are in class learning how to cook on a wood stove. (around 1899) This was a necessity back then. Today we think cooking on a wood stove is romantic. I would love to have a wood stove like the one in the photo for my kitchen. I love the clothes and the aprons. I have two white vintage ceramic bowls like the one resting on the stove.
At the Tuskegee Institute African-American students are learning how to make mattresses.
At the Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) students learn how to do laundry.
Students in Bible history class at Hampton Institute.
Hampton Institute – Students painting carriages.
Students performing tests at Hampton Institute.
Students studying Whittier at Hampton.
Students in the lab studying plants at Hampton.
Hampton students on a field trip studying soil formation.
The American Indian orchestra at Hampton Institute.
The African-American band at Hampton.
African-Americans and American Indians studying ancient Egyptian history at Hampton.
Hampton students studying insects.
Hampton students studying drawing.
Young men mixing fertilizer at Hampton.
Liberal arts and sciences class at Hampton.
Students in class making butter at Hampton.
Hampton students learning how to use machinery. The students are African-American and American Indians.
Plastering walls at Hampton.
Hampton students in chemistry lab.
Hampton female students learning about the human respiratory system.
Male students in carpentry workshop at Hampton.
Hampton students learning how to plow a field.
Home economics class at Hampton.
Hampton student graduation dinner at home.
American Indian children before they would be entering Hampton Institute.
African-American girls learning to sew in school.
I know that I am “dating” myself, but I do remember being in second grade and my class looking very much like this one. I attended a school that was around for many years. The classrooms were huge and the floors were wood planks just the same as in this photo. The blackboard took up the front and one wall on the side. On the other side were humongous windows. Those old-time desks were still in all the classrooms, but, of course, we were no longer using the round indentation on the upper right side of the desk. That was the inkwell that students used to dip their pens in. The chairs were not comfortable at all. I am really glad that I came along just in time to see and experience in real life what school classrooms were like in the 19th century.
African American girls working on a craft project in class.
students on a field trip outdoors studying leaves.
African-American students on a field trip standing in front of the Horatio Hornblower statue.
Andrew Carnegie at the 25th anniversary of Tuskegee Institute.
An older couple eating dinner in front the fireplace in their home in rural Virgina. This is living in poverty in late 19th century. I sure love that fireplace and the wood floors. I wonder what this couple was thinking as Frances Benjamin Johnston took this picture. Who are they? What was their day-to-day life like? Who are their descendants today?
All photos were taken by Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864 -1952).