|Date(s):||February 1890 to 1890|
|Tag(s):||southern education, Public Schools, Black Schools, Segregation, racial equality, Education|
|Course:||“Decade of Decision 1890s,” Rollins College|
On February 11, 1890, The Town of Winter Park opened not one, but two schoolhouses: Knowles Public school, for whites, and Public School No.31, for blacks. Public School No. 31 had an especially good turnout, with both white and black in attendance. Mayor Robert White Jr. and Founder of Winter Park, Loring Chase, came out to celebrate this moment promoting education. Chase boasted that “with this, as with Knowles School for white scholars, Winter Park takes formal possession of the best school building in Orange County for a colored school,” and was arguably the best colored school in the state. This dedication towards supporting education in Winter Park both parallels and contrasts with other southern states during this time period. Unlike the rest of the South, Winter Park allowed its black residents to attend school without the fear of being harmed and with the reassurance that they would be receiving a good education. Similar to the communities in other parts of the country, Winter Park began to put more emphasis into the quality of its education.
The fact that a large segment of the town gathered to support the opening of both Public School No.31 and Knowles School emphasize the importance of education to the community. While the schools were segregated, the ability for the town to support the safety and education of its black citizens was astonishing in comparison to the rest of the south. During this period white southerners embrace racial restrictions for African Americans. These policies banned blacks from experiencing many of the benefits that whites were able to enjoy. For example, while whites were able to go to school and pursue education, racial segregation forced blacks to rely on inadequate resources in their schools. Black students were often forced to learn in broken-down schoolhouses as well as use outdated textbooks. Additionally, students in the South were often victims of lynchings, school burnings and the like. However, in Winter Park the stakes were much different; students were able to attend school with a feeling of security because the town supported both school openings equally. They were also assured that they would receive an adequate education due to Public School No.31 being considered the best of its kind in the state.
Indeed, after the Civil War Florida began to place more emphasis on the importance of education. The US was investing heavily in the importance of education in the 1890s. By 1890 over 70% of all children attended grammar school. Additionally, the amount of high schools in various states rose from 160 in 1870 to over 6,000 by the end of the century. During this time the amount of explicit and implicit expenditures in the US school system rose from $314 million to $515 million in 1880 and 1890 respectively. Winter Park was not far behind in this process. The opening of Knowles School and Public School No.31 in 1890 proves that the importance of education bled into Florida as much as other parts of the country during this historical period.