“Peabody Education Fund in Tennessee (1867-1914)”
By Franklin & Betty J. Parker, 63 Heritage Loop, Crossville, TN 38571-8270, USA, firstname.lastname@example.org
Published: Franklin & Betty J. Parker, “Peabody Education Fund in Tennessee (1867-1914),” Tennessee Encyclopedia & Culture. Ed. By Carroll Van West, et. al Nashville: Tennessee Historical Society, 1998, pp. 725-726.
Shocked by Civil War devastation he saw in the South, George Peabody (1795-1869) founded the $2 million Peabody Education Fund (PEF, 1867-69) to aid public education in 12 former Confederate states. Born in Massachusetts but a merchant in the South, he became an international banker in London (1837-69) and a philanthropist.
The ruined post-Civil War South lacked the means or will to establish public schools. First PEF administrator Barnas Sears, distinguished New England educator, used limited resources as a lever to help achieve tax-supported public schools. PEF-aided schools had to meet ten months a year and have at least one teacher per 50 pupils. PEF grants required that local citizens more than match PEF funds and that laws for tax-supported public schools be enacted.
Barnas Sears urged a state normal school (for teacher training) in Nashville as a model for the South. But state normal school legislation failed in the Tennessee legislature (1868, 1871, 1873). Rather than lose Nashville as a normal school site, Sears said that if University of Nashville trustees gave land and buildings for a normal school, the PEF would contribute $6,000 annually.
The Tennessee legislature amended the University of Nashville’s charter. The new State Normal School, financed by PEF’s annual $6,000, opened Dec. 1, 1875, and was renamed Peabody Normal College (1889-1909).
Disappointed when the legislature defeated appropriations for Peabody Normal College (1877, 1879), Sears considered moving Peabody Normal College to Georgia. This threat prompted Nashville citizens to guarantee $6,000 annually (April 1880). The legislature then gave Peabody Normal College annual appropriations totaling $429,000, 1881-1905. PEF appropriations to Peabody Normal College totaled $555,730, 1875-1909.
In its first thirty years (1868 through 1897) the PEF gave the 12 southern states a total of $2,478.000 to advance public schools, teacher institutes, and normal schools. Tennessee received about 9% of this total, second highest after Virginia. Additionally the PEF enriched Tennessee with Peabody Normal College (and successor institutions). Besides its regular tuition-paying students, Peabody Normal College enrolled 3,645 higher qualified teacher candidates through PEF-financed Peabody Scholarships (1877-1904), which brought the college and Tennessee an additional $398,690.88. Educators trained at Peabody Normal College became educational leaders throughout the South and gave Peabody in Tennessee a national reputation.
Allowed to disband after 30 years, the PEF gave $1.5 million to transform Peabody Normal College into George Peabody College for Teachers. Former Governor James D. Porter (1828-1912), who had been Peabody Normal College’s third president (1901-09), helped raise PEF-required matching funds from Nashville, Davidson County, and other Tennessee sources. Peabody was rebuilt next to Vanderbilt University (1914-79) and continues as Peabody College of Vanderbilt University (since 1979).
Amid post Civil War chaos, the PEF thus financially encouraged state efforts in advancing public schools. By creating in Nashville a model professional teachers college, it helped produce educational leaders who became college and university presidents, deans, scholars, educational writers, and master teachers for Tennessee, the South, and the nation.
End of Manuscript.
About the authors. Franklin Parker and Betty J. Parker, a husband and wife research and writing team, attended George Peabody College for Teachers, Nashville, summer 1951, from summer 1952 continuously through August 1956, when Franklin Parker earned the Ed. D. degree and Betty J. Parker earned the M.S. degree. Twenty four of their book titles are listed in:
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