The 1910s was a decade of great change for America. It was during this decade that the United States was first considered a world leader. Many of the issues of 1910 are ones we face today: including the escalation of immigration and poverty, labor and monopoly battles, work safety and child labor problems. The 1910s were the decade America came of age. Being a black teacher was very difficult between the 1910s and 1920s for me.
In many whites’ eyes and in their own words they called us Negro teachers. Despite these long years of service by black teachers to the black community there was never a book of what went on. By the turn of the 20th century, nearly 75 percent of America’s teachers were women. Therefore; women made up a far smaller percentage of administrators, and their power decreased with each higher level of authority. Our department had always been closely watched; increasingly their work in the school room was not only scrutinized, but rigidly controlled. Teacher autonomy was on the decline, and teachers resented it. Many of our teaching positions were dispensed through political patronage. Married women were often barred from the classroom, and women with children were denied a place in schools.
We as teachers had little flexibility in how we were to teach their myriad charges, who in urban schools particularly, might well come from impoverished families who spoke little English. We taught in classrooms that were overcrowded, dark and poorly ventilated. Schools felt like factories. For rural teachers, conditions were not necessarily much better. We had limited resources, with the added burden of keeping up run-down schools. We suffered from inadequate materials and funding for teaching. Though our communities were eager for schooling, teachers found that money was rarely abundant. Well into the 20th century, black school systems relied on hand-me-down textbooks and used equipment, discarded by their white counterparts. African-American teachers were usually paid significantly less than our white peers and our civil rights were often compromised. Accordingly to NAACP my wage was discrimination.
Not surprisingly, teachers rebelled. At least in urban districts teachers had the advantage of numbers. By 1910, schools staffed with White personnel were the general practice. Black teachers were barred as public school teachers, just as they were from most other non-menial occupations. It was once said “how can the child learn to be a free and responsible citizen when the teacher is bound?” John Dewey- You really could not answer that, because of what we were going through. Even though our times were hard, we stood up for what we thought was right. That was our freedom of being a black teacher. We wanted the same privilege as a white teacher had. We felt as if white children received an education, and then our black should have equal opportunities.
In conclusion the interrelation among race, schooling, and labor market opportunities of American blacks can help us make sense of the relatively poor economic status of black in contemporary societies. I’m proud to be an American even when times were hard, I can truly say if you believe and have patients things will come your way. I really enjoy being a teacher and helping out others learn to become somebody.