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Southern Education Foundation records

 Collection — Box: 1-184
Identifier: 0000-0000-0000-0057

Scope and contents

The Southern Education Foundation records include the administrative files of the John F. Slater Fund (1882-1937), the Negro Rural School Fund (Anna T. Jeanes Fund)(1907-1937), and the Southern Education Foundation (SEF). The records of these organizations document the activities of philanthropists and educators in helping to provide African Americans in the South with greater educational opportunities. The records of both the John F. Slater Fund and the Anna T. Jeanes Fund include minutes of meetings, annual reports, financial records, and application forms from various states requesting educational aid. Also included are the correspondence and administrative records of James Hardy Dillard (1904-1940), and Arthur D. Wright (1926-1952), Executive Directors for both Funds. The records of the Southern Education Foundation include all material generated after the merger of the Slater and Jeanes Funds in 1937. Those records include Board of Trustee minutes, correspondence, and financial reports; correspondence and administrative records of John Curtis Dixon (1943-1964), Executive Director of the SEF, and administrative records from other Foundation executives. Also included is a substantial amount of material which documents the activities of the Jeanes Teachers.


  • Creation: 1882-1979


Access restrictions

Boxes 147-149 contain transcripts which include personal information and are restricted. Boxes 150-157 contain personal dossiers of applicants for the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and are restricted. Boxes 174 and 175 are restricted for preservation purposes.

Rights Statement

All materials in this collection are either protected by copyright or are the property of the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center, Inc., and/or the copyright holder as appropriate. For more information, please contact

Historical note

The John F. Slater Fund

In 1867, George Peabody, a successful Massachusetts merchant, established the first educational philanthropy in the United States, a $2 million fund to benefit "the more destitute portions" of the South. Inspired by the work of the Peabody Fund, John F. Slater, a Connecticut textile manufacturer, created the Slater Fund in 1882 with a gift of $1 million. While the Peabody Fund dealt with education for both races, Slater specified that his fund be used exclusively for "the uplifting of the lately emancipated population of the Southern States and their posterity by conferring on them the blessings of Christian education." Thus the Slater fund became the first philanthropy in the United States devoted to education for blacks.

Grants from the Slater Fund helped to develop private colleges and four-year high schools for blacks, stimulated vocational and industrial training, and originated the idea of county training schools. Slater also set the precedent for public reporting by foundations, instructing his trustees to distribute each year a printed description of their work to the Library of Congress and state libraries. In 1883, Congress struck a medal to recognize Slater for his philanthropy.

By the turn of the century, it became evident that the Peabody Fund and Slater Fund were working in the same area and had similar, if not identical interests. By 1914, the trustees of the Peabody Fund felt that the work of the Fund could be more effective if it operated in closer connection with the Slater Fund. After making a large grant to Peabody College in Nashville, the trustees of the Peabody Fund voted to transfer control of its remaining assets to the Slater Fund.

The above information is from the SEF website at

The Negro Rural School Fund -The Jeanes Fund

In 1907, a wealthy Quaker from Philadelphia, Anna T. Jeanes, entrusted $1 million to Booker T. Washington of Tuskegee Institute and Hollis Burke Frissell of Hampton Institute to establish a fund to maintain and assist rural schools for blacks in the South. The Jeanes gift, like the John F. Slater Fund, was motivated to promote "Christian education." The Fund for Rudimentary Schools for Southern Negroes, commonly known as the Jeanes Fund, initially supported "industrial teachers" who traveled from school to school in the rural South teaching subjects such as sewing, canning, basketry and woodworking. The introduction of "industrial" subjects was very much in accordance with educational thought at the time, and relating schoolwork to the lives of the people and community improvements appealed to officials as a practical way to improve rural education.

The Southern Education Foundation

Although the Southern Education Foundation was created in 1937, its history began more than 70 years earlier with the ending of the Civil War. The South lay in ruins, with no system of free public schools and certainly no provisions for educating the children of the freed slaves. The plight of the South raised the concern of a number of wealthy Northerners who were eager to see the country reunited and viewed education as the vehicle for industrial development. The four funds that later merged to form SEF were:

1. The Peabody Education Fund (1867) created by George Peabody to assist in the education of "children of the common people" in "the more destitute portions" of the post-Civil War South.

2. The John F. Slater Fund (1882), the first philanthropy in the United States devoted to education for blacks.

3. The Negro Rural School Fund (1907), created by Philadelphia Quaker Anna T. Jeanes, the fund supported black master teachers who assisted rural Southern schools (Jeanes supervisors).

4. The Virginia Randolph Fund (1937) created to honor the first of these "Jeanes Teachers" with monies raised by Jeanes teachers across the South.

The Southern Education Foundation has a rich and proud history of bringing about positive change for minorities in the South. The organization was formed in 1937 by the merger of the four funds, the earliest of which dates back to 1867. Each fund was committed to developing educational opportunities for minorities and disadvantaged citizens following the Civil War. Today, the SEF is funded by an endowment of approximately $14 million and through grants from corporations, foundations and individuals.

As a public charity, the SEF conducts research, convenes experts, identifies issues and operates programs in conjunction with their partners in philanthropy rather than making grants to other groups. Their work relates to three primary factors that continue to affect educational opportunity: racial inequities economic inequities and stringent education standards. Each SEF program supports their overall mission of achieving equal educational opportunities for minority students in states where a legacy of racial segregation still exists.

It is the SEF's firm belief that the future of our nation and the future of our yourth are one. Only by providing an excellent education for everyone, regardless of race, will our nation continue to prosper.

The Jeanes Teachers

In 1905, Anna T. Jeanes, the Quaker daughter of a wealthy Philadelphia merchant donated money to the General Board of Education to help improve African American communities and education in the rural South. The Jeanes Fund supported teachers in an effort to improve rural homes and schools and to promote public support for African American education until the program officially ended 1968. By 1910, 129 Jeanes teachers worked in 130 counties in 13 southern states.

The Jeanes Teachers encouraged the Division of Negro Education in Georgia and other southern states to hire more African American educators. These teachers then improved school buildings and grounds, organized clubs to develop African American communities, and sought to enrich local cultural and social life. Although the work of the Jeanes Teachers was explicitly defined by guidelines established by the General Education Board, African American women often used this role to enhance historical ties between African Amerians and social institutions and to maintain efforts to gain equality.


65 Linear feet

Language of Materials


Southern Education Foundation records, 1882-1979
Finding aid prepared by Minnie Clayton, Paul Crater, and Dawn Wright Williams, 1997.
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Repository Details

Part of the Robert W. Woodruff Library of the Atlanta University Center, Inc. Repository


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