Records Move: Education

In this, the next of our continuing series on the records now available on Saturdays, I’m going to focus on the education related collections moved to our new storage space in the Archives and Library building. The complete list of all the materials moved is available as a PDF from our website, but as I’ve mentioned previously I’m breaking down the list into a series of blog posts so that I can tell you more about the records.

More information about these collections can be found in our online catalog MARS, but it will likely take us a while to change the location codes in MARS and our other finding aids so we ask you to please be patient with us.

State Board of Education, 1827-1959

During North Carolina’s colonial era, the task of educating children was left primarily to the parents. For poor, orphaned, or illegitimate children, the systems of apprenticeship and indentured servitude offered some possibility of a basic education. While there was no great agitation for public schools, the concept of education as a public duty lay dormant. However, successive assemblies in 1749 and 1752 defeated bills calling for the establishment of public schools, and a petition to King George II for permission to erect free schools in each county was rejected by England’s Board of Trade. Later when North Carolina sought its independence, there was an attempt to make public education a basic function of the state. Along with its call for one or more universities, the Constitution of 1776 directed that “a School or Schools shall be established by the Legislature for the convenient Instruction of youth, with such salaries to the Masters paid by the Public.”

Despite this constitutional mandate, North Carolina moved slowly in establishing a public school system, and the task of establishing and maintaining schools was assumed primarily by the churches and by enterprising citizens. Instead of funding and administering free schools, the General Assembly of the post-revolutionary era granted charters authorizing private groups and individuals to establish academies, hire teachers, and set tuition rates. By 1800 there were about forty private academies in the state, available almost exclusively to white males from wealthy families. Later, in a significant step toward a system of public education, Governor William Miller appealed to the General Assembly of 1816 to provide financial support to a system of public schools.

As a result of Governor Miller’s efforts, a legislative study committee was appointed under the leadership of State Senator Archibald D. Murphey. The committee studied the best educational systems in the United States and Europe and proposed a general plan of public instruction for all white children, to be supported by a combination of state and local funds. Part of Murphey’s plan was instituted in 1825 when the General Assembly created a Literary Fund for the support of common schools. In 1838 the Literary Board, under the leadership of Governor Dudley, submitted a plan for a system of public schools based on Murphey’s 1817 proposals. In 1839 the first public school law was enacted, dividing the state into school districts with primary schools in each district. By 1846 every county had one or more public schools.

During the Civil War years, the public school system deteriorated, and the Literary Fund was virtually wiped out. However, the 1866-1867 General Assembly authorized towns to establish tax-supported public school systems, and it provided for local trustees and boards of education. A second law required counties to send all official reports to the Board of Literature, instead of to the superintendent, thus attempting to revive the former centralized system of schools.

In 1867 a convention was called to revise the state’s constitution in accordance with a congressional reconstruction plan. The resulting Constitution of 1868 declared free education for all children of the state. It also established a State Board of Education composed of: the governor, as president; lieutenant-governor; secretary of state; auditor; treasurer; attorney general; superintendent of public works (a position abolished in 1873); and the newly established elective office of the state superintendent of public instruction, who served as secretary to the board. Like other elected state officials, he was a member of the Council of State. The board was declared the successor to the powers and trusts of the president and directors of the Literary Fund and was authorized to make all rules and regulations for the free public schools and to manage the educational fund. Under terms of an 1869 act, constitutional provisions were put into effect and the board was given the following additional duties: to invest public school funds in bonds and securities of the state and federal government; to prescribe courses of study, textbooks, and other instructional materials; and to establish a procedure for examining and appointing teachers.

In 1944 voters approved an amendment to the constitution specifying that the eight appointive members of the state board were to come from eight educational districts subject to alteration from time to time by the General Assembly. In 1945 the General Assembly enacted the corresponding legislation to this amendment and further affirmed the board’s role as the state’s central educational authority. It defined the duties of the superintendent as secretary to the State Board of Education, as well as the controller’s duties under the direction of the board. As secretary to the board, the superintendent was charged with the following duties: to organize and administer a Department of Public Instruction in accord with instructional policies established by the board; to inform the board of developments in the field of education; to advise the board of problems and needs within the state; to collect information on the public schools to be used in making reports to the board; to communicate to all school administrators the state board’s procedures and policies; and to keep minutes of the board’s meetings.

In 1954 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Brown v. Board of Education that all public schools were to be racially integrated “with all deliberate speed.” In response, the General Assembly passed a joint resolution stating its policy to maintain school segregation, and it established an Advisory Committee on Education to continue to study the issues and to advise the governor, the General Assembly, the state board and local school boards throughout the state. The committee recommended that the state attempt to meet the federal requirement within the framework of the established system. In response, the 1955 General Assembly adopted a plan whereby local boards were given authority over the enrollment and assignment of children to schools and to bus routes. At a special session in July 1956, the General Assembly proposed a constitutional amendment, known popularly as the Pearsall Plan after the chairman of the advisory committee. It authorized the payment of education expense grants from state or local public funds to pay for private schooling should a student be assigned against his will to an integrated school. The plan was ratified by the popular vote in September 1956; however, it was declared unconstitutional in 1966 following passage of the 1964 federal Civil Rights Act, which contained a provision barring discrimination in public education.

Records include:  swamp land records;  Auditing and Accounting Division records; statistical research and data; Dept. of Curriculum Study and Research records; correspondence; Teacher Allotment and General Control Division records; reports; minutes; financial records; and ledger books, among others.

State Board of Education, Controllers Office, 1880-1970

Records include:  correspondence; applications; school budgets; annual and biennial reports; commission studies; instructional materials; transportation contracts, correspondence, and related records; Literary Loan Fund; Federal Programs Division files; salary schedules; tort claims material; newspaper clippings; and printed materials.

State Education Commission, 1827-1958

Appointed by the governor the State Education Commission consisted of members from  educational groups within the state and members who were selected from the agricultural, business, industrial and other organizations within North Carolina. The purpose of the commission was to study all educational problems, develop an overall educational program, and to report their findings and make recommendations to the governor and the General Assembly.

Records include: correspondence of the Executive Secretary.

State School for the Blind and Deaf (Gov. Morehead School), 1843-1945

In 1845 the General Assembly designated funds to be drawn from the Literary Fund for the education and maintenance of poor and destitute deaf and blind persons in the state. The act also provided an annual levy of seventy-five dollars per pupil to be paid by the student’s county of residence. These funds were to be used to hire teachers for a state school, or to place pupils in the existing institutions of other states. In 1845 a school was begun in Raleigh to educate deaf pupils. In 1847 the General Assembly appropriated funds to build a facility for the school in or near Raleigh, and construction began on a site in Caswell Square.

In 1849 the institution was placed under the control of its own board, the President and Directors of the North Carolina Institute for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb, instead of the Literary Board.  In 1851 the statue was changed to state that the governor would appoint board members, subject to approval by the General Assembly, and also that paying pupils could be accepted as well as indigent pupils. In 1851, the institution began accepting blind students. In 1852 the county levy for pupils was extended from four to seven years of support in the institution, and the name of the school was changed to the NC Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb and of the Blind.

In 1855 the corporate title was changed to the NC Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and Blind. In 1869 the nation’s first school for blind or deaf black children began as a separate department of the institution, and in 1873 the General Assembly appropriated funds for buildings to accommodate the black students. Established as the Institution for the Colored Deaf and Dumb and Blind, this department was located in Raleigh on South Bloodworth Street.

In 1881 the General Assembly reaffirmed the corporate status of the institution and stated that the seven-member board of trustees was to be appointed by the governor for six-year terms after staggered first terms. White and black deaf and blind children between the ages of eight and twenty-one were to be accepted.

In 1894 a separate institution for white deaf children opened in Morganton, and the deaf children from the Caswell Square campus were transferred to that school. The General Statutes were revised in 1905 and the name of the institution was changed to the State School for the Blind and Deaf. In 1908 the General Assembly enacted a compulsory education law for blind children. Blind children between seven and seventeen were required to attend the state institution or a similar school for eight, nine-month sessions. A similar law had been passed in 1907 requiring white deaf children between eight and fifteen to attend a school for the deaf for five, nine-month sessions.

In 1913 the General Assembly appropriated funds to purchase a new campus site on Ashe Avenue to replace the Caswell Square facility. The Ashe Avenue campus opened in 1927. In 1917 the board was authorized to hire a superintendent to manage both departments of the institution. Under the superintendent, the head teachers of the Ashe Avenue unit and Bloodworth Street unit became the principals of their respective departments. In 1929 the General Assembly authorized the sale of the Bloodworth Street campus, and appropriated funds for the construction of a new facility five miles southeast of Raleigh. In 1931 the Negro Division of the State School for the Blind and Deaf moved to the new campus on Garner Road.

In 1969 the institution was renamed the Governor Morehead School in honor of Governor John Motley Morehead, whose advocacy was instrumental in the establishment of the school. In 1969 racial references to white, colored, or negro were eliminated from the General Statutes, and the Governor Morehead School began the process of integration.

Records include: board members files; minutes of Board of Directors meetings; past curriculum files; general records; correspondence from the principal; registers of students, general records; enrollment books; and grade reports.

Superintendent of Public Institution, Buildings and Grounds, 1899-1900

For over a decade after passage of North Carolina’s first Education Act in 1839, the state school system lacked general supervision other than that provided by the Literary Board, its financial manager. During the 1840s the General Assembly failed to act on the board’s recommendation that a central office be established to oversee the school system. However, in 1852 the General Assembly responded by creating an office of superintendent of common schools, subject to election by the General Assembly for a term of two years. Under the law, the superintendent was required to make recommendations concerning teacher’s qualifications, to deliver public lectures on education, and to attend meetings of the Literary Board. The board remained in charge of the Literary Fund, a permanent public endowment and the state’s primary source of public school support during the ante-bellum period. Nevertheless, the superintendent was required to oversee the distribution of all money and escheated property to the various schools.

The school system continued to operate during the Civil War years, but collapsed at the beginning of Reconstruction in the wake of the loss of the state’s investments, including the Literary Fund. The office of superintendent became defunct in 1865, and public education received little attention until the Constitutional Convention of 1868. As a reflection of renewed interest in education, the State Constitution of 1868 devoted an entire article to education with provisions for the office of public instruction and for a uniform system of free public schools. A State Board of Education, which was to include the state superintendent of public instruction, was authorized to make rules for the system and to manage the school funds. The state superintendent was also designated as the board’s secretary. Under terms of the constitution, the state superintendent was to be elected by popular vote for a term of four years and to serve as a member of the Council of State, an advisory body to the governor. By terms of the constitution, financial sources other than the Literary Fund were to provide support for the free public schools–primary taxation and “ordinary public revenue.”

Under legislation enacted by the 1869 General Assembly, the duties of the state superintendent were as follows: to direct operations of the system; to print the school laws in pamphlet form and to distribute them to the counties; to enforce the public school laws and other regulations; to sign all requisitions on the state auditor for payment of money out of the state treasury for public school purposes; to apportion to each county its share of the school fund; and to keep office at the seat of government in Raleigh and to report to the governor annually. Under separate legislation, the state superintendent was directed to correspond with other educators and to investigate other school systems; to become acquainted with the particular educational needs of each section of the state; and to serve ex officio as director of several institutions, including the State Orphan Asylum, the State Reform School, and the Asylum of the Deaf and Dumb and Blind. The 1869 legislation also made provisions for the racially separate education of the state’s children.

In 1889 the General Assembly enacted a law abolishing the white normal schools and providing instead for the support of county institutes throughout the state under the regulation of the state board. The state superintendent was directed “at his discretion” to submit questions for the examination of teachers.

In 1901, Governor Charles B. Aycock popularized his ideas through public appearances across the state, including the notion that local taxes should be used to support the schools. For the first time, the 1901 General Assembly made a direct appropriation of tax funds to enable those districts lacking sufficient funds of their own to hold four-month school terms. During the same period, the old State Literary Fund, under the direction of the state board, was reorganized to provide a revolving loan fund for the building of elementary schools. Subsequently, the General Assembly enacted a series of laws that expanded the functions of the office of state superintendent and changed its character from little more than a clerkship to that of a major agency of the state. In 1901 the General Assembly charged the state superintendent with prescribing rules and regulations for libraries located in rural public schools. Also, in the event of complaints about the performance or conduct of a county superintendent or member of a county board of education, the state superintendent was required to file those charges with the appropriate county board. Subsequently, the county board was to conduct an investigation, and all appeals were to be submitted to the state board. In 1903 the General Assembly required that the county boards of education and other school officers were to obey the state superintendent and accept his interpretation of the school law. All schools receiving money from the state were to submit reports both to the county and state superintendent, and were subject to the supervision of the state superintendent. Under a separate law, the county boards of education were directed to report the following to the state superintendent: the amount of school funds available from local sources, student enrollment, and average daily attendance figures. The state superintendent in turn reported these figures to the state board, which determined the amount of funds apportioned to each district. Additionally, the state superintendent or his appointee was authorized to supervise any county utilizing the state’s loan fund for the construction of schools.

During the latter part of the 1910s, the General Assembly enacted legislation allowing the counties to issue bonds to build schools. Funds from bond sales, combined with the Rosenwald Fund which was used primarily for building schools for rural blacks, resulted in a major increase in the construction and renovation of buildings. In the midst of this expansion, in 1917 a new position was created under the state superintendent and designated as the state agent for Negro schools.

In a 1923 state auditor’s report, the state superintendent’s office was referred to as the Department of Education, although during that same period it was also referred to variously in legislation and official papers as the Department of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Department of Public Instruction, with the latter name being used almost exclusively by the 1930s.

Records included in the newly moved Buildings and Grounds files: receipts from 1899-1900 and 1922