Editor’s note: Each Saturday in October, redefinED is reviving a post from our archives that speaks to the rich and sometimes surprising history of education choice in the United States. Today’s post, which first appeared in May 2016, tells the story of three Catholic nuns who fought to educate black children who were “pushed to the margins by oppressive public institutions.”
A century ago, three Catholic sisters in St. Augustine, Fla., were arrested for something the state Legislature had recently made a crime: teaching black children at what in the parlance of the time was known as a “negro school.”
The ensuing trial propelled a 266-year-old French Catholic order and America’s youngest Catholic Bishop into the middle one of the wildest and most racially charged gubernatorial campaigns in Florida history. A hundred years ago today, the white sisters won their legal battle, vindicating the rights of private institutions like the Saint Benedict the Moor School that fought to create educational opportunities for black children in the era of Jim Crow segregation.
Black parents’ demand for quality education didn’t begin with Brown v. Board, but hundreds of years before, in chains and in secret. But near the turn of the twentieth century, as Jim Crow laws reversed the progress made under post-Civil War reconstruction, public institutions intended to uplift freed blacks became increasingly inadequate and unequal. Black parents often turned to their own churches or to missionary aid societies, like the Sisters of St. Joseph, to educate their children.
The story of the three white Catholic sisters has been examined over the years by multiple scholars, whose work informs this post. And while details in the historical record are at times murky and ambiguous, the episode sheds light on the countless struggles across the South to educate black children who were pushed to the margins by oppressive public institutions.
Founded in 1650 in Le Puy-en-Velay, a rural mountain town in southern France, the Sisters of St. Joseph took up a mission to serve, educate and care for the poor and disadvantaged. For the next 200 years, the sisters pursued their mission throughout France until they were invited to Florida by Bishop Augustin Verot after the end of the U.S. Civil War.
Verot, a native of Le Puy, recruited eight sisters for a new mission: To educate newly freed slaves and their children.
The sisters established Florida’s first Catholic school for black students in 1867 along St. George Street in St. Augustine. They would go on to establish schools in Key West and in Ybor City. With the financial backing of a wealthy heiress, Saint Katharine Drexel, the Sisters of St. Joseph opened St. Benedict the Moor School in 1898.
The Sisters of St. Joseph, along with other religious groups like the Protestant American Missionary Association, educated black students in private and public schools in Florida for several decades. But then the legislature lashed out against their efforts. “An Act Prohibiting White Persons from Teaching Negroes in Negro Schools” unanimously passed through both chambers without debate, and was signed into law on June 7, 1913.
At the time, the Sisters of St. Joseph, Sisters of the Holy Names, and other Catholic orders operated schools for black children throughout the state. According to historian Barbara Mattick, St. Joseph’s school in Pensacola educated 190 students; St. John the Evangelist in Warrington had 34; St. Francis Xavier School in Key West, had 95; St. Benedict the Moor, in Ybor City, educated 125 students; St. Peter Claver in Fernandina had 29; St. Peter Claver in Tampa had 125; St. Benedict the Moor in St. Augustine taught 65.
Bishop William John Kenny turned to his legal counsel, Alston Cockrell, for advice about the new law.
Cockrell believed the law to be unconstitutional. “This discrimination, in my opinion, makes the act void,” he wrote. He advised the bishop to ignore the law and continue teaching black children, or to establish a test case and challenge the constitutionality of the law.
Kenny died in October of 1913, but his successor, 34-year old Bishop Michael Joseph Curley, followed Cockrell’s advice. When authorities asked Curley to remove white teachers from black schools, he refused, and vowed to fight the law all the way to the Supreme Court.
The Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Augustine were celebrating the 50th anniversary of their mission to educate black students of Florida in April 1916, when the sheriff arrived. On orders from Gov. Park Trammell to enforce the law, the sheriff arrested Sister Mary Thomasine Hehir, Sister Mary Scholastica Sullivan and Sister Mary Benignus Cameron. The charge: being a white teacher and “unlawfully teaching negroes in a negro school.”
The arrest of three Catholic sisters attracted national attention and may have even helped propel an open bigot and conspiracy theorist to Florida’s highest elected office.
Sidney Catts, a Baptist preacher, insurance salesman and populist Democrat running for Governor in 1916, concocted elaborate conspiracy theories designed to stoke the fears among Protestant white voters of his day.
On the campaign trail in 1916, the flamboyant Catts made outrageous accusations that Catholics at St. Leo Abbey in San Antonio, Fla., were hording weapons under the church to aid blacks in an armed revolt on behalf of the German Kaiser Wilhelm II. A successful revolt, he warned, would result in Pope Benedict XV moving the Holy See from the Vatican to Pasco County. Once there, the theory ran, the Pope would order all Protestant churches in the state to be closed.
For Catts, the trial of the three sisters for defying state race laws lent credence to these ideas. Highlighting the trial on the campaign trail, Catts argued that Catholics wanted to destroy public schools, and overturn the democratically approved social order of Jim Crow. According to Mattick, the historian, the sisters of St. Joseph and their defiance of state law were portrayed “as an example of how Catholic power spelled changes in Southern racial arrangement.”
Sidney Catts initially won the Democratic nomination, but a recount forced him into the Prohibition Party. He would go on to win the general election.
Meanwhile, following the arrest of the sisters, black schools across the state remained closed as they awaited a verdict.
On May 20, 1916, Judge George Cooper Gibbs ruled that the 1913 law violated the state constitution and the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Gibbs held that the law discriminated against people not only because of the color of their skin, but because of their profession. He wrote:
Has a white teacher any the less right to sell his services to negro pupils than a white doctor to negro patients, or a white lawyer to negro clients, or a white merchant as a right to sell his goods to negro customers, and vice versa?
Ultimately, the judge ruled that the law barring the teaching of black children could only apply to public schools. In his determination, the state had no authority to regulate private schools in such a manner. Segregation in Florida Public Schools would continue for another half-century, but dozens of black private schools were allowed to remain open thanks to his ruling.
St. Benedict the Moor School eventually closed in 1968 as Florida began to desegregate its public schools.
The Sisters of St. Joseph — like countless other educators across the South, from Mary McLeod Bethune to the founders of the Mississippi Freedom School — found a way to educate black students at a time when many public institutions and leaders would not. Their struggles reveal how new and alternative educational options have always had to fight for their survival. But they make today’s fights look easy by comparison.
Adams, Nathan A. “Florida’s Blaine Amendment: Goldilocks and the Separate but Equal Doctrine,” Saint Thomas Law Review, Fall 2011.
Mattick, Barbara E. “Ministries in Black and White” Ph.D. dissertation in History, Florida State University, 2008.
McGoldrick, Sister Thomas Joseph, “Beyond the Call, The Legacy of the Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Augustine, Florida.” 2007.
McNally, Michael J. “Catholic Parish Life on Florida’s West Coast, 1860-1968,” (C) Michael James Timothy McNally, 1996.
Editor’s note: Throughout August, redefinED is revisiting stories that shine a light on extraordinary educators. Today’s post, first published in June 2018, relates how a Cuban immigrant rose to become principal of a Catholic school in south Florida that is becoming increasingly diverse under her leadership.
DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – Vikki Delgado remembers the difficulty her father experienced when he settled the family of six in America.
Living as a Cuban immigrant, he faced backlash. But he sought to bring his family out of Cuba in 1959 just as Fidel Castro was coming to power.
“There was pushback,” Delgado said. People thought “my dad was coming to take jobs away. That somehow opening doors to others is going to take something away from them.”
“You would see signs against Cubans,” she added. “I saw how polarizing that can be.”
The family of six settled in Miami in 1968 after spending a few years in Ohio. He left his home of Cuba right as Fidel Castro emerged in power in 1959.
Arriving in the United States at the age of 3, Delgado did not know a word of English. She began to learn the language at the age of 5 through TV programs such as Captain Kangaroo.
In her 20s, she saw the nativist backlash against the Mariel Boatlift and race riots in Liberty City. Such events affected her deeply.
Delgado is now the leader of St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic School in Delray Beach, Fla. The strife she witnessed in her youth fuels her drive to create a school where all are welcome. Like in Florida Catholic schools as a whole, the student population at her school has grown increasingly diverse.
When she first became principal at St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic School in 2008 there were few minority students at the school.
“Everybody looked the same,” said Desiree Alaniz, a fourth- and fifth-grade teaching assistant at the school. “Everybody spoke the same. You would see one minority child in every three classes.”
When Delgado first took the helm, the school had approximately 318 students, and more than four out of five were white. In the decade since, enrollment has increased by 46 students, and children of color comprise nearly a third of its student population. In other words, the school’s demographics are coming more closely in line with those of the community it serves, and students of color are driving enrollment growth.
This shift at St. Vincent embodies a statewide trend. Data from the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops show the percentage of black and Hispanic students attending Catholic schools has risen steadily since 2011.
Delgado says the desire to welcome all types of children embodies the Catholic faith.
“We are the universal church,” she said. “The same mass is celebrated daily around the world. The traditions may be different. The culture differences are there but that only adds to the richness of the Catholic church and school.”
Delgado said she was able to help diversify the school by offering tax credit scholarships to low-income students and working-class students, and the state’s voucher program for children with special needs, the McKay Scholarship Program. More than a fifth of the school’s students now use one of those two programs. (Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog, helps administer the tax credit scholarship program.)
“It is wanting all families to have choice,” she said. “I think me having a second language, I wanted families seeking a Catholic education to feel at home.”
Delgado is “open with different people from different backgrounds,” Alaniz said. “I think she brought to the school more of a sense of accepting people with their differences: Not only among the students but the culture of the faculty and staff.”
A love of teaching
Growing up, Delgado remembers teaching her siblings at a young age. She discovered she loved helping others learn. Her mother also was a kindergarten teacher at the time, which inspired her toward a career in education.
“I think I was a teacher my whole life,” Delgado said laughing.
At first, she fought the urge to go into teaching, as the arts were calling her. At the same time, her father urged her to stray from the role because he worried about the low salary of a teacher.
But she couldn’t stay away for long.
Delgado studied music and education at the University of Miami, graduating with degrees in both subjects. She then earned a master’s in educational leadership at Nova Southeastern University in 1990. From there, she then taught five years in Miami-Dade public schools.
From 1995 to 2004 she taught Pre-K at St. Vincent Ferrer and then returned in 2008, encouraged by her mother.
Room to grow
Parents have been drawn to St. Vincent’s strong academics and versatile arts programs. The school is planning to expand and renovate thanks to a $6 million dollar fundraising project to create additional space. This will allow the school to double its capacity and put in a science lab, expand the media center and allow space for an early childhood program.
“We are building a new building because I think people in the community trust Delgado a lot,” Alaniz said. “She also brought in all the technology and iPads.”
Dean Charles said his daughter, Angelica, loves dance class at St. Vincent.
Delgado has made an investment in her students and families, Charles said. When he first enrolled his daughter for first grade, Delgado had already become familiar with Angelica’s previous school and its principal.
“She makes it her business to know all of her students,” Dean said. “She always gets back to me. I don’t have to wait until Monday to get an answer.”
Delgado said she learned her work ethic from her father, who never gave up and worked in numerous jobs, from counting money at football games to serving as a bank teller to working as a payroll clerk for the city of Miami, where he retired.
Indeed, Alaniz said it is not uncommon for her to receive an email from Delgado at 3 a.m. She is constantly thinking about ways to improve things at the school.
Eric Keiper, music teacher at the school, said there’s a close-knit, community atmosphere.
“When my wife was in the hospital, every single day Delgado called me as soon as the meeting was over,” he said. “Every single teacher in school asked, how is your wife? The priest went to visit her at 10 o clock at night. It is magical.”
Each year students are invited to come up with a character-based theme the school will emphasize throughout the year.
In previous years, students chose the Oscar Wilde quote: “Be yourself because everyone else is taken.” This past year’s was: “Your life is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift to God.”
“It is living life with a purpose,” Delgado said. “What are you going to do with your life?”
Delgado continues to teach the importance of tolerance and respect for everyone.
When she visited Milwaukee recently and attended a baseball game she heard individuals making fun of the baseball players last names’ because they were Hispanic.
She took the opportunity to let the individuals know kindly that she and her husband were from Cuba.
The two men responded with a surprised look.
“I know God is going to give me an opportunity to teach them a lesson,” she said. “We want to open people’s minds not shut down the mind because we are attacking.”
It is a lesson she teaches students.
“When you are given a choice, choose kindness,” she said. “No one can come back at you with kindness. I see that openness of mind occurring in our children, which gives me hope.”
The teachers unions have discovered that charter schools are enemies of the good society.
Bernie Sanders is with them, warning us that these institutions are anti-democratic and must be brought to heel – that is, in reality, to the heel of the union, which insists that charter schools are essentially private and threatening to work evil among the poor in our cities.
And private they are in varying degrees depending to some extent upon the terms of their particular compact. The point of the original charter concept (1971) was to aid the liberation of the low-income parent and child from subordination to those unchosen strangers from government and union who control the self-styled “public” school located in their compulsory attendance zone.
Charter schools were to give the poor a taste of the personal and civic responsibility enjoyed by wealthier Americans who can and do freely cluster in chosen government schools in the suburbs or pay tuition in the private sector.
Like every traditional “private” school, the charter is held to basic legislated standards of curriculum and safety with one major exception. For better or worse, the most serious governmental imposition on the charter school has been the exclusion of religion.
Though the parental choice among charter schools is completely free, the schools themselves are unfree either to recognize or reject God. They must secure their students’ ears, eyes and thoughts from any suggestion of the divine, either positive or negative, with all the predictable effects of this upon the child’s mind.
In many states, this censorship is defended as a requirement of 19th century “Blaine Amendments” to the state constitution forbidding public aid to religion. The non-Blaine charter states have accepted this intellectual taboo as the norm and as the diktat of the union.
Given relevant precedent and the seeming attitudes of a majority of the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, there seems no barrier under the federal constitution to the extension of the state’s authority to subsidize its parents’ choice of religious charter schools. The larger question will be whether the states are forbidden by our national law to actually exclude aid to the subsidized choice of such schools by parents. Next term, the Court will consider Espinoza vs. Montana Dept. of Revenue, presenting this very issue.
If we have vouchers, must they be for the choice of all legitimate schools? Here the school and parent may one day have reason to thank the teachers union for its clear insight that the charter school is indeed private.
Editor’s note: This month, redefinED is revisiting stories that shine a light on extraordinary students. Today’s spotlight, first published in March 2017, tells the story of a Jacksonville youth who overcame great obstacles to get his life on track.
That’s where Pamela Howard feared her son, Malik Ferrell, would end up after years of struggles at different schools in Jacksonville.
She couldn’t afford to let that happen. Malik needed a caring environment, especially after he and his family were rocked by the murder of his older brother, Derrell Baker.
Pamela had been searching for the right fit for Malik – four different schools in four years.
Finally a friend told her about the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, which allowed her to send him to The Potter’s House Christian Academy.
(Step Up For Students publishes this blog, and helps administer the tax credit scholarship program in Florida.)
That’s where Malik’s life unraveled – and where he ultimately put it all back together.
“Having the opportunity to go to a private school helped get him on track,” Pamela said. “I cannot even tell you the difference it made in his life.”
At his neighborhood school, Malik made mostly D’s in second grade, then mostly F’s in third grade, which he had to repeat.
Three years and three schools later, at the age of 11, he got a fresh start at The Potter’s House.
Then the unthinkable happened.
Just weeks after Malik enrolled, Derrell, 17, was killed in a drive-by shooting. Police had no suspects. There were no arrests.
Pamela was working full-time at Blue Cross Blue Shield, taking complaints in the executive department. The grief and stress overwhelmed her, and the mother of five went on disability. She now works part-time doing billing at McKesson.
“Seeing my momma cry and my sisters cry, it was … it was just a lot to deal with,” Malik said. “That was my only big brother, so there was nothing for me to look up to.”
Derrell was everything to Malik – best friend, football hero, protector, disciplinarian, role model.
When he was killed “I really didn’t care about anything,” Malik said. “It messed me up in school. I was getting in trouble almost every day. I was getting in fights for no reason.”
“He would keep a lot of stuff in,” said Lela Johnson, now principal at The Potter’s House. “He wouldn’t talk to people, and I think what he was doing was trying to see who he could trust.”
With great patience, teachers and administrators taught Malik life skills and self-awareness in addition to academics. It took time, but Malik came to trust mentors like the dean, the guidance counselor, the assistant principal (Mrs. Johnson) and the football coach.
With his grades stabilizing to a C average, Malik began playing varsity football in eighth grade. He had natural talent, just like his brother.
Small, quick and athletic, they both played defensive back and played it well. Derrell was nicknamed “Hype,” and after his death, people began calling Malik “Lil’ Hype.”
By the end of 10th grade, Malik was starting to draw offers for college scholarships. He met with Mrs. Johnson, who charted a course for improved grades, test scores, and behavior.
For the first time in his life, Malik had purpose.
“That summer after 10th grade he had it all together,” Pamela said. “I didn’t have to say a word. He just grew up. The child was in his room, he was constantly doing homework, online classes, volunteering … I mean, I didn’t know who he was! He made a huge, huge turnaround.”
Football helped heal Malik’s wounded heart, and in his final two years of high school he maintained a solid B-average with no behavior issues. His senior year became an extended celebration. First, he turned 18. Then came football signing day, when he announced in front of teammates, classmates and family that he was going to Tusculum College in Tennessee. Then came graduation.
Derrell wasn’t able to do any of those things, but he was with Malik the whole time. He was the inspiration.
“Malik was graduating for himself and he was graduating for his big brother,” Pamela said. When he walked across the stage, he said, “Ma, I did it. I did it for both of us.”
Malik didn’t play in his first season at Tusculum, but now halfway through his freshman year he is proud of his grades – some A’s, some B’s and one C. He’s looking forward to spring football and pursuing a career in sports broadcasting.
Pamela said her Malik’s accomplishments would not have been possible without The Potter’s House and the Step Up scholarship.
“It was amazing,” she said. “I felt completely blessed to even have the scholarship. I don’t know what I would have done without it. I was just thankful, because I honestly knew that I could not afford to send my children to private school and have the opportunity to have someone invest in them. These people go above and beyond. They pour themselves into these students and give of themselves off the clock.”
“To see my son just completely turn around, there aren’t even words. That he overcame these struggles and turned out to become the young man that he is, there are no words to even explain how proud I am of him.”
About The Potter’s House Christian Academy
The school opened in Jacksonville in 1996 with five teachers under the direction of Lady Narlene McLaughlin, wife of Bishop Vaughn McLaughlin. It now has two locations – an elementary and a high school – with 45 full-time staffers and 436 K-12 students, including 348 on the Step Up For Students scholarship. The non-denominational school uses a combination of curricula, including A Beka and Bob Jones University Press. It uses the Stanford 10 as its annual assessment test and the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test. Tuition is $3,900 for K3 and K4, $4,650 for K5, $4,910 for grades 1-5, and $5,000 for grades 6-12.
Belief has never, for me, been a matter of choice.
A natural universe entails a transcendent (if misty) creator. Even in these times of STEM, from nothing comes nothing. And yet, more than a few human minds, some quite celebrated, simply shun that first principle of the very rationality they strive to personify.
In recent years, I’ve subscribed to the atheist magazine Skeptical Inquirer hoping to better understand this intellectual boycott of the origin of all things “natural.” I even offered an essay of my own, hoping to stir conversation on the cognitive legitimacy of this taboo of theirs and thus play my own part as skeptic. The rejection was polite – maybe deserved. In any case, I grieve that the atheist intellectual finds it so threatening to let his mind glance back over the shoulder of his own natural self and run the risk of a surprise encounter.
The atheist’s denial of all but nature can seem a matter of intense emotion; the true unbeliever often appears as untamed by his conviction as is the believer by his. Recently, the New York Tines ran a full-page front-section Sunday ad celebrating non-belief and declaring that the scummy behavior of a number of Catholic clergy liberates all of us from belief in God. It would seem divinity itself is to be tested by the behavior of hypocrites who betray their own moral code. The bad priest is evil by his own professed standard and, therefore … God is dead: This is a sequitur?
The ad makes clear that the minds of its signatory atheists actually share many of these same moral precepts pretended by these phony clerics – while pursued in practice by the faithful. Unbelievers and believers alike applaud most of the same “goods” and those humans who strive to realize them. It is hard to credit the anti-God mind with full rationality in this reproach to belief. Right or wrong, there seems a good deal more than intelligence at work here.
But what have such appraisals of atheist thought to do with the availability of subsidized school choice for the poor? My own experience as a child makes me grieve that such families to this day remain the indentured clients of a curiously narrow-minded school curriculum.
Such intellectually muffled schools are, by law, forbidden to present a coherent picture of the “good life” or even of life itself. The teacher is forbidden to consider the question of the source of physical nature, and the mind of the child is invited to shrink. Darwin is properly welcomed to the student’s mind; evolution of the natural world is highly plausible. But if the student cannot be encouraged to consider how nature, including Darwin himself, came to be, the mind of the child has been cheated.
This is not an argument against government schools. It is simply the observation that the poor, as a matter of both reason and justice, should be given the same options that, in theory, the Constitution guarantees to all of us. If parents prefer the narrow picture of life available in PS 42, they should have their choice. But so also should those who prefer a curriculum that invites the mind to a less provincial view of realty.
Editor’s note: This month, redefinED is revisiting the best examples of our Voucher Left series, which focuses on the center-left roots of school choice. Today’s post from June 2016 tells the story of civil rights activist and school choice pioneer Mary McLeod Bethune, who started a private, faith-based school for African-American girls in 1904 that became known as Bethune-Cookman University.
How fitting: The choiciest of school choice states may soon be represented in the U.S. Capitol by the statue of a school choice pioneer.
A state panel nominated three legendary Floridians for the National Statuary Hall last week, but the only unanimous choice was Mary McLeod Bethune. The civil rights activist and adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt is best known for founding the private, faith-based school that became Bethune-Cookman University.
Assuming the Florida Legislature gives the Bethune statue a thumbs up too, more people, including millions of tourists who visit the hall each year, may get to hear her remarkable story. And who knows? Maybe they’ll get a better sense of the threads that tie the fight to educational freedom in Bethune’s era to our own.
With $1.50 to her name, Bethune opened the Daytona Educational and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls in 1904. There were public schools for black students in early 1900s Florida, but they were far inferior to white schools.
Bethune’s vision for something better was shaped by her own educational experience.
She attended three private, faith-based schools as a student. She taught at three private, faith-based schools before building her own. In every case, support for those schools, financial and otherwise, came from private contributions, religious institutions – and the communities they served. Backers were motivated by the noble goal of expanding educational opportunity. Black parents ached for it. That’s why, in the early days of her school, Bethune rode around Daytona on a second-hand bicycle, knocking on doors to solicit donations. That’s why her students mashed sweet potatoes for fund-raiser pies, while Bethune rolled up the crust.
Failure was not an option, because failure would have meant no options.
Goodness knows, I’m no expert on Mary McLeod Bethune. But given what I do know, I think she’d be amazed at the freedom that today’s choice options offer to educators. More and more teachers, especially in choice-friendly states like Florida, are now able to work in or create schools that synch with their vision and values – and get state-supported funding to do it.
Bethune was forever hunting dollars to keep her school afloat, and it wore her down. In 1902, she asked Booker T. Washington for money. In 1915, she asked philanthropist and civil rights advocate Julius Rosenwald for money. In 1920, she made a pitch on the letters page of the New York Times. (All of this can be found in “Mary McLeod Bethune: Building a Better World,” a nice collection of Bethune’s writing.)
In 1941, Bethune even asked FDR. “I need not tell you what it has meant in Florida to try to build up a practical and cultural institution for my people,” she wrote to the president. “It has taken a wisdom and tact and patience and endurance that I cannot describe in words.”
“We are now in desperate need of funds,” she continued. “My nights are sleepless with this load upon my heart and mind.”
I can’t help but wonder what a superhero like Bethune could have done, had Florida had vouchers and tax credit scholarships a century ago. I don’t mean to dismiss the inequity in funding for choice programs – it’s real, and it deserves more attention – but inequity is relative. The funding streams available for low-income students today would have allowed Bethune to park the bike, forget the pie crust and focus on her core mission.
It would also have allowed her to rally more to the cause.
Bethune, who initially hoped to be a missionary, understood how much education and faith are intertwined for so many parents, and that it doesn’t make sense to pit public against private, or one school against another.
In 1932, she weighed in on a feud between state teacher colleges with an essay that foreshadows the all-hands-on-deck views of many of today’s choice supporters. She referenced the massive number of truant African American students and the “pitiful handful” that graduate from high school. “Unfriendly rivalry was never more needless, never more inexpedient among the schools of Florida than just now,” Bethune wrote.
The same could be said for K-12 education today.
Somehow, though, Bethune managed to end her essay on an up note, with an appeal to common ground:
Florida faces a new day in education. Grim as the picture appears today, it is not nearly so bad as it was just a few years hence, and the aspect is rapidly changing for the better; a veritable miracle is transpiring before the eye. The day for which many warriors now aging in the service have longed, the day for which they have prayed and sweat drops of blood – that new day of the hoped-for better things is approaching. With the scent of victory in the nostril, may every agency redouble its zeal; with jealousies forgotten, with the spirit of competition thrust aside, may every organization and individual unite under the banner of One Common Cause, the grim battle against ignorance and vice, and carry the issue to a glorious victory.