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Bridgers and Brokers: Collective Biography in the Study of the General Education Board in the U.S. West.

As biographers know well the more complex a narrative, the better to examine it through the lives, the participants. When exploring issues in the history of the U.S. West, this is particularly true; the complexities of defining geography (where is the West?) and identity demographics (who are the marginalized voices?) are best presented through the eyes of those who experienced it at the time. This article is an introductory collective biography that serves to introduce a handful of the characters integral to the story of the impact of the General Education Board (GEB) on the U.S. West. The GEB chose three figures to facilitate outreach to different marginalized populations in the region: Mary "Ataloa" Stone McClendon, who served Native Americans at Bacone College; (1) George Sanchez, who worked among Hispanic/Latino communities in Texas and New Mexico; (2) and Annie Webb Blanton, State Superintendent of Texas Schools, who both assisted the African-American communities of Texas and advocated for women on the cusp of suffrage. (3)

While there have been many works related to the lives of these three individually, none has looked at them through the lens of their interactions with the GEB. However, it is through examining these three lives that the role of the GEB in the U.S. West, particularly the impact of GEB funding on the marginalized peoples of the region, can best be understood. It is how these three people secured GEB funding and how they applied it that a greater knowledge of what the GEB did (and did not) understand about the U.S. West is possible. While not saying so explicitly in meeting minutes or correspondence, the GEB clearly hoped that those receiving funding from them would become the type of people defined by Lynne M. Getz, Judith Raftery, and Eileen Tamura as "bridgers and brokers" among people back in their states and work towards cultural pluralism: "Bridging and brokering encourage cultural pluralism. They presume negotiation, not coercion, and they explain in part how or why a dominant culture often adopts many elements of a minority culture. But cultural bridges and brokers exist not only between dominant and subordinate cultures, but also between various minority cultures themselves." (4)

This belief is born out of the earliest days of the GEB as depicted in trustee correspondence. A 1905 memorandum from Starr Murphy (personal counsel and representative of John Rockefeller, Sr. and GEB board member until his death in 1921) to Wallace Buttrick (who served as a member from 1902 to 1926) described the initial scope and work of the philanthropic organization. One part of the work undertaken by the GEB was to publish "Treatises by Experts." These experts had to come from around the country to best reflect the shifting regional needs. Murphy explained to Buttrick that "[t]he conditions of the problem differ in different parts of the country and for that reason we should, if possible, select men who are representative of the parts of the country in which these different conditions exist." Murphy further noted that the purpose of hiring people aware of best practices within their regions was quite audacious: "We are laying the foundations of the greatest educational institution which the world has ever seen, and we can well afford to put whatever money may be necessary into securing the best possible foundation for the great superstructure which is to arise." (5) Clearly, part of this foundation was finding people in the various regions of the U.S. who could help spread the GEB mission.

Methodological Notes

The voices of the people involved remind us that there is no easy way to explore the parameters of this study. While the temporal borders were fairly well defined by the period during which the GEB was active (mainly from 1909 through 1955), the other parameters are far more complex. For example, at different points in U.S. history, the West has been defined as including multiple iterations of lands of the Mississippi River. As Western historian Patricia Nelson Limerick notes, "we cannot fix exact boundaries for the region, any more than we can draw precise lines around 'the South.'" (6) While Limerick uses a broad geographic definition (most states west of the Mississippi river) in her seminal work, in this research, I use a more limited definition of the U.S. West as closely akin to the Census Mountain division, primarily along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains into the U.S. Southwest. This stretch ranges from Montana south through Wyoming, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. (7)

Racial patterns in the West must be analyzed from a position of power and privilege rather than numerical majority or minority. In the U.S. West during the time period examined within this study, there was a multiplicity of groups marginalized by white Christian culture. However, there were stark divisions within each of these groups. African Americans were divided between freedmen of Southeastern plantations and their descendants, and freedmen of Native American peoples who were given citizenship in the tribal nations. Whites forced a plethora of Native Americans into the region, some from the Southeast and some from the Great Plains, who all brought unique cultures. Latino populations were divided by a variety of factors such as place of ancestry and length of time in the U.S. However, as biographer Carlos Blanton explains, George Sanchez defined the population by the context in which it arose: "He used any term--Mexican, Mexican American, Latin American, Spanish American, New Mexican--provided the context was right. Another way Sanchez defined his people was through their heterogeneity;" indeed, Sanchez took pains "to portray his people as a diverse, heterogeneous population to combat stereotypes." (8)

For the sake of this research, marginalized groups will include all those impacted by Jim Crow laws. In Oklahoma and Texas, Jim Crow laws harshly impacted the significant African American populations, with Oklahoma in particular being home to lands given to displaced freedmen. In Texas and New Mexico, Jim Crow laws negatively impacted the Mexican-American and Hispanic populations with strong regional identities. Jim Crow laws also reached the so-called Five Civilized Tribes of Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole of Oklahoma and the 19 Pueblo Nations (Acoma, Cochiti, Isleta, Jemez, Laguna, Nambe, Ohkay Owingeh, Picuris, Pojoaque, Sandia, San Felipe, San Ildefonso, Santa Ana, Santa Clara, Santo Domingo, Taos, Tesuque, Zia, Zuni) as well as 3 Apache (Fort Sill, Jicarilla, Mescalero) and the Dine (Navajo) of New Mexico.

If each of the bridgers and brokers is well worthy of individualized biographies, why look at them in the collective at all? As Catherine Drinker Bowen reminds, when considering a subject "The question was, who best could lead me where I wanted to go?" (9) For the sake of this research, collective biography is the best leader; a collective approach is integral to studying the role of the GEB in funding education in the U.S. West. To fully understand the legacy of the GEB, and to discover not just the impact of this funding but the motivations behind it, understanding the lives of those impacted is critical. As described by Gaby Weiner, collective biography "tends to focus on the lives of a group of individuals sharing a particular characteristic that is of interest. It therefore offers the possibility not only of illuminating a number of individual lives, but of gaining an insight into a specific area of activity or field." (10)

Further, as noted by Corrine Glesne, biography can overlap with ethnography in the sense that biographers "often become interested in and consider the lives of many" in an attempt, akin to ethnographic work, to understand a greater cultural system." This research looks at the lives of the participants to understand aspects of the cultural system created by GEB funding in the U.S. West. Collective biography can be utilized as a research method: analyzing a group of people can explain a moment or an event shared by them all. This approach is particularly of use in "making visible the discursive powers of particular discourses and the modes of subjection they entail. It is that visibility that makes transformation possible, not just in ourselves as individuals, but of our collective discursive practices, of our social contexts, of our capacity to imagine what is possible." (12)

Barbara Tuchman explains why biography is integral to the study of history, writing that biography "encompasses the universal in the particular. It is a focus that allows both the writer to narrow his field to manageable dimensions and the reader to more easily comprehend the subject... One does not try for the whole but for what is truthfully representative." (13) In the case of this research, focusing on these three lives is "truthfully representative" of the impact of the GEB in the U.S. West.

This approach, using a few lives rather than a broad sample, is not entirely without precedent; indeed, as noted by Gaby Weiner, "Fewer subjects allow the biographer to concentrate more on details and comparisons between individuals" rather than seeking "the emergence of patterns and generalizations" that a large sample size affords. (14) For example, Angela Jones' "Lessons from the Niagara Movement" examined the lives of the founders of the Niagara Movement as a tool to analyze the discursive strategies of collective action. (15) Likewise, Jane Martin's "Gender, the City and the Politics of Schooling" uses four lives to examine the social networks created by 19th Century female activists in London, England. (16)

The General Education Board

The primary link between all three people in this study--Ataloa, Sanchez, and Blanton--was their relationship with the GEB. Incorporated in February 1902, its object was "to promote education within the United States of America without distinction of sex, race, or creed." (17) When providing funding to benefit those from marginalized cultures, the GEB exclusively funded programs that reflected the vocational-industrial model of education favored by Booker T. Washington, known as the Hampton-Tuskegee model. (18) Throughout its existence, the GEB Board was managed by a Board of Trustees comprised of a mix of interested businessmen and educators, as well as John D. Rockefeller Senior, Junior, and Third. The GEB also maintained a set of field agents who reported on the success--or lack of success--of programs state-to-state, sometimes region-to-region. While there is no evidence of micro-management from the family, the Rockefellers insisted that the philosophy of John, Sr. guided its appropriations. As Raymond Fosdick explained, "the senior Rockefeller's basic principle of helping people to help themselves governed the General Education Board through a greater part of its history." (19)

Understanding the work of the GEB is best accomplished through understanding the lives of those impacted by their funding. The story of the GEB is best told in biographical terms; as Raymond Fosdick explained in his history of the Board:
It is a story of people rather than money--a story of educational
pioneers. Just as their fathers opened up the frontier with axes and
plows, the sons of sixty years ago used the tools of ideas,
imagination, experimentation, and persuasion. They cultivated the
vineyards of American education, in cities and rural counties, in the
grade schools and the high schools, in the colleges, in the medical
schools, and other institutions for advanced training. They and their
successors left on their times and on the future an indelible imprint;
and while, as in all such activity, the extent of their influence is
immeasurable on any exact scales, what they did profoundly affected
the development of American Education. (20)

While Fosdick was speaking of the Rockefeller family and the men (and one woman) who served as Trustees of the Board through the years, his argument is equally true regarding the people funded by the GEB--they were the real educational pioneers.

To fully understand the GEB's role in the West, readers must first understand the GEB's southern program. In the Southeast, the GEB developed a pattern when funding programs impacting the African American population. They strongly favored the Hampton-Tuskegee model of industrial education for black youth and would exclusively fund programs that supported this industrial model. In addition, the GEB paid for all their state agents working with black schools, as well as several African American teachers and administrators, to attend conferences at Tuskegee to learn how to establish and run industrial education in a way that they believed to be proper. In a sense, they saw Booker T. Washington as their first bridger into the African American community. While extensive scholarship, most notably from James Anderson, explores the racism endemic in this approach, (21) scholars such as Matthew Davis credit the GEB and its agents such as Jackson Davis for providing a "significant, if largely hidden, invigoration of Southern black education." (22) It was a strategic choice of the GEB to work within the confines of the South at the time: "Thus, in pragmatic 'business-like' fashion...the GEB eschewed the futile fight against segregation and instead focused its time, resources, and attention to the improvement, and then institutionalization, of Black public schooling within the narrow Jim Crow confines." (23)

There is a rich historiography surrounding the GEB's work in the Southeast, mostly questioning the intent and practice of the GEB in funding only vocational schools for African Americans. As described by Charles Biebel, this organization sought to assist education in the South by "infiltrating Southern universities and government agencies with its own paid evangelists" in order "to promote a reorganization of 'general education' through a coordinated national effort." (24) Reading Raymond Fosdick's insider history of the GEB supports the evangelism claims: He describes the southern program as moving "forward with the spirit of a revival movement" and the professors of secondary education hired with GEB funds to expand high school programs as "missionary professors." (25)

Noted educational historian James Anderson writes that educators in GEB-funded positions were seen as "unwanted agents of Northern philanthropy" and viewed those involved in the GEB's southern program as spending "most of their time systematizing industrial education where it was practiced; and advocating systematizing industrial education where it was not installed." (26) Further, Eric Anderson and James Moss write that the GEB was actually rather short-sighted in its mission, arguing that while many observers believed "that Tuskegee and Hampton would dominate the future of black education... What actually happened was very different" and reminding readers that "the opportunities that the philanthropists could not imagine illuminate the choices they saw as obvious." (27) Matthew Davis softens these arguments, positing that by funding African-American schools directly the GEB was involved in a program of "sustenance and subversion of Southern education." (28)

Much of the extant literature focuses on the southern program; it must be noted that there is little specifically regarding the work of the GEB in the Southwest. While the literature on the southern program accurately problematizes the work of the GEB in the southern states and provides a basis for understanding the motives of the Board members, its applicability declines with western trajectory.(29) That said, the GEB did model one pattern of western funding after its program of sending southern state agents to Tuskegee University: The GEB funded the trajectories of certain people from the U.S. West throughout graduate school and into their professional careers. In doing so, the GEB was actively seeking bridgers and brokers who could connect the white eastern philanthropists with the various (and largely unknown) populations of the West.

Mary "Ataloa" Stone McLendon

Reflecting back on Fosdick's description of the participants as pioneers, the first such bridger would likely bristle at such an appellation. Mary "Ataloa" Stone was born into the Red Skunk Clan (I'koni homa) March 1896 in the Chickasaw Nation, Oklahoma Territory. Her maternal grandfather was Sone Love, former chief of the Chickasaw; her grandmother gave her the name Ataloa, which, prophetically, means Song. As a concert singer, Ataloa referred to herself as Princess Ataloa, or Little Song. She had three siblings, two brothers and a sister, and she grew up on a farm just outside the present-day town of Duncan, Oklahoma. Her cousin, Te Ata, was equally renowned for her singing. Her father was killed in a horseback riding accident in 1901. Afterward, the Stone family moved in with her maternal grandparents, a well-known family among the Chickasaw. (30)

Ataloa attended a one-room schoolhouse until, at age 17, she moved to the Oklahoma College for Women. It was there she developed her moving contralto voice. She married Ralph McLendon in 1917. He died a year later of pneumonia that he developed after he enlisted to fight for the U.S. in World War I. Ataloa never remarried. Soon after McLendon's death, she moved to California and attended the University of the Redlands, where she earned a B.A. in 1925. It was during this time that Ataloa began public performances as educational experiences; she would sing, tell traditional stories, and share daily life among the Chickasaw.

In 1924, she moved to New York City to do post-graduate work at the John D. Rockefeller Institute, the first (and only) American Indian to do so. Soon, she transferred to the Institute of Musical Art, now called Julliard School of Music. During her time in New York City she lived with her cousin Te Ata, and they frequently performed together. By 1925 Ataloa was attending Columbia University, and she graduated in 1927 with her master's degree. Immediately after graduation, she went on a four-month concert tour during which she would sing traditional songs and speak on topics ranging from traditional life to "issues of atheism and skepticism in educational circles." (31) At the end of the tour she was given two options: an opportunity to perform at New York City's Metropolitan Opera House, or a teaching position at Bacone. Ataloa chose teaching, while Te Ata left for an extensive European tour.

Ataloa taught English, philosophy, and art at Bacone through 1935. Ataloa was a tireless fund-raiser for the school; particularly lucrative were her contacts in the GEB. Because the wife of the founder of Bacone was a college roommate of John Rockefeller's wife, the industrialist took a strong interest in the well-being of the college, which resulted in GEB funding for the school. Bacone received GEB funds to build a lodge (still in existence today) as well as to fund other programs. Thanks in part to GEB funding, which built the lodge in which she lived and taught, Ataloa collected native art from all over the country and had her students learn to produce this art. Her efforts gave birth to "The Bacone School of Traditional Indian Art." Artwork that Ataloa and her students created is still proudly displayed in the building now known as the Ataloa Lodge. (32)

Oklahoma proves an interesting case of Jim Crow in the education of marginalized people: Whatever racial group in the minority in any county was the segregated group, and in at least four counties this meant that white schools were underfunded and understaffed. Further, American Indians in Oklahoma were de jure classified as white, while still suffering tremendous hardship and indignities by the de facto racism and segregation of the time. (33) While at Bacone, Ataloa navigated those potentially rocky shoals well. However, she remained an artist at heart and soon felt the need to leave the school. After leaving the classroom, she took a year off to travel to meet the Indian Tribes from all of the U.S. states, including Hawaii. She toured extensively and consulted with a wide variety of groups nationwide working to preserve Indian art techniques, such as finger weaving of baskets.

The outbreak of World War II brought with it one of the darkest chapters in U.S. history: Japanese internment. Having met many Nisei while traveling in Hawaii and having learned that the camps were frequently built on reservation lands, she volunteered to introduce and oversee formal educational programs in the camps. It was due to her personal efforts and interventions that many Japanese-Americans left the camps eligible to attend college. (34)

After the war, Ataloa moved to California, where she headed up many public art projects. By 1949, Ataloa was beginning to feel her age, so she quit the road and took a position teaching at the school she helped to found, the Idyllwild School of Music and the Art, opened as an extension of the University of Southern California. While now a Californian, Ataloa never stopped being an Oklahoman: She helped oversee Bacone College's 1952 appearance at the Junior Rose Bowl, at which Bacone's traditional dancers performed during the halftime show. (35)

In 1962, Ataloa experienced the deaths of her mother and brother in short succession. After the worst of Ataloa's grieving passed, Te Ata convinced her to move to the burgeoning art community of Santa Fe. Ataloa moved to New Mexico and became one of the first teachers at the Institute of American Indian Arts. (36) The cousins bought a house together, but, once again, their happy coexistence would be short lived. In 1967, Ataloa lost her battle with colon cancer and died. She was inducted into the Chickasaw Nation Hall of Fame in 2006.

Throughout her life, Ataloa was a proud advocate for the preservation of American Indian culture; Ataloa was a skilled fund-raiser, particularly among the non-Indian public. (37) The GEB played a significant role in helping this process. For example, GEB funds built the art lodge at Bacone, although the eastern philanthropists viewed it as an extension of vocational education. In early correspondence with the GEB, Ataloa described the program at Bacone as offering courses "in agriculture for enabling young men to return to their homes equipped to follow scientific methods in farming and poultry raising. Domestic science and domestic art courses are required of all girls in school. Courses are offered in normal training for teachers; Graduates are given a five-year certificate by the State Board of Education." (38) However, it was the arts programs that received the most focus in that same letter:
Bacone's distinctive contribution lies in motivating education. Its
teachers are selected on the basis of character and personality as well
as academic background. Since education is more easily 'caught than
taught', the results of such personality contacts are obvious. A White
friend has given funds for a lodge where native arts will be preserved
through native teachers of weaving, beading, basketry, pottery, silver
work and painting...Before the old teachers of native Indian art have
disappeared there is an opportunity to conserve all the beauty and
traditions which are found in the life of the Indian. At Bacone, old
songs and legends are being written and taught. There are many young
Indians at Bacone who could thrill an art critic with the quality and
originality of their art work. (39)

Ataloa, clearly aware of the GEB and its focus on vocational education, was able to persuade the members of the GEB that Bacone was a vocational school and thus secured funding for it.

George I. Sanchez

Ataloa was not alone in using the GEB to fund programs to benefit marginalized populations in the Southwest. Another recipient was George Sanchez, a pioneer of the Chicano studies movement in the U.S., as biographer Carlos Blanton aptly summarizes:
Sanchez, up until the end, tried to connect with the Chicano movement
and its young activists. He also continued advocating older ideas...He
fought injustice constantly, regardless of the personal price to be
paid, and never lost sight of the struggle to integrate
Mexican-Americans to their rightful, proud place in the nation. His
example lives on in the lives of countless Americans of true civic
virtue who fight some good fight every day. (40)

George Isidoro Sanchez y Sanchez was born October 4, 1906, the son of Telesforo and Juliana Sanchez. He had two siblings, Juan and Telesforo, both of whom remained in New Mexico for most of their lives in a small town just outside of Albuquerque. His father was a miner who ran poker games at local saloons and moved the family around New Mexico and Arizona throughout Sanchez' youth. Sanchez graduated high school at the age of 16, a feat made more remarkable by the variety of part-time jobs he held during these years: jazz coronetist, dance promoter, mineral prospector, clerk, janitor, and boxer (under the name Kid Feliz). (41)

In 1923, Sanchez began his teaching career in a rural one-room schoolhouse. He lasted just one year before a falling-out with the local superintendent prompted him to switch schools. In 1925, he was promoted to principal (by that same superintendent) and married Virginia Romero, the daughter of a wealthy and powerful local family. (42) Throughout his teaching career, Sanchez continued his education via correspondence courses during the year and intensive summers on campus. He graduated from the University of New Mexico in 1929 despite never having registered for a regular semester term. He immediately moved to the University of Texas where he completed his master's degree in three semesters. In order to attend school full-time, Sanchez was awarded a fellowship from the GEB for one year and quickly earned the respect and lifelong support of two GEB members, Jackson Davis and Leo Favrot. After working in the New Mexico Department of Education for a brief stretch, Sanchez earned another fellowship from the GEB which allowed him to pursue his PhD from the University of California at Berkeley--in two years. (43)

As Lynne Getz points out, just as the GEB funded training of African American teachers throughout the South "who were expected to act as examples to other blacks," (44) so too did GEB philanthropists single out Sanchez for support: "It is clear that in seeking GEB support for Sanchez, New Mexico's educational leaders expected him to serve as cultural intermediary.... He did not believe that Hispanos should lose their identity and be completely absorbed within Anglo society, but he did want Hispanos to accommodate modern industrial society and thrive within it." (45) The GEB attitude regarding Sanchez is best described in a quote from a 1944 letter written to him by Fred McCuistion: "You're a gentleman, scholar and a good judge of Spanish Americans." (46)

Sanchez had a varied and, at times, controversial lifelong career in education and advocacy. Beginning in 1931, Sanchez worked as the Director of Information and Statistics for the New Mexico Department of Education, a GEB-funded position. During that time, Sanchez was part political appointee, part travelling evangelist, and part academic. He published articles in both regional (Nezv Mexico Press, New Mexico School Review) and national (Pedagogy Seminary, Journal of General Psychology) publications. By his own account, in one year he travelled 1,065 miles to 90 towns, delivered 42 addresses, attended 31 teacher meetings, 21 board meetings, and 39 administrator conferences. Even this extensive, evangelistic travel was not enough for Sanchez, who wrote to the GEB that while "[t]he travel outlined above has been very valuable" because it "enabled us to become acquainted with state problems", he still felt "unable to meet all requests and have not covered some parts of the state." (47)

During that time, Sanchez participated in national GEB conferences on vocational education. It was clear that he looked at the issues surrounding educating the children of marginalized populations in very forward-thinking ways and not entirely through the regressive GEB vocational education lens. In 1934, in response to a request asking for "someone to make an authoritative statement on the rural arts and crafts of our Southwest and of Mexico," (48) Sanchez wrote to David Stevens suggesting a vocational education agent: "[w]hile he has done very little writing on the subject he has developed a program of vocational education in the field of arts and crafts that bids well to mark his administration of that office as the outstanding achievement in education in this state. He is not only a good administrator and educator but he is a technician and artist in his own right." (49)

However, even having GEB support did not offer full protection to Sanchez. In 1933, after New Mexico Governor Arthur Seligman vetoed a bill Sanchez had been instrumental in getting through the State House, Sanchez delivered a rebuttal to the House of Representatives. His scathing indictment earned him the ire of his boss, the governor. Thus, when given an opportunity to oust Sanchez, the governor acted. Sanchez provided just such an opportunity in April of that year. The University of New Mexico sought to conduct a survey attempting to quantify white racism against Mexican Americans. When approached, Sanchez threw the weight of his office behind the survey and sent it out to school officials. Participants saw the questionnaire as rife with loaded questions and racist language: It drew the ire of the Hispano community statewide. Governor Seligman read the questionnaire before mass distribution and used it to wreak his vengeance against the University of New Mexico and Sanchez specifically, taking his argument directly to John Rockefeller. Ultimately, however, Seligman knew he needed the Hispano vote, and that sacrificing Sanchez would not sit well. That fact, coupled with GEB support of Sanchez, led to the termination of Sanchez' peer at the University of New Mexico, but not to the firing of Sanchez himself. (50)

Sanchez took a year off (paid for by the GEB) to complete his doctorate. When he returned, the grant paying his position expired and neither the state of New Mexico nor the GEB resumed funding. From 1935-1940 Sanchez held a variety of jobs in the U.S. and in South America, including a position with the Rosenwald Fund which he earned in no small part due to the high recommendation from the GEB. At decade's end, Sanchez used the support of the Carnegie Foundation to write his most famous work, Forgotten People: A Study of New Mexicans, a book listed among the top 50 most influential educational books of the 20th Century in the University of South Carolina's Books of the Century Catalog. Though initially written as a report on the status of Mexican Americans in the Southwest, what Sanchez produced was so stirring that the Carnegie Foundation paid for its publication by an academic press.

The book was so well-received that Sanchez was soon inundated with offers to work as an academic. He settled on a full professorship from the University of Texas-Austin (UT), as Professor of Latin American Studies in the College of Education. In the face of World War II, Sanchez began advocating for a good neighbor policy with Mexico and about the importance of Mexican-Americans to the war efforts abroad and at home. Sanchez volunteered to join the Navy, but was turned away. (51) He did, however, become an administrator in the Rockefeller-run New Deal program CIAA (Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs), in spite of his father's death that year and his wife's illness. (52) Sanchez remains revered at UT; the College of Education is housed in the George I. Sanchez Building.

In 1943, the GEB provided $7,500 to Sanchez at UT to hire L.A. Woods, a former Assistant Supervisor of Negro Education whose position was eliminated by the state. Woods was hired as Sanchez' assistant so that Sanchez could devote "his time to the study of education for Spanish-speaking children." (53) Sanchez held a split appointment at UT in Educational Psychology and History and Philosophy of Education until his death in 1972. While there, he published a series of books for schoolchildren promoting intercultural education and served as president of the League of United Latin American Citizens, a role where once again he became one of the "brokers between the government and the governed" balancing his lives as an academic and an activist to make strides in improving the lives of Mexican Americans in Texas. (54) He was active in an alphabet soup of national and local groups ranging from the American GI Forum to the Good Neighbor Commission and the Southwest Council on the Education of Spanish-Speaking People.

Annie Webb Blanton

While not as explicit in purpose as Ataloa or Sanchez, another bridger and broker who received GEB support was Annie Webb Blanton. She was born one of a pair of twins in 1870 in Houston to Thomas and Eugenia Blanton, one of seven children born into a comfortable, middle class family. In spite of this privilege, Blanton's early life was marked by tragedy. Her mother died when she was nine and her twin sister died when they were 15. However, she was able to overcome these odds to graduate from high school at 16. Soon after, she moved by herself to teach in a rural setting. She used her teacher's salary to pay for her undergraduate degree in English literature from the University of Texas at Austin (UT). (55) Blanton exemplified the attitude of the "New Women" of the late nineteenth century. She was "driven, in a manner quite unselfconscious and matter-of-fact, by the desire for self-development, the pleasures of gaining knowledge, and the rewards of bringing about social improvement through experimentation." (56)

A long-time teacher with experience in one-room schoolhouses, in 1901 she took a position at the North Texas State Normal College (now the University of North Texas), at which time she wrote textbooks on English grammar. In 1916, Blanton was the first woman nominated--let alone elected--president of the Texas State Teachers' Association in 1916. In 1918, at a time when women were not allowed to vote in anything but primaries, Blanton became the first woman elected to public office in Texas when she was elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Her campaign was overseen and run by the Texas Equal Suffrage Association and came at a pivotal time. As Judith McArthur describes, women's associations were significant in making improvements to public education during that era: "Women's voluntary associations played a role in the South's 'educational awakening' that has been scarcely acknowledged, eclipsed in the historical literature by the better-documented efforts of the Conference for Education in the South and the General Education Board's Rockefeller-funded philanthropies." (57)

Taking advantage of the overall progressive movement sweeping the nation at the time, Blanton's two terms were marked by many improvements in the state's educational system, including leading the movement to amend the state constitution to allow local property taxes to fund public schools. During her time in office, she expanded state appropriations to grow her staff from 26 to 60 employees. Many of these positions were first funded by GEB grants that were then assumed by the state. Blanton transgressed the moderately repressed nature of many progressive women in Texas who had to balance social propriety with social conscience. As McArthur further describes, Southern progressive women were inherently contradictory:
Through membership in a network of national voluntary associations
southern ladies discovered social activism and developed perspectives
that challenged regional conservatism. Their thumbnail biographies
proudly noted Virginia ancestors and the Confederate military service
of their husbands and fathers, but they stood with the General
Federation of Women's Clubs rather than with the New South
industrialists on labor issues. Living in a segregated society and
sharing the racial attitudes of the era, they sought the ballot in the
name of maternalism rather than white supremacy. Brought up to revere
states' rights, they worked assiduously for the federal suffrage
amendment. (58)

This attempted balance and contradictory nature might be part of the reason that biographer Debbie Mauldin Cottrell writes that "indifference more than outright opposition characterized her attitude toward improving education for black students," (59) even though Blanton actually actively solicited funds from the GEB to create positions benefitting African American students in Texas. In January 1919, Blanton wrote to Wallace Buttrick, "I am interested in matters of securing supervision for negro schools in Texas and will ask that you send this department detailed information on the subject." (60) Once the position was filled in July of that year, Blanton shared her eagerness with Abraham Flexner: "So much is to be done that we shall be compelled to proceed carefully and systematically, in order to accomplish as much as possible." (61)

Due to Blanton's efforts, GEB funding provided the salary and expenses of the "Supervisor of Rural Negro Schools" from 1918 through 1951. So pleased was she with the results of this office that she wrote the GEB to secure funding to expand it--and also sought to desegregate it at the same time: "I have felt that, in any state as large as Texas, it would be very advantageous to select an excellent negro teacher to work under the supervision of Mr. Rogers, as an assistant in improving the negro schools .... I have in mind two excellent negroes, either of whom would work for $1,500 per year, and I think that $1,500 of traveling expenses would suffice." (62) By December 1920, Blanton had secured funding for a third position in the office, a stenographer to assist with the inspections of the new buildings constructed using Rosenwald Fund dollars across Texas.

Again, this work of Blanton's was characteristic of many Southern women at the end of the Progressive Era. As Judith McArthur describes, women tended to take the lead on working to lessen racial tensions:
Through their voluntary associations, women took the lead in the
tentative movement for interracial cooperation that emerged slowly in
the 1920's...World War I sharpened tensions between white and black
men, but it fostered positive interaction between women, nudging them
across racial boundaries as they cooperated in canning demonstration
programs, childsaving work, and fundraising drives. After the war
white women extended their efforts, through religious and secular
voluntary associations, to build a narrow bridge across the chasm of
race. Although questioning white supremacy was still unimaginable, they
worked quietly with African American women to address social
problems. (63)

Clearly, this mindset well prepared Blanton to serve as a bridger between multiple communities. Blanton only served two terms as state superintendent. She left office to make what would ultimately become an unsuccessful run at a seat in the U.S. Congress. Unfortunately, her brother Thomas, a former member of Congress, had generated controversy by attacking the extravagance of other members of Congress before Blanton ran for office. The controversy around his words and acts doomed her campaign. Interestingly, even while she was making her run for office, she continued her involvement in the superintendency. While initially trying to sit out the race between a former student, Ed Bentley, and a former colleague in the office, S.M.N. Marrs, Blanton was urged to act when Bentley began attacking Blanton's legacy. It did not help that Bentley was backed by the Ku Klux Klan, an association that was toxic to the progressive Blanton. She publicly supported Marrs, who won the seat but would prove far less concerned with the education of women and African Americans than his predecessor.

After her failed attempt at national office, Blanton returned to education. In 1926-27, she received a $1,500 scholarship from the GEB to pursue her doctorate with George Works at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Works was a professor who had lived briefly in Texas to direct a GEB-funded statewide survey of public education in 1924. Upon completion of her doctorate, Blanton was as the first faculty member in UT's Rural Education Department. She held a position at UT for 22 years, becoming the first woman to earn full professor status. During her time at UT, she also founded Delta Kappa Gamma, still around and known today as the International Society for Key Women Educators. The society's mission is to promote "professional and personal growth of women educators and excellence in education." (64)

While she clearly served as a broker to the African American communities of her state, it was her work as a bridger between government and women that most characterized her time in office. The controversial nature of this work in light of Blanton's public presence cannot be overstated. As described by Alan R. Sadovnik and Susan F. Semel, women school leaders such as Blanton utilized a "female pedagogy and leadership" that is "more humane, less authoritarian, more democratic, and more concerned with caring and relationships than abstract goals." (65) This approach often put women leaders "at odds with the male-defined model of school administration that emerged in the early twentieth century." (66)

After she left office, Blanton wrote about what she considered her principal accomplishments while in office. One whole section of her writing was devoted to improving conditions for women. Blanton was immediately responsible for many of the increases in representation of women in state-level positions. In her words:
A law has been passed requiring that men and women teachers shall
receive equal pay for equal work. Women have received equal
representation with men in the State Department of Education. An equal
number of men and women, respectively, have been placed at the head of
its various divisions; and so far as is possible, an equal number of
men and women have received employment in the Department. An equal
number of men and women have been appointed to membership on the Summer
Normal Board of Examiners, and have received appointment to
scholarships to which the state superintendent has the appointive
power... Two women have served as president of the State Teachers'
Association, and of the 110 county teachers' associations now
organized, 21 per cent, have women as presidents. (67)


Ataloa, Sanchez and Blanton were exceptional people. It was due to their exceptionality that the GEB sought them out to serve as bridgers and brokers. Thus, their uniqueness was, in fact, a commonality. What else did these bridgers and brokers have in common? They all lived lives fueled by creativity, whether in music, art, or literature. They all lived lives marked by significant tragedy, through the loss of loved ones and political misfortunes, beginning at a very early age. And the obvious: They all lived professional lives touched by the GEB.

Other than their gifts in their respective fields, why did the GEB fund these particular people? If the GEB was seeking those who would implement the Hampton-Tuskegee model of education, Blanton supported state positions as such and Ataloa advocated for Indian art as a vocational trade, but the passionate advocate George Sanchez broke from this model and clearly saw beyond vocational education for the future of his people. If the GEB was seeking those who would perpetuate the work of the Board in the Southeast, Sanchez bounced between New Mexico and Texas and Blanton remained a Texas native, but Ataloa clearly broke from this trend taking on a variety of positions around the nation.

As unlikely as it may seem, the GEB may have been actively seeking those who would transgress against social norms, particularly regarding marginalized populations. All three figures would fit a more progressive view of educational work. Ataloa's work benefitting the indigenous peoples who comprised her students eventually led to the Bacone School of Traditional Art. Sanchez' work benefitting the Latinx populations arguably created the field of Chicanao studies in higher education. Blanton's work on behalf of the African American population was somewhat conformist to GEB standards, but her passionate work as an advocate for suffrage and women in the workforce was transgressive for the time.

In short, when looking at the collective versus individual biographies of these three leaders, it becomes obvious that the GEB did not fully understand what it was seeking or the incredible complexity of where it was working. In short, the GEB did not know what it meant to fund the West. While the powerful white men from New York saw the world in (literally) black and white terms, the U.S. West offered an artistic palette of all the colors found in the deserts of New Mexico at sunset. This misapplication of Southeastern, dichotomous views of race is endemic of GEB policy writ large in the West. The rich white men in New York had little idea of the vast complexities of the region in which they were endeavoring to make changes.

However, this lack of understanding allowed the bridgers and brokers to navigate their roles with much more fluidity and make contributions far beyond anything achieved in the Southeast. GEB funding allowed Ataloa to fund an arts program at Bacone and to build a lodge that still stands as testament to the vitality of American Indian art. GEB funding allowed George Sanchez to fund an attitudinal study regarding racial relations in New Mexico in the name of conducting industrial education and to develop Chicano studies programs in two states. GEB funding allowed Annie Webb Blanton to improve education for African Americans in Texas while using her position to advocate for improvements in the social and political lives of women. The GEB were seeking bridgers and brokers in the model of Booker T. Washington; the significant contributions made by Ataloa, Sanchez and Blanton with GEB money amounted so much more.


(1) For more on Ataloa, see Tamara Elder, Little Song: The Life of Ataloa Stone McLendon (Edmond, OK: Medicine Wheel Press, 2015); see also Garnet Wind and S. Matthew DeSpain, '"As Tall in Her Moccasins as Those Sequoias Will Grow on Mother Earth:' The Life of Ataloa," The Journal of Chickasaw History and Culture 11, no. 2 (2008): 14-43.

(2) For more on George Sanchez, see Carlos K. Blanton, George I. Sanchez: The Long Light for Mexican American Integration (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2014).

(3) For more on Annie Webb Blanton, see Joyce G. Crouch, "Annie Webb Blanton: Poised for Leadership," Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin 77, no. 3 (2011): 40 & 43; see also Debbie Mauldin Cottrell, Pioneer Woman Educator: The Progressive Spirit of Annie Webb Blanton (College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 1993).

(4) Lynne M. Getz, Judith Raftery, and Eileen Tamura, "Bridging Borders, Brokering Divides: Confronting the Limits of Cultural Assimilation," Journal of the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era 9, no. 2 (2010): 224.

(5) Starr Murphy to Wallace Buttrick (October 10,1905), Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller records Finding Aid 324, Series O--Rockefeller Boards, Box 15, Folder 149--General Education Board Memoranda 1905 (Rockefeller Archive Center: Sleepy Hollow, NY).

(6) Patricia Nelson Limerick, The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1987): 26.

(7) However, the U.S. Census Bureau classifies Texas and Oklahoma as falling in the South region, West South Central division. See U.S. Census Bureau, "Census Bureau Regions and Divisions with State FIPS Codes,"

(8) Carlos K. Blanton, 128-129.

(9) Catherine Drinker Bowen, Adventures of a Biographer (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1959): 162.

(10) Gaby Weiner, "Deconstructing Collective Biography," Deconstructing and Reconstructing Lives: Auto/Biography in Educational Settings, eds. Lucy Forsyth Townsend and Gaby Weiner (London, Ontario: The Althouse Press, 2011): 140.

(11) Corrine Glesne, "Ethnography with a Biographic Eye," in Writing Educational Biography: Explorations in Qualitative Research, ed. Craig Kridel (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998): 36.

(12) Brownwyn Davies and Susanne Gannon, Doing Collective Biography (Berkshire, UK: Open University Press, 2006): x.

(13) Barbara W Tuchman, "Biography as a Prism of History," in Biography as High Adventure: Life-Writers Speak on their Art, ed. Stephen Oates (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1986): 94.

(14) Weiner, 147.

(15) Angela Jones, "Lessons from the Niagara Movement: Prosopography and Discursive Protest," Sociological Focus 49, no. 1 (2016): 63-83.

(16) Jane Martin, "Gender, the City and the Politics of Schooling: Towards a Collective Biography of Women 'Doing Good' as Public Moralists in Victorian London," Gender and Education 17, no. 2 (2005): 143-163.

(17) Memorandum for Certificate of Incorporation (February 15 1902), Office of the Messrs. Rockefeller records Finding Aid 324, Series O--Rockefeller Boards, Box 15, Folder 145--Organization, Charter, Bylaws 1902-1950 (Rockefeller Archive Center: Sleepy Hollow, NY).

(18) For more on the racism and pecuniary nature inherent in this approach, see James D. Anderson, "Northern Foundations and the Shaping of Southern Black Rural Education 1902-1935," History of Education Quarterly 18, no. 4 (1978): 373. See also James Anderson, The Education of Blacks in the South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988): 87-138; and Eric Anderson and Alfred A. Moss, Dangerous Donations: Northern Philanthropy and Southern Black Education, 1902-1930 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1999): 85-107.

(19) Raymond Fosdick, Adventure in Giving: The Story of the General Education Board (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1962): 22.

(20) Fosdick, 1.

(21) Anderson was writing about the racism in the GEB's funding as early as 1978, but it is his pivotal book The Education of Blacks in the South 1860-1935 which most fully explores this argument. See James D. Anderson, "Northern foundations and the shaping of Southern Black rural education 1902-1935," History of Education Quarterly 18, no. 4 (1978), 371-396; and James D. Anderson, The Education of Blacks in the South 1860-1935, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988).

(22) Matthew D. Davis, '"Attuned to the Art of the Possible': The GEB's Jackson Davis," American Educational History Journal 31, no. 2 (2004): 127.

(23) Matthew D. Davis, "The General Education Board and Institutionalization of Black Public Schooling in the Interwar South," American Educational History Journal 33, no. 2 (2006): 72.

(24) Charles D. Biebel, "Private Foundations and Public Policy: The Case of Secondary Education During the Great Depression," History of Education Quarterly 16, no. 1 (1976): 3-4.

(25) Fosdick, 20.

(26) Anderson, "Northern Foundations," 383.

(27) Eric Anderson and Alfred A. Moss, Dangerous Donations: Northern Philanthropy and Southern Black Education, 1902 -1930 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1990): 85.

(28) Matthew D. Davis, "Stimulation, Sustenance, Subversion: The General Education Board and Southern US Public Education," }oumal of Educational Administration and History 38, no. 3 (2006): 317. See also Matthew D. Davis, "Curriculum Leadership for the Jim Crow South: The General Education Board Between the Two World Wars," Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue 8 (2006): 145-152.

(29) One example of western-focused research is Lynne Getz' research centered on GEB funding of the Nambe Project in New Mexico. See Lynne M. Getz, "Extending the Helping Hand to Hispanics: The Role of the General Education Board in New Mexico in the 1930's," Teacher's College Record 93, no. 3 (1992): 500-516.

(30) Wind and DeSpain, 17-18.

(31) Elder, 45.

(32) Lisa K. Neuman, "Selling Indian Education: Fundraising and American Indian Identities at Bacone College, 1880-1941," American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 31, no. 4 (2007): 66.

(33) For a more thorough discussion of the intersections of the primary racial groups in Oklahoma, see Murray Wickett, Contested Territory: Whites, Native Americans and African Americans in Oklahoma, 1865-1907 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2000).

(34) Elder, 109-110.

(35) Elder, 126. While Wind and DeSpain praise Ataloa for her perpetuation of Chickasaw culture, Lisa Neuman problematizes Ataloa's approach to the women's and men's glee clubs formed by Ataloa as perpetuating stereotypes in the name of appealing to white audiences. See Neuman, 61-65.

(36) Elder, 137.

(37) Neuman, 61.

(38) Ataloa to Leo Favrot (November 12,1931), General Education Board records Finding Aid 058, Series I: Appropriations, Subseries iv: Northern and Western Appropriations, Box 634, Folder 6654--Bacone College 1919-1953 (Rockefeller Archive Center: Sleepy Hollow, NY).

(39) Ibid.

(40) Carlos K. Blanton, 255-256.

(41) Ibid., 15-19.

(42) Ibid., 20-21.

(43) Ibid., 22-25.

(44) Lynne. M. Getz, "The Quaker, the Primitivist, and the Progressive: Three Cultural Brokers in New Mexico's Quest for Multicultural Harmony," journal of the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era 9, no. 2 (2010): 251.

(45) Ibid., 251-252.

(46) Fred McCuistion to George Sanchez (September 29,1944), General Education Board records Finding Aid 058, Series I: Appropriations, Subseries ii: Secondary and Higher Education, Box 286, Folder 2983--George Sanchez 1937-1944 (Rockefeller Archive Center: Sleepy Hollow, NY).

(47) David Stevens to Jackson Davis (December 19 1934), General Education Board records Finding Aid 058, Series I: Appropriations, Subseries i: Early Southern Program, Box 100, Folder 901--Division of Information and Statistics 1931-1935 (Rockefeller Archive Center: Sleepy Hollow, NY).

(48) George Sanchez to David Stevens (December 26, 1934), General Education Board records Finding Aid 058, Series I: Appropriations, Subseries i: Early Southern Program, Box 100, Folder 901--Division of Information and Statistics 1931-1935 (Rockefeller Archive Center: Sleepy Hollow, NY).

(49) George Sanchez, "Summarized Report of Travel Activities in New Mexico," General Education Board records Finding Aid 058, Series I: Appropriations, Subseries i: Early Southern Program, Box 100, Folder 901--Division of Information and Statistics 1931-1935 (Rockefeller Archive Center: Sleepy Hollow, NY).

(50) Carlos K. Blanton, 34-37.

(51) As an aside, Carlos Blanton notes the Southern historian C. Vann Woodward received a naval commission to write a series of books on naval battles--about which he knew nothing; C.K. Blanton, 82.

(52) Throughout their marriage, Sanchez's first wife, Virginia, suffered from a series of what Sanchez referred to as "breakdowns" that impacted her physical and mental well-being; C.K. Blanton, 54-57.

(53) Wallace W. Buttrick, "Memorandum", General Education Board records Finding Aid 058, Series I: Appropriations, Subseries i: Early Southern Program, Box 168, Folder 1575--Supervisor of Rural Schools-Negro 1918-1950 (Rockefeller Archive Center: Sleepy Hollow, NY).

(54) Carlos K. Blanton, 79.

(55) Cottrell, 10-14.

(56) Anne Durst, Women Educators in the Progressive Era: The Women Behind Dewey's Laboratory School (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010): 29.

(57) Judith N. McArthur, Creating the New Woman: The Rise of Southern Women's Progressive Culture in Texas, 1893-1918 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998): 56.

(58) Ibid., 143-144.

(59) Cottrell, Pioneer Woman Educator. 67

(60) Annie Webb Blanton to Wallace Buttrick (January 7,1919), General Education Board records Finding Aid 058, Series I: Appropriations, Subseries i: Early Southern Program, Box 168, Folder 1573--Supervisor of Rural Schools-Negro 1918-1950 (Rockefeller Archive Center: Sleepy Hollow, NY).

(61) Annie Webb Blanton to Abraham Flexner (July 15, 1919), General Education Board records Finding Aid 058, Series I: Appropriations, Subseries i: Early Southern Program, Box 168, Folder 1573--Supervisor of Rural Schools-Negro 1918-1950 (Rockefeller Archive Center: Sleepy Hollow, NY).

(62) Annie Webb Blanton to Abraham Flexner (June 5, 1920), General Education Board records Finding Aid 058, Series I: Appropriations, Subseries i: Early Southern Program, Box 168, Folder 1573--Supervisor of Rural Schools-Negro 1918-1950 (Rockefeller Archive Center: Sleepy Hollow, NY).

(63) McArthur, Creating the New Woman: 148.

(64) "Mission, Vision, Purposes," DKG--Leading Women Educators Impacting

Education Worldwide,

(65) Alan R. Sadovnik and Susan F. Semel, "Introduction," in Pounding Mothers and Others: Women Educational Leaders During the Progressive Era, eds. Alan R. Sadovnik and Susan F. Semel (New York: Palgrave Press, 2002): 3.

(66) Ibid.

(67) Annie Webb Blanton, "Progress in Education, 1918-22," Journal of Education (1923): 373.

Edward Janak

University of Toledo
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