Antebellum Education

By: Antonia Ross and Fidan Baycora

With the Industrialization was well under way, America started experiencing many social and economic changes. America as a whole was getting more connected as roads, train tracks, and canals kept getting built making transportation more accessible. This helped many people, but also added some challenges. More and more people kept getting replaced by machines causing a wider gap between the rich and the poor. This along with the now universal male suffrage caused for different political activity. All of these changes social and economic changes resulted in many reforms including the education reformation.

This reformation fought, and eventually gained the increased accessibility to schooling and expanded greater schooling rights for women and free black men. Many people believed that further educating people would help solve many of the challenges that America was facing. It would embed morals into people and good citizenship. While it educated people in many ways it was also a way to teach people values and beliefs, thus changing their point of view of things, and in some cases forming their opinions. There were three different type of schools: district schools, academy's, and colleges. District schools were the most common schools people attended, and usually the only ones. There was no real organization to them, on the other hand academies prepared men for work and women to be housewives. Colleges taught men more advanced professions such as doctors, lawyers, etc. The general attitude towards this reformation was quite positive, many people were willing to pay taxes in order to help support public education.

Overall this was a moderate reformation, for many believed it was needed. The reason why it isn't conservative is that women as well as black men were granted higher education. At the same time many people tried to bar the black men from education and black people in general. This causes it to be put right in the middle, for over all it was not a completely radical movement.

Horace Mann (see below) was the first secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education. He believed that public education would expand democracy and preach individual opportunity like never before. Horace Mann also believed that education was "a natural right" for all children and that education in morals should be the center of the system. Mann saw education as "the great equalizer of the conditions of men—the balance-wheel of the social machinery.” He also believed that it was bet to divide children into grades in order to teach them most effectively. He had to persuade the Massachusetts Legislature to support this movement so they'd pass taxes to support this reform. He also made schools=s to educate people on how to teach, again making sure to teach good values universally. Similarly he persuaded people to this reform by assuring then  that he'd use the Protestant Bible to instill good values into children. This was on of the moral suasion he used.

The photo below shows some students in front of their school with their teachers. The goals of these were to impose values such as thrift, order, discipline, punctuality, and respect for authority.

Children and teachers infront of their school

This reform was overall successful. Up until these changes were made, only about 55% of kids were educated and public schools, if they existed, where little paid attention to. The reforms also introduced public high schools. One of the largest successes however, was that by the 1870s the USA had one of the highest literacy rates in the world: 94% in the North and 89% in the South. It was lower in the South because it was less urban, schools in rural areas were difficult to access by some children, so even then some children missed out on an education. Also, non-whites were completely denied an education, although there was a little bit of a push to educate Native Americans because it was believed an education would make them less of savages.

Horace Mann


Bullard, Misty, Bridget Crumb, Jason Hall, Eva Pierce, James Mcmillian, Lisa
Reynolds, and Rick Turner. "Antebellum and Civil War America, 1784-1865."
All American: Literature, History, and Culture. Accessed October 23, 2014.

Corey, Melinda. "Education During the Antebellum Period." In Rohrbough, Malcolm J., and Gary B. Nash, eds. Encyclopedia of American History: Expansion and Reform, 1813 to 1855, Revised Edition (Volume IV). New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2010. American History Online. Facts On File, Inc.
ItemID=WE52&iPin=EAHIV084&SingleRecord=True (accessed October 23, 2014).

Lutz, Alexandra. "Reform Movements of the 19th Century." Education Portal. (October 22, 2014).

Nast, Thomas. Common School. Illustration. The Gilder Leherman Institute of
American History. Accessed October 23, 2014.

Np. "A Brief History of Public Education in America." Claire Booth Luce Policy Institute. (October 23, 2014).

Np. "Students and teacher in front of their log school, Davidson County, late nineteenth century."  Photograph. North Carolina, n.d. NCPEDIA. (October 23, 2014.)

Comment Stream

3 years ago
3 years ago

Video describing education during Antebellum!