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Laboratory of Learning

HBCU Laboratory Schools and Alabama State College Lab High in the Era of Jim Crow

Series:

Sharon Gay Pierson

During the progressive education movement, laboratory high schools evolved from model schools that were part of the core teacher training curriculum at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). These laboratory schools were at the vanguard of the accreditation battle, participated in national curriculum studies, and boasted high graduation and college entrance rates. Led by well-educated, reform-minded African Americans who molded their own approaches to teaching and curriculum and were grounded in sound progressive educational theory, these HBCU lab high schools represented privileged educational experiences. Yet, this collective effort of high-achieving Black lab schools has been overlooked by historians. Through an examination of Alabama State Teachers College Laboratory High School (1920–1960), Laboratory of Learning illuminates the strategies, challenges, and successes of providing secondary education to Southern Black citizens during the Jim Crow era and provides evidence that HBCU laboratory schools and Lab High should be added to our histories as an example of distinctive, progressive schooling.

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List of Tables ................................................................................................. xi List of Figures .............................................................................................. xiii Acknowledgments ......................................................................................... xv Foreword ..................................................................................................... xvii Introduction ..................................................................................................... 1 Setting ....................................................................................................... 1 Historical Overview.................................................................................. 4 Interrogating the Role of HBCU Laboratory Schools, through Alabama State College Laboratory High School ..................................... 7 Organization ............................................................................................. 8 PART 1—LABORATORY SCHOOLS IN HISTORICAL CONTEXT Chapter 1—Beginnings: The Promise of Secondary and Higher Education .......................................................................................... 17 The Jesse Jones Report: A Firm Foundation or a Specious Study ........ 22 A New Era of Education: Secondary and Laboratory Schools in Progress .............................................................................................. 31 Separate and Unequal: Funding and Control of Black Secondary Education .................................................................... 32 Spreading the Message of Disadvantage: Public Relations Problems ................................................................................................. 40 Chapter 2—Intersections, Opportunities, and Strategies for Advancement, 1920–1940s: Black Laboratory Schools and Progressive Education ............................................................................ 49 viii Laboratory of Learning Meeting the Needs of the South: Dual Perspectives of the “Most Suitable” Black High School Curriculum ................................... 55 Intersections and Opportunities in the Progressive Education Era ......... 61 Curriculum Reconstruction and Experimentation: The Black High School Study .................................................................................. 69 A Paucity of Studies on African American Education ........................... 80 PART 2—CREATING “PRECIOUS SCHOLARS” AT ALABAMA STATE COLLEGE LABORATORY HIGH SCHOOL Chapter 3—Seeds of Inspiration and Effective Administration.................... 95 “A University for Colored People” ........................................................ 95 African American President John William Beverly: Boldly Working within the Alabama Caste .......................................... 111 George Washington Trenholm: “A Master Builder” ........................... 128 Chapter 4—History and Development of Alabama State College Laboratory High School, the “Heart” of the Institution .............................. 139 Harper Councill Trenholm: “Slowly and Cautiously” Influencing Secondary Education ......................................................... 139 Accreditation: Realization, Recognition, and Respect ........................ 151 Partnerships for Advancement ............................................................. 161 The...

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