Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


American Studies

Second Department


First Advisor

Kenneth Aslakson




Virginia, public school, perceptions, race, ideology


From its founding in 1870 and early development, Virginia’s public school system and its leadership provide a roadmap for many of the factors that have shaped America’s social landscape and racial politics. The onset of a rapidly industrializing Southern economy was instrumental in forming the direction for black education following Reconstruction and embodies the ideological debate regarding the purpose of education as it relates to racial uplift. The emergence of leaders like Booker T. Washington had an enormous impact on reshaping attitudes toward blacks and their potential as citizens. Ultimately, the ideological hegemony which victimized blacks served as a mechanism for reestablishing white dominion over blacks as freedmen. This thesis examines a twenty year span between 1879 and 1899 during the early stages of Virginia’s public school system. In the first chapter, I look primarily at school reports from 1879 to highlight some of the factors of the schools’ development that were detrimental to blacks such as racist ideology, marginalization from school administration, and trends of northern assimilation. In the second chapter, I show how much of the racist ideology has manifested itself through a form of industrial and vocational education that thwarted many of the ideals of liberation and freedom that education was initially intended to foster. Additionally, I use evidence from Booker T. Washington’s speeches like his “Atlanta Compromise” and contrast them with criticisms from W.E.B. DuBois’ Souls of Black Folk in order to demonstrate the process by which Washington’s views conformed nicely to white ideological hegemony.