African American Heritage

Black History Guide: Education

What records relating to Black History can be found at the National Archives (NARA) in Education?

NARA holds records created by the federal government that documented major educational changes (such as school desegregation and busing), as well as records relating to government sponsored institutions including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) that were formed by the Morrill Land-Grant Acts.

Choose a records type to begin browsing, and click on the National Archives Identifier (NAID) to go to the full records description in the National Archives Catalog:

Textual | Photographic | Motion Pictures | Electronic

Textual Records

Record Group 12 - Records of the Office of Education

Ambrose Caliver (1894–1962)

The following series relates to educator Ambrose Caliver who was born in Saltsville, Virginia. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Knoxville College in 1915, a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1920, and a Ph. D. from Columbia University’s Teacher’s College in 1930. Caliver held many positions at Fisk University and was responsible for implementing its vocational education program before becoming the university’s first African American dean. In 1930, Caliver was appointed by President Herbert Hoover as the first Senior Specialist in the Education of Negroes in the U. S. Office of Education. He continued in this position under President Franklin D. Roosevelt and was also Secretary of Interior in President Roosevelt’s "Black Cabinet." Through his position in the Office of Education, Caliver promoted national awareness on the disparities in education between Blacks and Whites. He also a created a nine-part radio series called Freedom Peoples that featured stories on African-American history and achievements.

  • General Correspondence, 1935–1937 [National Survey of Vocational Education and Guidance of Negroes]
    National Archives Identifier: 784174
    Extent: 2 linear feet, 6 linear inches
    This series is arranged alphabetically by name or subject. It consists of the central files of Caliver and Associate Director Harold L. Trigg. The files contain correspondence with members of the Technical Advisory Committee; Franklin O. Nichols, Special Assistant to the Director on Vocational Training in Medicine; Robert C. Weaver, adviser on Negro affairs in the Department of the Interior; and Ira De A. Reid, Director of Research in the National Urban League and also the Director of the Works Progress Administration regarding surveys of training and employment of White-collar and skilled Black workers.
  • Office Files of Ambrose Caliver, ca. 1946–1962
    National Archives Identifier: 731142
    Extent: 4 linear feet, 4 linear inches
    This series is arranged alphabetically by name, subject, or organization. It contains correspondence, memorandums, meeting minutes, conference proceedings, speeches, articles, and reports concerning Caliver's liaison work with organizations that were involved in the education of African Americans, which included the National Commission on Literacy, the National Education Association (NEA), and the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). The series chronicles the work of the Office of Education in formulating a national educational policy and in cooperating with state, local, and private institutions on diversity matters in education. Also included in this series are portions of Caliver's report prepared at the request of Herbert Brownell, Jr., US Attorney General regarding the feasibility of implementing a Supreme Court decision for the desegregation of schools.

Walter G. Daniel (1905–1996)

The following series relates to Educator Walter G. Daniel who earned an A. B. degree from Virginia Union University in 1926, an Ed. D. degree from the University of Cincinnati in 1927, and a Ph.D. from Columbia University’s Teacher’s College in 1941. Daniel taught at Howard University until 1951, when he accepted the position as Specialist in Higher Education in the U.S. Office of Education. In 1961, he returned to Howard University to plan and develop a program for the preparation of elementary school teachers. Daniel wrote approximately 100 books, pamphlets, chapters, articles, editorials, and book reviews. He also served as the Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Negro Education from 1963–1970.

  • Correspondence of Dr. Walter G. Daniel, 1951–1953
    National Archives Identifier: 580318
    Extent: 4 linear feet, 4 linear inches
    This series is arranged into five segments, with each segment arranged alphabetically by name of institution, subject, or name of individual. It consists of correspondence, reports, surveys, and study materials created by Daniel during his tenure as the Specialist in Higher Education in the Office of Education. These records contain Daniel's inquiries about race relations at colleges and universities, and admission rates for African Americans at these institutions, as well as Daniel’s correspondence with officials of the Federal Security Agency, Office of Education, and non-governmental organizations and individuals regarding higher education opportunities for African Americans. Also, included in this series is information on the participation of African Americans in World War II and publications that reference the Brown v. Board of Education case.
  • Publications Relating to Negro Higher Education, 1951–1953
    National Archives Identifier: 650714
    Extent: 1 linear foot, 9 linear inches
    This series is arranged alphabetically by name of organization or publication title. It consists of publications and drafts of publications concerning education of African Americans, integrated schools, and racial and intergroup relations. Included are publications relating to court actions, correspondence to Daniel, interracial news service publications, and records relating to the public schools of: the District of Columbia, St. Louis, Missouri, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
    Some or all of the records in this series may be subject to copyright restrictions.

Historical Files, ca. 1909–1950, documenting the period 1870–1950

National Archives Identifier: 566333
Extent: 41 linear feet, 6 linear inches
This series is arranged by a subject-numeric classification scheme, thereunder, numerically by individual file number. It contains data on Black education. The category labeled “Negro Education” consists of surveys on Black education in the United States. Select surveys include “Thirty-Two Years of Educational Pioneering: A Statement of the Philosophy, Organization and Administration of the Bethune-Cookman College Program for the Education of Negro Youth, 1904–36” and a general survey of Black education made by the Office of Education in cooperation with the Phelps-Stokes Fund. The Negro education category also includes correspondence with Booker T. Washington of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

Office Files of the Specialists in Land-Grant College Statistics, 1912–1922

National Archives Identifier: 734572
Extent: 5 linear inches
This series is arranged chronologically by date. It consists of reports, memoranda, and correspondence of specialists Benjamin F. Andrews and Walton C. John, who audited educational and financial data about land-grant colleges, and provided advice and information to these institutions. Included are records relating to an exhibit about land-grant colleges at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915, a study of college financial administration (published as Bureau of Education Bulletin No. 8 in 1920), and records on Black schools.

Office Files, 1928–1980 [Commissioner of Education]

National Archives Identifier: 573507
Extent: 506 linear feet, 7 linear inches
This series is arranged chronologically by year, generally in one-year blocks, and thereunder by type of file. These records include topics concerning racial balance in schools, segregated cafeterias, school district plans under the Civil Rights Act, student unrest, poor people's demands, desegregation plans, urban education, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), affirmative action, Operation EXCEL, civil rights compliance, and discrimination. This series also contains progress reports, legal documents, correspondence, and newspaper and magazine articles relating to desegregation in Prince Edward County, Virginia, and the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.

Records Relating to Appointment Data, 1934–1942

National Archives Identifier: 784131
Extent: 1 linear foot, 8 linear inches
This series is arranged numerically by corps area. It consists of letters transmitting personnel forms; summary reports of appointments in each corps area; and information on the appointment of educational advisers in districts, corps areas, and African American camps.

Records Relating to Desegregation in Education, 1962–1974

National Archives Identifier: 579894
Extent: 1 linear foot, 8 linear inches
This series is unarranged. It consists of information papers, correspondence, articles, legal documents, and publications pertaining to desegregation of schools. Articles and publications of particular interest include:

  • "Brief for the United States on the Further Argument of the Questions of Relief", a booklet
  • "A Legal Authority Analyzes Proposals for Continuation of Separate Schools", an article by John T. Fey
  • The Nation's Schools magazine
  • newspaper clippings from The Washington Post and The Times Herald about the Brown v. Board of Education case
  • articles from US News & World Report (May 28, 1954) entitled "Will South End Negro Schools", and "What Negroes Want Now - Interview with Walter White, Secretary, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People"
  • the full text of the United States Supreme Court opinion on the Brown v. Board of Education case

Also included in this series is correspondence relating to the closing of schools in Norfolk, Virginia as a result of the Brown decision. Legal documents in this series pertain to desegregation in South Carolina and the Brown case.

Title IV Case Files, 1965–1970

National Archives Identifier: 649950
Extent: 26 linear feet, 2 linear inches
This series is arranged numerically by project number. It consists of case files documenting the administration of the provisions of Title IV, PL 88-352, which provided money for civil rights educational activities. Each case file consists of a project proposal, evaluations of the proposal, notification of grant awards, and progress reports. The case file may also contain biographies of school personnel, information about a school district, or information about the organization sponsoring the training.

Emergency School Assistance Program Case Files, 1971–1973, documenting the period ca. 1965–1973

National Archives Identifier: 1074745
Extent: 48 linear feet, 8 linear inches
These records were created to determine school district eligibility for grants under the Emergency School Assistance Program (ESAP), which aimed to confront needs produced by the desegregation of elementary and secondary schools.

This series is arranged alphabetically by state and thereunder alphabetically by county or city school district. It consists of correspondence, reports, exhibits, charts, and plans relating to the racial integration of elementary and secondary schools in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Some exhibits include lists of principals, teachers, and staff employed by the school district with demographic information such as race, sex, degree, duration of teaching experience, employment status, and salary and statistics presenting the racial composition of the school district's student population.

Program Files, 1972–1975

National Archives Identifier: 649949
Extent: 22 linear feet
This series is arranged according to an alphanumeric subject filing scheme. Included in this series are records relating to the issuance of regulations and guidelines for various educational reform acts such as the Education Amendments Act of 1972, the Emergency School Aid Act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Higher Education Act of 1965, and the International Education Act of 1966. Programs documented in these records include Head Start, Upward Bound, National Teacher Corps, and the School Lunch Program. Other topics covered include affirmative action, grants, vocational education, bilingual education, racial and gender discrimination, urban education, literacy, and health and nutrition.

Grant Management Files, 1972–1976

National Archives Identifier: 2668681
Extent: 10 linear inches
This series is arranged by state and thereunder alphabetically by name of the institution or school district. It contains grant and procurement requests submitted by various academic institutions to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, stating objectives, methods and cost projections for new and established grants. Narratives of grantee's proposals, justification for grants, and program accomplishments are included with the requests.

Record Group 33 - Records of the Extension Service

Records Relating to 4-H Special Programs, ca. 1921–ca. 1985

National Archives Identifier: 2770149
Extent: 3 linear feet, 4 linear inches
This series is arranged by subject. Included are records relating to African American 4-H club programs, affirmative action, special programs for teens, food and nutrition education programs, programs for low income and disadvantaged youth, urban programs, job and career programs, international programs, civil defense programs, national thrift programs, drug abuse prevention, the 1976 bicentennial, and other special programs and initiatives.

General Correspondence, 1944–1949

National Archives Identifier: 1687925
Extent: 55 linear feet, 7 linear inches
This series is arranged chronologically by fiscal year, July 1 to June 30; thereunder arranged alphabetically by subject. It contains the following file units relating to African-Americans:

  • 1946–1947: Meeting-Conferences, Negro ( NAID 1940265)
  • 1946–1947: Meeting-Conferences, Negro Land-Grant Colleges ( NAID 1940266)
  • 1948–1949: Committees, Negro 4-H Camps ( NAID 1941145)

Record Group 46 - Records of the United States Senate

Petitions and Memorials [Committee on Education and Labor], 1870-1946

National Archives Identifier: 559833
Extent: 31 linear feet
The petitions and memorials referred to the committee address a wide range of labor, education, and reform issues. During Reconstruction and into the 1880's, petitioners seeking aid for Wilberforce University in Ohio (files #41A-H6, #54A-J9.2) and other Black educational institutions (especially in the South) proposed that Congress use the unclaimed Colored Civil War Soldiers' Bounty Fund to finance the development of these schools (files #44A-H6, #45A-H6, #46A-H6, #48A-H6.1, #49A-H7.2). In the early 20th century, Congress was asked to reimburse the Freedmens' Savings and Trust Company to aid industrial education of Blacks in the South (files #60A-J36, #61A-J22, #62A-J26).
Some of the records in this series have been digitized.

Record Group 54 - Records of the Bureau of Plant Industry, Soils, and Agricultural Engineering [BPISAE]

General Correspondence, compiled 1908-1953

National Archives Identifier: 1609092
Extent: 626 linear feet, 11 linear inches
This series is arranged numerically by file number. Two letters in this series relating to Black history are: one from Booker T. Washington to the Hon. David F. Houston, Secretary of Agriculture, September 25, 1916; and another from George Washington Carver to Professor W. A. Orton, July 30, 1910.
This series is indexed by the series' Subject Index to the Series "General Correspondence, 1908-1939" (NAID 1609093), Supplemental Index to the Series "General Correspondence, 1908-1939" (NAID 1609094), and Card Index to the General Correspondence Files, 1901-1952 (NAID 1674036).

Record Group 83 - Records of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics [BAE]

Records of Letters Received, compiled 1922–1923

National Archives Identifier: 789211
Extent: 112 linear feet, 1 linear inch
This series is arranged alphabetically by subject or name of correspondent. Subjects related to Black history include the activities of the Tuskegee and Hampton Institutes pertaining to studies of rural African Americans, field trips in Black communities, job applications, farm techniques, crop standards, Black migration to the North, the National Agricultural Congress, the Committee on Negro Farm Problems, speeches, and seminars on agricultural topics. Under the heading “Negroes” are entries about letters pertaining to the Negro Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina, Thomas M. Campbell of Tuskegee Institute, the amount of money expended on Blacks in agriculture by the Federal Government, Black migration to the North, statistics and studies on African American farm laborers, the National Negro Educational Congress, technical agricultural information on grades and standards, and the employment of African Americans.

General Correspondence, compiled 1923–1946

National Archives Identifier: 567357
Extent: 1,862 linear feet, 10 linear inches
This series is arranged into three chronological groups: 1923–1935, 1936–1940, and 1941–1946. There are a number of files relating to Black history in each of these subgroups such as files for the Tuskegee and Hampton Institutes pertaining to a wide variety of subjects. Each subgroup includes correspondence requesting publications, speakers, and agricultural information statistics about Black farmers, African American extension agents, Black migration, agricultural courses of study, land use projects, agricultural workshops, conferences, and farm management.

For the 1923–1935 period, there is a file for William S. Scarborough, born enslaved and later became the president of Wilberforce University in Ohio. He was hired for a brief term by the U. S. Department of Agriculture to do a study on farms owned and operated by African American farmers in various agricultural regions of the United States.

Within the 1936–1940 period, there is a file entitled “Afro-American National Congress” pertaining to the Agriculture Department exhibit at the American Negro Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. There is also a file entitled “Negro in America” containing correspondence about members of the Carnegie Study of the Negro in America. This file also includes information about agricultural training for African American leaders, the migration of Black farmers to the North, the displacement of Black workers, adult education for African Americans, and the work of rural pastors.

For the 1941–1946 period, there is a file entitled, “Schools-Texas (Prairie View),” containing records about training programs for the benefit of Black farmers and farm works. Another file is entitled “Defense Program-Negroes” (filed under “Negroes”), that contains only three letters: two pertain to a Conference on Negro National Defense in November 1940 and the other letter is about the improvement of the War Food Administration’s services to Black farmers.

General Correspondence, compiled July 1, 1946 to October 30, 1953

National Archives Identifier: 789215
Extent: 120 linear feet, 4 linear inches
This series is arranged according to the subject-numeric system of the Department of Agriculture. Categories in this series relating to Black history are the "Associations" folders for Tuskegee and Hampton Institutes. The folders contain a few letters relating to agricultural education.

Photographic Materials

Record Group 35 - Records of the Civilian Conservation Corps [CCC]

Photographs of African American Enrollees, 1936-1940

National Archives Identifier: 513432
Extent: 8.5 linear inches
Local Identifier: 35-N
This series is arranged alphabetically by state followed by unknown locations. The black-and-white photographs in this series show African American enrollees working in soil conservation, forestry, recreational development projects, taking academic and vocational training, and participating in recreational activities at camps in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.
Of interest are several photographs relating to CCC activities at the Gettysburg National Park and group portraits of the camp administrators. One image shows camp staff with Edgar G. Brown, CCC Adviser on Negro Affairs. Several views of the camp are included, as well as a number of images of enrollees restoring the battlefield and park areas.
There are also several images of enrollees at work at - Colonial National Historical Park in Yorktown, Virginia, the Ocala and Choctawhatchee National Forests in Florida, and the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas. Some of the photographs show men attending classes. The enrollees were allowed to earn high school and college degrees. About 90% of the African American enrollees took advantage of educational classes.
Recreational activities were also encouraged and many of the pictures show enrollees participating in sports. The Camp Cooper softball team is pictured in Wrightsown, New Jersey. The caption of the photographs states that the team was considered to be the "fastest team in New Jersey." Choruses and glee clubs were another form of recreation.
Of note too is a group photograph of enrollees, CCC officials, and prominent African Americans at the American Negro Progress Exposition in Chicago, Illinois in 1940. James J. McEntee, director of CCC, Edgar G. Brown, and Truman K. Gibson, Jr., Director of the Negro World's Fair were among the notables pictured. Also of interest is the 1937 report “Second Biennial Convention of the United Negro Democrats of Missouri, Inc.”, which is filed in a folder of textual materials.

Motion Pictures

Electronic Records