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In 1907, a wealthy Quaker used a portion of her inheritance to establish a foundation that would serve to improve education for Black students across the south. The Jeanes Foundation, also known as the Negro Rural School Fund, was started in 1907 with Virginia Estelle Randolph becoming its first supervising teacher in 1908. Booker T. Washington and Hollis Burke Frissell were pegged by Jeanes to run the fund.

Randolph, a child of former slaves, was named the first “Jeanes Supervising Industrial Teacher” in 1908 in Henrico County, Virginia. She began teaching in the county, with a focus on cooking, sewing, woodworking and other vocational subjects. She also taught academics, and with the assistance of the Jeanes Foundation, Randolph was able to expand her curriculum while overseeing 23 Henrico County elementary schools.

Over time, Randolph and the other Jeanes teachers either taught, trained or supervised other teachers in segregated schools as education transitioned from trade instruction into teaching Black history and tougher academic courses. Randolph developed what was known as the “Henrico Plan,” a reference book used by the Jeanes program and served as a model for schools in Great Britain’s African colonies.

For nearly six decades, Randolph served in the role before retiring in 1949. The foundation and fund became defunct after desegregation of Southern schools and the reluctance of white teachers being overseen and observed by Black educators.

 

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