Zion School for Colored Children
Alfred R. Waud (American; British, 1828 – 1891)
Harpers Weekly (American)
DimensionsSheet : 11 x 16 in. (27.94 x 40.64 cm)
Mat : 16 x 20 in. (40.64 x 50.8 cm)
Plate : 9 1/2 x 14 in. (24.13 x 35.56 cm)
Credit LineHope College Collection
LabelEven before the Civil War ended, the US federal government created the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands (commonly called the Freedmen’s Bureau) to provide material aid and services to formerly enslaved people in the South after they were freed. One important initiative led by the Freedmen’s Bureau was the establishment of schools to educate these formerly enslaved people and help them understand their rights. The Zion School for Colored Children in Charleston, South Carolina was one such school. Founded in late 1865, the Zion School employed thirteen teachers and enrolled more than 850 students. Rather unusually for a Freedmen’s school at the time, most of the teachers at the Zion School were free Black people from the North who came to Charleston under the auspices of the American Missionary Society. By 1870, there were more than 1000 Freedmen’s schools spread throughout the former Confederate states. But as Northern interest in Southern reconstruction waned after the 1870s, the number and quality of the schools open to Black students gradually diminished, and by the end of the 19th century most Black students in the South were forced to attend poorly funded, segregated schools, if they were allowed to attend school at all.