What is a missionary school?

The Vernacular In Indian Schools

This question is not settled. One thing that has kept it unsettled has been the uncertain use of the term “missionary schools” in the Orders of the Indian Department. What is precisely a missionary school? Let me try to explain. There are three kinds of schools in the nomenclature of the Indian Office, based on the sources of their support.

  • Government Schools, supported wholly by Government appropriations—such as those at Carlisle, Genoa, etc. These may be left out of the account in this discussion, for no one objects to the Government’s directing the studies in them.
  • Contract Schools, so called because the missionary societies which sustain them receive under contract with the Government a certain amount of money in aid of their support. The school at Santee, Nebraska, and the school at Yankton, Dakota, are specimens of this class. But these are mission schools, for the societies which support them would not continue to do so for a day except for their missionary character; and yet these schools are classed by the Department not as missionary but as contract schools.
  • Missionary Schools, which are supported wholly by missionary funds, the Government contributing nothing. Here, again, in the recent order, the Department employs the confusing use of terms, speaking in general terms of “missionary schools,” and then of missionary schools under the charge of “native Indian teachers,” and at remote points; the inference being that the white teacher of a missionary school, though it may be in a place so remote that neither the pupils nor the people can understand the English language, cannot teach in the vernacular.

With these explanations we present, under date of Feb. 11, 1888.

Our Schools and the Yellow Fever

We have been extremely gratified with the manifestations of faith and courage on the part of our lady teachers in the South during the time of fear and panic because of the yellow fever. Some were already at their stations and in their schools, and some were on the way, subject to the trials of quarantine. Not one hesitated in the path of duty. Many teachers from the different parts of the North were ready to go when the reports of the pestilence were most alarming, but not one of the teachers who had previously been in [pg 301] the work, failed to await instructions to go forward whenever we should speak the word. We have been grateful to God during all these days of the autumn for the splendid qualities of consecration and courage which have come out of our correspondence with our honored teachers. Never did their fathers or brothers, years ago, when deadly war called them to face the perils of battle, show higher courage or a larger sense of duty. Almost all of our Southern schools are now in session, and begin with increased attendance.

School Echo.—A teacher writes: “One of my pupils who had been teaching during the summer came to me in despair over a sum, saying: “I can’t understand sympathizing fractions.”

(When we went to school years and years ago, “sympathizing fractions,” meant broken candy. We understood, but the teacher didn’t. Times change, and we change with them.)

Our Schools

Our missionary work has been largely in schools. It was God’s providence. But these were always missionary centers.

Their number at the present time is ninety-three; seventeen of these in the Southern States are Normal Schools from which a large proportion of the pupils go forth as teachers. It is computed that of the 15,000 Negro teachers in the South instructing 800,000 pupils, 13,500 became teachers from missionary schools, and that a great army of more than 7,000 of these teachers received their education in the institutions of the American Missionary Association. Thus the faith of the churches multiplies and accelerates itself.

These Normal Schools are located in Wilmington, N.C., Charleston And Greenwood, S.C., Atlanta, Macon, Savannah, Thomasville And McIntosh, Ga., Mobile, Athens And Marion, Ala., Memphis, Jonesboro, Grand View And Pleasant Hill, Tenn., Lexington And Williamsburg, Ky., to which must be added the large Normal and Industrial School at Santee Agency, Nebraska, the Oahe Industrial School and the Fort Berthold Industrial School, both in Dakota, and all three for the Indians, making altogether 20. The Association provides also the entire teaching force at the Ramona Indian School at Santa Fé, New Mexico. To these Normal Schools, we may add the six normal departments in our colleges with their superior normal instruction. From nearly all of these, strong appeals for enlargement have come to meet the demands of a healthy growth. We have cut, trimmed and denied, with a resolution that has been painful both in the office and in the field, and yet the growth is upon us. Without pushing our work, it is pushing us.

While ignorant millions need the truth and knowledge which we have, and there are resources in the hands of the disciples of Christ enough for this vast and increasingly urgent work, the necessity of denying the provisions for the development of success becomes well-nigh oppressive.

At Pleasant Hill, Tenn., an important center in our Mountain work, we have now, in addition to the new church, a school building unequaled in that region. A second building for a dormitory and boarding hall is nearly completed.

The Grand View Academy in the Mountain region, has also increased its school accommodations, and the look forward is to a large institution with far-reaching influence in the valley of the Cumberland and on the plateau. If we are to hold this region, we must take possession now.

We have also re-assumed charge of a school at Beaufort, N.C. The people are already appealing to us in the accents of their own sacrifices for its immediate enlargement.

Providentially, and without our solicitation, a generous giver, of Brooklyn, N.Y., who had already added to many large benevolences in the South, the fine building known as Ballard Hall and the excellent shops for industrial training at Tougaloo, made a proffer of $11,500 to erect at Macon, Ga., a school building of brick, capable of accommodating six hundred pupils. This successful school had grown until it had taken possession of the church building for school purposes. This noble gift, bestowed after a personal inspection on the part of Mr. Ballard, and upon personal conviction of its immediate necessity, could not be refused, and the substantial and spacious building, with its furnishings, is now nearly ready for occupancy. It will call for increased contributions from the churches.

Dorchester Academy, at McIntosh, Ga., is in a rice region remote from civilization and educational privileges, among thousands of Negro people very ignorant and poor. It cannot receive the pupils who beg for admission. Children are punctual at school from a distance of eight miles, lest they shall lose their privileges by tardiness or absence. Africa itself could scarcely send out a cry of greater need. We had decided to increase the capacity of this school, but are compelled to wait.

At Greenwood, S.C., the interests are so great and the appeals were so reasonable, that it was voted to enlarge the facilities for the growing institution; but at the last we could not do this, and the laborers there continue their prayers and their hopes.

The Lincoln Normal Institute at Marion, Ala., was established in the year 1868, by the A.M.A. In the year 1874, the State of Alabama asked to assume the school, which had won a good name, and to increase its facilities for the education of the Negro. This was done. Last year, the work was deserted by the State and came anew into our hands. This, also, is an enlargement upon our schedule of work.

At Lexington, Ky., our Normal School has grown to such a degree that even the vestibules and halls of our insufficient building were crowded with eager pupils. Teachers were teaching, and pupils were studying, in conditions [pg 306] that none but missionary teachers would accept. For lack of room, industrial training has been impossible. The locality, meanwhile, has been surrounded by saloons, and houses that are worse. A benevolent lady who became acquainted with these facts offered $2,000 to purchase four acres of land for school and industrial purposes, and to give money sufficient for a new brick edifice with eight large school-rooms and all needful appointments and furnishings; the gift amounting to $15,000.

We believe that we were not wrong in accepting this trust in your behalf, even though it means more teachers and increased expenditures. We are confident that your Christian faith would not decline this Christian benevolence. Hence the plans for Chandler School are in the hands of the builders. Could some like-minded wealthy steward of the grace of God visit Williamsburg, Ky., in our Mountain White work, we might be compelled to face another such dilemma.

At Meridian, Miss., where Christian parents have besought us for years, past to open a missionary school, through which their children might be saved to morality and integrity of character during the formative periods of their lives, we have at last seen our way to answer their pathetic appeal in part. A day school with an industrial department is ready for the opening, the building having been constructed during the months of summer. For valuable aid in sympathy, counsel and influence in Meridian, we and the people to whom we are sent are greatly indebted to Rev. Wm. Hayne Leavell, of Meridian.

Whitney Hall, for the Indian boys at Santee Agency, is another noble gift of large Christian faith for our Normal School in Nebraska. We summoned our courage to take this, also, with what the enlargement includes.

These are the chief additions to our system of schools, though there have been less marked enlargements in other places. They are simply the growths of strong faith and strong life. They are the free and special gifts which came to us through the convictions of others who had realized the need.

The common schools, 35 in number, in eight different Southern States, are in the hands of faithful teachers.

There are six Chartered Institutions, behind which we have stood the year past.

Talladega College in Talladega, Ala., has had a year of exceptional interest. The college work is developing and the theological school was never better. The industrial departments in agriculture and the mechanic arts offer fine advantages. The institution increases in popular favor and is full of students.

Atlanta University in Georgia, under the temporary presidency of Prof. Francis, who was also college preacher and pastor, has moved on in its usual course. Through the successful solicitation of Prof. Bumstead, with our cordial and constant endorsement, sufficient Christian money came into the treasury to meet the deficiency caused by the withdrawal of $8,000 from the State of Georgia. The Association was able in its grants to share in this satisfactory result. At the last meeting of the Trustees, Prof. Bumstead was elected President for the ensuing year, and Prof. Chase, in view of a removal to New Mexico, resigned the professorship which he had ably held many years.

Straight University at New Orleans, located in the most influential city of the Southwest, draws its students from refined Creole homes and from the rude cabins of the remote plantations. An interesting report gathered from twenty-two of its students who taught school during the summer vacation, tells us that they instructed 1,398 pupils in day schools and organized thirteen Sunday-schools, in which were taught 1,574 children, most of whom were absolutely unreached before. This summer record of Straight University students is a partial illustration of what is going forth from it year by year; and not from Straight only, but from all of our higher schools. The theological work in Straight is of incalculable importance.

Tillotson Institute, at Austin, Texas, has invigorated its normal course and has inaugurated a hopeful college preparatory department. The recipient of a special gift, it was enabled to complete a new industrial building, in which has begun a course of industrial training. It greatly needs a second dormitory hall for young women, and were not the institution so remote, some prophetic giver would see the urgency and the strategy of such a gift, and would make it. If, without the sight, some one shall be led to do this for Tillotson, he will reap the blessing of those who do not see and yet believe.

Tougaloo University, near Jackson, Miss., is an institution of exceeding interest. It has a department of Biblical instruction added to its course of study, in which students are prepared to preach the gospel. Its industrial facilities are excellent, both for agricultural and mechanical training. The students can take the timber from the tree, and the iron in the rough, and make wagons and carriages sufficiently good to compete with the best makers in the State. The school in all of its parts is controlled by the missionary spirit. Rev. F.G. Woodworth, of Connecticut, last year assumed the Presidency.

Fisk University, at Nashville, Tenn., is one of the oldest and most complete of all our Southern colleges, and has no superior among all the institutions in the country devoted to the education of the Negro. Giving relatively less attention to the industries, it models itself after our Northern colleges, and emulates them in the rigor of its intellectual studies and in the thoroughness with which it seeks to make good teachers and preachers; educators in the larger way for the race. It also has a department of theology. It has made its place, which it holds with enthusiasm and fidelity. If some one would give us, or leave us, money to endow this institution, he could scarcely send his influence further down the centuries than in this way. It would tell upon the race and upon the Nation.

In this glance at our schools, we see Christian schools. But they are more, they are missionary schools. We are bearing the torch of Christ into places of darkness. We teach the industries to them because they can be made tributary to the salvation of the people. They are the leaves of the tree of life, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the people.

We may not close this review of our school system without remembering those institutions now standing alone; great Hampton, in whose rich gifts we rejoice, and Berea, another child of the A.M.A., now grown to strength.

To Howard University, at Washington, also, we extend the sympathy of a common purpose, together with such financial aid as we may for the support of its theological course.

We point to these great institutions which have been planted and fostered by the A.M.A., together with those which are still upheld by us, with a feeling akin to that of the renowned Cornelia when she said, “Behold my jewels.”

Total Number of our SchoolsSouth58Indian1876
Total Number of our InstructorsSouth266Indian50316
Total Number of our PupilsSouth9,896Indian58010,476
Theological StudentsSouth87Indian87
Law StudentsSouth73Indian73
College StudentsSouth68Indian68
Preparatory College StudentsSouth105Indian105
Normal StudentsSouth836Indian10846
Grammar Grade StudentsSouth1,996Indian432,039
Intermediate Grade StudentsSouth2,998Indian1083,106
Primary PupilsSouth3,831Indian4194,250

We have, in addition, 17 Chinese Schools on the Pacific Coast, with 39 teachers.



Various. The American Missionary, Vol. 43, No. 8, August, 1889.

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