On Monday 9 October, the Edinburgh University History Society hosted a lecture in the Teviot Dining Room by Dr. Hilary Green, regarding the subject of her latest book titled: ‘Educational Reconstruction: African American Schools in the Urban South, 1865-1890’.
An Assistant Professor at the University of Alabama, Dr. Green’s “research and teaching interests include the intersections of race, class, and gender in African-American history, the American Civil War, Reconstruction, Civil War Memory, the US South, 19th Century America, and the Black Atlantic” (The University of Alabama 2017).
Her talk was titled, “Quality Public Schools: An Educational Legacy Worth Remembering”, highlighting the significance of African-American education post-Civil War during the Reconstruction period.
Dr. Green explained the danger for recently freed African-Americans to live in the South during this period, let alone working to build schools in order to educate their communities.
While this fear is often remembered, according to Dr. Green, the actual success and innovations of these public schools are not.
She described that not only did African-Americans have to work tirelessly to obtain resources in order to build schools in the first place, but that they were able to give a quality education to their students from state-funding and thus successfully set an example for the future of education systems in the United States.
After the informative lecture, Dr. Green expounded on why the discussion of education in this history is so vital to us today.
Speaking to The Student, Dr. Green said, “One of the things I think is significant about this history, is there’s some myths about African-Americans, or people of colour more broadly, that they lack this educational legacy and this richness of diversity, but also this activism and care and culture around education.
“So, by including this information in textbooks in classes, but also opening up spaces for that diversity, I think we can create the social, economic opportunities for all people and push for a more fair and inclusive world and also build upon this history even if it’s difficult, [in order to] make decisions for a better tomorrow.”
Dr. Green’s talk and recently published book both cover the narrative rarely told in courses covering the history of the United States.
She has stressed the importance of honouring this history in order to stray away from ignorance when it comes to black history, especially in the discussions of race we have today.
Blanca Sans, a first year studying Social and Economic History, attended the event, and spoke to The Student: “Being from Spain, I’m no expert in American History. But I thought that Dr. Green did a great job of making the information easy to grasp with context.
“She also made the focus very interesting and unique. I am definitely glad I was able to go and learn about the legacy African-Americans had on education.”
Image: Dienu Prihartadi