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Ruth Harris' principles helped African American students beat the odds.


In 1940, Dr. Ruth Harris' appointment as president of Stowe Teachers College (STC) in St. Louis, Missouri and the completion of the new STC facility represented two "firsts." Harris was the first female African American president of the College and the building was the first structure built for the purpose of preparing and developing African American teachers in St. Louis. (1) The fact that African American newspapers of the times, like the Chicago Defender and the Pittsburg Courier, published articles about these two events, Harris' ascendency to principal of the college and the new facility, connoted these events as momentous occasions for African Americans.

The St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS) Board, the governing body of the College, opened the new STC building to the public by hosting a dedication service. The attendees to the service included the city's dignitaries, SLPS's Board and administrators, STC's faculty and students and other community members. Harris was a featured speaker at the event and when it was her turn at the podium she addressed the audience by sharing how she intended to lead the college. In her address, Harris conveyed six objectives of the STC program: establish STC as a cultural center, earn accreditation, foster connections with communities, be competitive with other colleges and universities, excel in scholarship, and produce excellent results. (2) These objectives became the principles Harris used to guide the development of the college. Her principles were also the motivation for this historical analysis. In this study I attempted to answer the following question: how did Stowe Teachers College alumni, who attended the College during the time of Ruth Harris' presidency (1940 to 1954), believe their experience at Stowe influenced their professional careers and lives?

To facilitate the answering of the research question, I enlisted a former colleague to assist in identifying STC alumni to interview as a means to learn how Harris' principles influenced their college and professional careers. Although the colleague graduated from STC after Harris' tenure, he is well known in and well connected to the St. Louis African American community. He identified eight alumni, six males and two females who met the criteria of attending STC during Harris' tenure.

First, all eight of the recommended alumni were sent letters informing them of the study and inviting them to participate; the letters were then followed with personal telephone calls. Four of the eight individuals contacted agreed to participate, one person declined, and three never responded to the invitation. Semi-structured face-to-face interviews were used to gather participants' narratives. The interviews were scheduled for twenty-five minutes; yet, most lasted an hour. Using the snowball sample method, the researcher asked each participant at the end of the interview for names of other alumni who could be contacted as potential participants. Of the names received from the interviewees, either the individuals were already on the list of eight or they did not respond to requests to participate. Pseudonyms were assigned to the four interviewees and included James, a K-12 school administrator, Jerome, a technician in higher education, Alfred, a K-12 school district administrator, and Peter, a K-12 district administrator as well as an administrator in higher education.

The paper is organized into four sections. In the first section, I provided a historical context for the origin of STC during the Jim Crow era. In the second section I examined Harris' educational philosophy and the principles she used to develop the college. In the third section I discussed the influence of the interviewees' college experiences on their careers in light of their comments on Harris' principles. Last, I discussed the impact of STC on the professional and personal lives of the alumni.

Historical Context for the Origin of Stowe Teachers College

Judge Nathan B. Young, jurist, editor, and local historian, stated in an interview on July 15, 1970, "I think the complete civil rights background and history could be taken and understood better by knowing the history of St. Louis, Missouri, completely." (3) In regarding St. Louis history related to education, Judge Young could easily support his claim by citing landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases that germinated in St. Louis such as Gaines v. Canada (1938) and Shelly v. Kraemer (1945). The two cases not only advanced the eradication of Jim Crow laws, but are germane to this paper because both occurred around the same time as the appointment of Dr. Ruth Harris as principal of STC.

The two cases impacted STC in different ways. First, the Gaines decision enforced the separate but equal doctrine when the Court required the University of Missouri School of Law to either admit African Americans or establish a separate law school. This decision contributed to the framework for Brown in 1954; Brown was the impetus for the merger of STC with Harris Teacher's College (HTC). Second, Shelly ruled the use of covenants was unenforceable; therefore, real estate agents' use of covenants as a way to prevent African Americans from integrating White neighborhoods was ruled invalid in the eyes of the court. The agents' use of covenants was another example of its membership organization, the St. Louis Real Estate Exchange's (SLREE) political power in St. Louis which contributed to oppressive policies. Another example occurred in 1932 when the SLREE proposed first a reduction then the elimination of public higher education (e.g., HTC and STC) as one of the ways to reduce the City's budget during the onset of the Depression. (4)

Despite the above rulings, the Jim Crow law continued to be the de facto law until and even after 1954; however, it was most prominent in housing and education. It was difficult for African Americans to find suitable housing in St. Louis especially after World War II when the city's population exceeded available housing. Usually unfair housing practices forced African Americans to live in heavily populated and impoverished neighborhoods. For instance, when the court decided covenants were unenforceable the SLREE mobilized real estate agents to continue housing discriminatory practices by refusing to sell houses in White neighborhoods to African Americans. (5)

African American St. Louisans' progress in education, like housing, was equally difficult. In 1865, before Jim Crow, the Missouri General Assembly permitted all children, including African Americans, to attend school; however, at the same time it allowed school segregation. African Americans usually attended schools which had been vacated by White students yet they continued to be taught by White teachers. In 1877, the Educational Council, comprised of African American ministers, teachers, and laymen, petitioned the SLPS Board to employ African American teachers for their children. (6) The organization successfully secured the Board's agreement to hire African American teachers; yet, the SLPS Board did not open the African Americans teachers' school (then called High School-Normal School) until 1890.

In 1857, SLPS followed a national trend by creating a normal school to train White teachers. The Board first named the school Normal School, then Teachers College, and finally, Harris Teachers College. The rationale for the normal school was to reduce the cost of hiring teachers outside the region by developing teachers locally. (7) The Missouri 1865 statute, which made education available to all children in Missouri, compelled the SLPS to open schools for African Americans. In 1890, decades after commencing schools for African Americans and over a decade after committing to the Educational Council to employ African American teachers, SLPS opened a normal school to train African American female teachers. (8) It was not until 1930 that HTC and STC admitted men in the colleges' two-year program. (9) The African American teacher training school's first name was High School-Normal School and successively renamed Sumner Normal School, then, Charles Henry Sumner Teachers College, and last, Harriett Beecher Stowe Teachers College. It was subsequently referred to as Stowe Teachers College. In 1954, as a result of the Brown decision, the SLPS Board merged STC with HTC and retained the name Harris Teachers College. It was not until some years later that STC's alumni pressed for and received approval to include the Stowe name into HTC's name. Today the name of the college is Harris-Stowe State University.

Although HTC and STC had the same purpose--to train teachers--their paths to becoming four-year teachers' colleges were diametrically different in many ways. HTC opened in 1857 as a two-year teacher program for White students and the admissions requirement was a high school diploma. In 1904, once again in an attempt to keep up with national trends, the Board expanded the two-year program to a four-year teachers' college. Further, in 1905, the staff and students moved into a newly-constructed facility that included thirteen classrooms, a library, and well equipped labs. Located across from a high school, the White teachers used the high school to observe and practice teaching.

Conversely, STC's path towards becoming a four-year teachers' college and securing adequate facilities was vastly different from HTC. STC and HTC were similar in that both had admission requirement of having earned a high school diploma. However, unlike HTC, in 1890, STC's training for its teachers included only a one-year program and remained that way for thirty years before the Board finally expanded the program to two years of instruction. In 1925, five years after the establishment of the two-year program, the Board expanded the teacher training program to a four-year program to put it on par with HTC.

STC's first two facilities, formerly White elementary schools, were inferior for training teachers. STC shared its first facility, a cramped three-story building with one room on the first floor and four rooms on the second and third floors, with elementary and high school classes. Simmons Elementary School, the second STC facility, (10) yielded more space for the college, yet, it was still makeshift for the training program compared to HTC. In 1940, the staff and students were finally able to move into a new facility geared for training teachers. Comparatively, some thirty-five years after HTC's move to its new facility.

Harris' Appointment

In the same year, 1940, the Board of SLPS appointed Dr. Ruth Harris principal and later the president of STC. She was the first African American female to become president of the College. Harris was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Harris' father moved the family to St. Louis, Missouri where she attended elementary school, Sumner High School, and Sumner Normal. (11) As a student, she studied Greek, Latin and Hebrew at the University of Chicago.

In 1918, Harris commenced her teaching career in St. Louis as a firstgrade teacher in the old portable Cottage Avenue School. (12) Four years later she returned to her alma mater, Sumner High School, as a secondary school teacher. In 1923, Harris began teaching at STC, in 1932, the Board appointed her Second Vice-President, and in 1940, the Board promoted her to principal.

Harris received her master of arts and doctors of philosophy degrees from Columbia University in 1940. In her dissertation Harris examined teachers' knowledge of the communities where they worked compared to the students' knowledge of their communities. Her dissertation influenced her work at STC as evidenced by the inclusion of the principle, schools should make use of their communities as learning laboratories. (13) An ardent supporter of community involvement, she advocated for student involvement in their communities by making it a requirement of the teachers' program.

Ruth Harris' Leadership at Stowe

In Harris' speech at the dedication services of the new STC building, the Board, faculty, students, and community members gained insights into Harris' plans for STC as she shared six objectives of the Stowe Teachers College program (i.e., establish STC as a cultural center, earn accreditation, foster connections with communities, be competitive with other colleges and universities, excel in scholarship, and produce excellent results). She morphed these objectives into the seven principles she used as guides in her development of Stowe. (14) The principles included: (1) know your pupils first; (2) educate the whole teacher; (3) schools should make use of their communities as learning laboratories; (4) study your institution; (5) provide for individual differences; (6) seek better integration of the education courses, and (7) in-service teachers should participate in planning the curriculum of the college. (15)

The underpinnings of Harris' guiding principles and her beliefs about her role (16) as president of STC were rooted in the early nineteenth century African Americans' educational philosophy which bolstered "racial uplift" or the "elevating of the race." (17) Like most young African American girls growing up at the turn of the nineteenth century, Harris was probably encouraged to do work in service of African Americans through education. (18) Harris' father, a Baptist minister, undoubtedly provided many opportunities for her to witness up close his ministry work on behalf of the suffering. Additionally, Harris' narrative revealed her deep commitment to serve her race. Further, her exemplary scholarly record as well as her practical experience which spanned over twenty years illustrated her preparation to lead.

With a sense of readiness to serve, Harris' seven principles appeared to support two overarching goals. The first was to prepare African American teachers so that, after graduation, they could either join the teaching profession or attend any college or university in the country. Of her seven principles, four principles directly supported this first goal: know your pupils first, educate the whole teacher, schools should make use of their communities as learning laboratories, and provide for individual differences. The second goal was earning accreditation from the North Central Accreditation Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools in order for STC to be on equal footing with White colleges and universities. The three principles that buttressed this goal included: study your institution, seek better integration of the education courses, and in-service teachers should participate in planning the curriculum of the college. (19)

Implementing her principles required political savvy. According to African American history scholar Stephanie Shaw, African American women were more than teachers; they were "political or social leaders in the formal or informal movements of the larger group." (20) This was certainly true for Harris. STC's advancement towards accreditation and its graduates' abilities to secure jobs and placement in graduate schools were contingent upon Harris' political and social leadership skills. For example, Harris aimed to secure accreditation for STC; yet, a barrier was navigating the political environment dominated by White males inside and outside of SLPS. Before her appointment she witnessed the Board's slow movement towards constructing a facility for STC and how long it took the Board to approve changes for STC compared to HTC. Harris also wrote about SLREE's failed attempt to shutter both HTC and STC. (21)

However, Harris knew accreditation was especially important for nascent Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) (22) because of scathing reports written about HBCUs in publications by foundations such as the Carnegie and Phelps-Stokes Fund. The Fund, a foundation operated out of New York in the early 1900s, supported the education of African Americans; however, its report in 1916, Negro Education: A Study of the Private Higher Schools for Colored People in the United States, revealed most aspects of HBCUs (i.e., administration, curriculum, and pedagogy) were underdeveloped and only three institutions (Howard, Fisk, and Meharry) were worthy of being colleges. (23) Therefore, college officials, like Harris, sought legitimacy through college ranking. (24) Harris reiterated in her book that STC would indeed be as competitive as other colleges and universities. Over a fourteen-year period from 1940 to 1954 Harris sought and achieved accreditation for STC as well as graduated well-prepared teachers and students.

Harris' leadership as president at STC ended in 1954 in response to the Brown decision and the St. Louis Public Schools Board merging STC with HTC. Within the merge, the Board appointed the president of HTC as head of the newly-formed college and Harris assumed the position of Director of Elementary Education. (25) The Board's decision to remove Harris from the president position, followed the trend seen across the nation where African American educators were being "displaced" (terminated, not offered positions, forced to resign, received diminished responsibilities or token promotions) as school boards responded to the court decision and prepared for the desegregation of schools. (26) Harris' departure from STC marked over thirty years of service rendered to STC. While most believed Harris was the best qualified to lead the merged schools, little is known of Harris discussing the event and it seems as if she acted according to her educational philosophy, she put STC's students' needs ahead of her professional goals. Once again she revealed her strength and grace during a difficult period in St. Louis' history.

Alumni Share How Their STC Experience Influenced Their Careers

The four alumni interviewed in this study were all educators. They included James, a K-12 school administrator, Jerome, a technician in higher education, Alfred, a K-12 school district administrator, and Peter, a K-12 district administrator and higher education administrator. James, along with his wife, graduated from STC and each had productive careers in education; he retired from a large metropolitan school district after serving as principal at two schools while his wife retired as a district-level administrator. Jerome started his career as a technician at a prominent university in St. Louis, which ultimately led to an academic appointment. Alfred had a prolific professional career in education first as a teacher, next a building principal (at both elementary and secondary levels), and last, as a superintendent of a metropolitan school district. Pete commenced his career as a teacher, and then assumed a district role in a large urban district, followed by an appointment at a college, and ultimately returned to a district-level appointment within the school district he served previously.

At the onset, each of the alumni's experience seemed different. As a married student James' experience appeared dichotomous to Alfred's because he seemed less involved in campus activities than Alfred. On the other hand, Jerome's memories of STC paled next to his memories of Lincoln University, a HBCU in Jefferson City, Missouri where he completed his degree since STC did not offer a four-year program aligned with his career interest. Peter's memories of STC revealed he received lots of support from instructors which positively affected his career when he worked in higher education.

During the interviews I shared Harris' seven principles with each participant. None of the alumni knew about the principles. As I shared the principles with the alumni they shared their experiences that resonated with the principles. Of the four principles that bolstered Harris's goal of preparing African American teachers to become either teachers or graduate students in colleges or universities of their choice, the three that emerged from the interviews included: know your pupils first, educate the whole teacher, and schools should make use of their communities as learning laboratories.

While the individual influence of each of Harris' principles emerged in the alumni's voices, the most influential for achieving Harris' goal was the interrelatedness of the three principles coupled with faculty's support and the participants' goals. Interrelatedness refers to motivation defined as a set of interrelated beliefs and emotions that direct behavior. (27) It is presumed that the cumulative effect of the three principles, faculty's support, and the participants' goals influenced their professional lives because their goals (attend graduate school or work in desired field of study) reflected STC's program goals. (28) For example, all participants believed they would attain jobs in their fields of study or attend graduate school. Furthermore, the faculty supported their aspirations by providing tutoring to students with deficiencies, sponsoring assemblies with motivational speakers, or mentoring students. In the following paragraphs, the interviewees' narratives revealed the influences STC had on their professional careers and lives.

First Influence--Caring Faculty

Each of the participants spoke highly of faculty members' education and shared stories about how the instructors provided academic support, recommended students for opportunities, and mentored them. They spoke of their breadth of knowledge about their subject matter and attributed it to their attendance to outstanding colleges and universities.

In the book, Stowe Teachers College and Her Predecessors, Harris, who received her doctorate from Teachers College, acknowledged Stowe faculty's prestigious backgrounds by listing their names along with their alma maters. For instance, one math faculty member received his undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago and his master's degree from Columbia while another received his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and his master's degree from Harvard University. Other faculty alma maters included University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University, University of Illinois, and Ohio University as well as well-known HBCUs like Howard University, Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, and Clark University. (29)

Most of the above institutions were either in the northeastern corridor or the Midwest region of the United States. Stowe was not unlike other HBCUs that had rosters of outstanding well-educated faculty. This was due in part because many African Americans attended esteemed northern colleges (e.g., Teachers College) and universities at the expense of the states that provided separate education for Whites and African Americans. (30) In such cases, states reimbursed African Americans for any difference in tuition between northern and in-state institutions. (31) Unable to gain employment at all-White institutions, African Americans sought employment at HBCUs. (32)

Like Harris, the alumni seemed to be equally as proud of the STC's faculty and had many complimentary things to say about them. Jerome believed STC's faculty was very supportive. He said, "Students at Stowe could succeed if they hung in there." (33) Jerome, who walked by STC every day on his way to high school, said he always knew he wanted to attend college. As a high school honor roll student he aspired to be a doctor and study at Howard University, a HBCU in the District of Columbia. Instead upon graduation from high school he enrolled in STC because he could not afford to attend Howard University.

According to Jerome, Harris emphasized academics at STC and recognized that STC's students needed support. He said, "Harris posted students' cumulative grade point averages near her office ... she provided tutoring for students who needed it." (34) The focus on academics helped him complete two years at STC and ultimately graduate from Lincoln University. Additionally, during his interview Jerome highlighted Dr. John B. Ervin one of STC's exemplary teachers. (35) Ervin, recruited by Washington University-St. Louis (WUSTL), became the first African American dean at WUSTL. Today, WUSTL has a scholarship in his name.

Also reflecting on Stowe's faculty, Alfred commented, "As a young man I often wondered how the faculty ended up at Stowe." (36) He later realized that many taught at HBCUs because of the difficulties they faced in securing jobs at White institutions during the Jim Crow era. Alfred spoke about the faculty's mentoring program where faculty stayed in touch with alumni even after they graduated to assist them with problems they encountered in the workplace. Alfred stated, "Dr. Ervin met with graduates as a study group for several years ... students shared their problems with him and he gave suggestions on how they could handle problems in the professional world." (37) The support Stowe faculty offered students extended beyond students' enrollment at Stowe as faculty support and mentorship helped students navigate job acquisition and job success. Since the school boards across the nation terminated hundreds of African American teachers' positions in response to the Brawn decision, STC's mentoring program proved invaluable for students entering the teaching profession in 1954. (38)

In addition to preparing students for the profession, the support of Stowe faculty created a unique academic culture. For example, Peter shared, "The culture of Stowe was something!" (39) Like his colleagues he credited the faculty for setting the bar high for students and encouraging them to be accountable for their own success. He remembered how one of his professors modeled this behavior by sharing her academic record from her summer program with him as a way to encourage him to perform at his optimal. (40) Overall, he felt the instructors took an interest in students and gave them time and attention (e.g., they assigned "faculty hours" to students). According to Peter, "The goal of the professors was to create other professors." As an undergraduate student, the relationships he formed with the faculty served him well as a professional. After accepting an administrative job at STC, some of the same faculty who supported him as a student helped guide him during his tenure at STC.

Second Influence--Know Your Pupils First

The principle, know your pupil first, garnered a great deal of attention from Harris in her book as well as from the alumni. Harris believed it was essential for STC's faculty to know students' strengths and weaknesses in order to support them. During her teaching experience she witnessed the inequities of schooling for African Americans; therefore, she anticipated African American students would need academic support. Harris along with the faculty addressed the concerns by emphasizing recruitment to identify students' interests and assess their academic needs. Reflecting on the Harris' recruitment efforts, Jerome commented, "She recruited the best ... !"

The recruitment efforts for STC involved communicating with high school administrators to identify students interested in attending STC. Upon identifying future STC students the faculty canvassed students to determine their interests, invited them to freshmen orientation to learn about STC, and assessed them to determine their readiness for college coursework.

Based on their readiness, students were placed in one of two tracks; attending STC or attending STC's junior college. Students attending STC were individuals who graduated in the top third of their high school, aspired to become teachers and met the entrance requirements. Students who graduated in the top two-thirds of their class attended STC's junior college.

According to Harris the incoming students' reading abilities were far below college level; therefore, STC's faculty addressed the problem by assigning freshmen students to reading groups. (41) For example, students worked on remedial tasks at home or with an assigned teacher at STC in order to improve their skills. Last, freshmen attended orientation classes which included lectures, discussions, and conferences to help them develop goals.

The alumni were very positive about STC's efforts to get to know their students' strengths and limitations as well as provide academic support. Not only did they speak about STC's tutoring program but James added to Harris' narrative by mentioning the freshmen mentoring program. According to James, "... the faculty paired freshmen with senior students for a whole year." (42) The intent was to help freshmen avoid missteps and increase their likelihood of being successful in college. This experience connected to James' professional work because it became part of his belief system. He stated, "... building principals needed to know their schools, be cognizant of their environment, and operate from that point." (43)

Both Jerome and Alfred's comments focused on tutoring. Jerome spoke about the role of the staff in support of students. He said the staff assessed students and those who needed support received tutoring. However, he also mentioned the staff placed students in appropriate courses and assigned them suitable course loads (e.g., light load or extended day). (44) His comments extended Harris' explanation in her book of the faculty's efforts to support students' success. As Jerome shared his thinking about STC's student support efforts it reminded him of his tutoring program he hosted years ago. Similar to the STC's program he reached out to high school students to help them prepare for college.

Alfred also commented on the tutoring program; yet, most of his remarks focused on the support students received in the directed teaching program. According to Alfred the program allowed students to work in schools prior to graduation. He said, "... it was frightening for some because it was their first time teaching. Students quickly discovered if they were a fit for the profession." (45) The experience helped build his confidence. He recalled his student teaching experience and having his supervising teacher observe him present a lesson to students. During that particular lesson, one of the skills required to teach was one in which he was not particularly adept. However, his supervising teacher recognized it and showed him how to support students' learning using other competencies. From this experience he learned that processes and procedures were important for the development of others. Furthermore, he said, "His learning about processes started at Stowe and he used what he learned at Stowe as an administrator to develop people." (46)

Like Alfred, Peter spoke about STC's directed teaching program. He said, "Students received feedback from the faculty which helped them improve their skills as well as develop guide books to use in their teaching". He said he used STC's curriculum planning process during his professional career. For instance, when his school district's superintendent asked him to lead curriculum development in his area of study, he modeled his procedure after STC's process. He was recognized for the work he and his team produced for the school district.

Third Influence--Educate the Whole Teacher

Harris coined the phrase educate the whole teacher from the phrase "the whole child" (47) to express the inclusion of social and cultural activities in to the teacher education curriculum. Harris used the educate the whole teacher principle, to address the disenfranchisement of African Americans in the larger St. Louis community during the Jim Crow era. (48) Harris felt the exclusion or treatment of African Americans' participation in cultural events was an affront to their dignity; therefore, she created a cultural space at STC where students as well as community members could enjoy cultural events in a welcoming setting. She established a committee of faculty members to bring the best talent in music, drama, and dance to STC. (49) In her book she named mostly African American dignitaries of the times who presented to, entertained, or motivated STC audiences.

As students the alumni welcomed Harris' focus on cultural activities. Alfred summed it up best when he said, "... as poor kids growing up in St. Louis we had not listened to quartets or symphonies prior to getting the opportunity to do so at Stowe." (50) He revealed how he incorporated some of Harris' ideals into his professional work, such as introducing his students to new venues as a way to enhance their learning. He remembered how he took his students, who had not ventured beyond the borders of their neighborhood, to a mall that was in walking distance of their neighborhood.

James stated, "Harris brought in all kinds of people both nationally and internationally to Stowe." (51) Although only the actor, Vincent Price, a native of St. Louis came to mind; James felt the exposure allowed him and his peers to experience cultural performances not available to them outside of STC. Similarly, Jerome commented on Harris' encouragement of sororities' and fraternities' participation on campus and their sponsorship of cultural events at STC. He said Harris was a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and supported Greek organizations' sponsorship of activities such as teas. Since the only other university available at the time to African Americans had only one African American sorority he perceived the representation of the eight African American Greek organizations at STC as a benefit to students.

Fourth Influence--Using Communities as Learning Laboratories

The principle, using communities as learning labs, seemed particularly important to Harris because it was the subject of her dissertation: teachers should know the communities in which they worked. Furthermore, she made working in the community a requirement for STC's practicing teachers. Harris believed the teaching curriculum program should include provisions for students to gain experience working in the community that would lead to a commitment to serve. The community work experienced by the STC's alumni in this study seemed to have a lasting impact on them because they talked about volunteerism as an important part of their professional careers.

At STC the sociology instructors collaborated with city agencies to establish the liaison program between STC and community organizations. The students studied the organizations' purposes, programs, and outcomes. All students in the teacher training program had to perform fifty hours of field work while taking their sociology course. (52)

Alfred remembered how students had to complete so many hours (i.e., church, community centers, and health centers) of community work at STC. One illustration of his community-mindedness was the time he came out of retirement to lead a district. The board needed an interim administrator while they commenced a search for a new district leader. He responded positively to the request because he knew the Board needed additional time to search for a full time administrator.

Jerome's volunteerism was more traditional than the example cited for Alfred. He mentored high school-aged boys. Jerome supported them by listening to their issues and coaching them through challenges. He continued the work after retirement. Peter's example of community work echoed Harris' dissertation study because his commitments as a principal involved knowing the community that surrounded the school where he worked. He said his relationship with the community benefitted him because he knew the parents and they trusted him to take care of their children. Lastly, James, similar to Peter, commented on how he was cognizant of the environment of the schools where he served as principal and used the knowledge as starting points to lead the schools. Although each participant had a different story, they all contributed to their communities in ways Harris supported at STC.


Taught by caring and nurturing African American intelligentsias during the oppressive Jim Crow period, the alumni's narratives revealed their STC experience enriched their lives culturally and intellectually. The alumni's stories reflected their indomitable spirits upon leaving STC they felt prepared to pursue careers in education or further their studies at universities such as Washington University-St. Louis or St. Louis University. (53)

They also recognized Harris' efforts to motivate them to achieve academically as well as introduce them to the arts to complement their learning. According to the alumni STC provided a safety net for them if they needed support. Examples they provided included the tutoring program to assist incoming students who were deficient in reading or the faculty's mentoring program for STC's graduates.

The alumni aspired to learn and grow professionally and they all thrived in their careers. Three of the four interviewees' narratives revealed they commenced their careers as teachers; however, each quickly ascended the career ladder from teacher to administrator. For example, one interviewee served as a principal at two schools while another interviewee rose through the administration ranks to become the head of a school district. Still two other interviewees' careers included appointments to positions in higher education.

Furthermore, the interviewees' experience in STC's community involvement program seemed to instill in each of them a commitment to volunteerism. One interviewee said he returned to the workforce after retiring to serve as an interim district leader while the school board extended their candidate search. Another interviewee mentored high school students.

The STC's alumni's narratives not only illustrated STC's influence on their personal and professional lives but their stories demonstrated how Harris' principles of leadership bolstered their development. Harris used principles to support the development of STC students so when they graduated they could pursue teaching or attend any college or university in the country. The alumni's narratives revealed that Harris' plan worked.

Vanessa Garry

University of Missouri

St. Louis


(1) Ruth M. Harris, Stowe Teachers College and Her Predecessor (Boston: The Christopher Publishing House, 1967), 57-65.

(2) Harris, Stowe Teachers College and Her Predecessor, 57-65.

(3) See The State Historical Society of Missouri. Oral History Collection (S0829). Oral History T-0020. Interview with Judge Nathan B. Young. Interviewed by Dr. Richard Resh. July 15,1970.

(4) Harris, Stowe Teachers College and Her Predecessor, 42-43.

(5) Colin Gordon, Mapping Decline: St. Louis and the Fate of the American City, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), 69-82.

(6) Julia Davis, Harris Teachers College and Stowe Teachers College: Growth and Development 1891-1993. Thesis, Iowa State University, 1941, 39.

(7) Davis, Harris Teachers College and Stowe Teachers College.

(8) Ibid, 39.

(9) Harris, Stowe Teachers College and Her Predecessor, 39.

(10) Harris, Stowe Teachers College and Her Predecessor, 22-25. Davis, Harris Teachers College and Stowe Teachers College, 47.

(11) See St. Louis Women of Achievement 7, (1964): 1-11.

(12) See St. Louis Women of Achievement 7, (1964): 1-11.

(13) Vanessa Siddle Walker, Hello Professor: A Black Principal and Professional Leadership in the Segregated South (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2015).

(14) Harris, Stowe Teachers College and Her Predecessor, 61-65.

(15) Ibid, 84-162.

(16) Vanessa Siddle Walker, "African American Teaching in the South: 1940-1960," American Educational Research Journal 38, no. 4 (2002): 751-779.

(17) Linda M. Perkins, "The Impact of the 'Cult of True Womanhood' on the Education of Black Women," Journal of Social Issues 39, no. 3 (1983): 17-28.

(18) Margaret S. Crocco and Cally L. Waite, "Education and Marginality: Race and Gender in Higher Education 1940-1955/' History of Education Quarterly 47, no. 1 (2000): 72.

(19) Harris, Stowe Teachers College and Her Predecessor, 84-162.

(20) Stephanie J. Shaw, What a Woman Ought to Be and to Do: Black Professional Women Workers During the Jim Crow Era (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 2.

(21) Harris, Stowe Teachers College and Her Predecessor, 42.

(22) Carter G. Woodson, The Negro in Our History (Washington: The Assorted Publishers, Ind. 1927), no. 455. Most HBCUs founded after the Civil War (i.e., Fisk in 1866, Howard University in 1867, or Clark in Atlanta in 1870). Stephanie Y. Evans, Black Women in the Ivory Tower, 1850-1954 (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2007), 42-47.

(23) Ibid, 42-47. Crocco and Waite, "Fighting Injustice Through Education," History of Education 33, no. 5 (2004): 578-579.

(24) Evans, Black Women in the Ivory Tower, 1850-1954.

(25) George D. Brantley, "Present Status of Integration in the Public Schools of Missouri," The Journal of Negro Education 24, no. 3 (1955): 300. According to Brantley, Harris was appointed as Director of Elementary Education in the superintendent's office at St. Louis Public Schools.

(26) Michael Fultz, "The Displacement of Black Educators Post-Brown: An Overview and Analysis," History of Education Quarterly 44, no. 1 (2004):14.

(27) Kathryn R. Wentzel, "Social-Motivational Processes and Interpersonal Relationships: Implications for Understanding Motivation at School," Journal of Educational Psychology 91 (1999): 76.

(28) Ibid, 76.

(29) Harris, Stowe Teachers College and Her Predecessor, 29-32.

(30) Daniel T. Kelleher, "The Demise of the Separate but Equal Doctrine," The Journal of Negro History 56, no. 4 (1971): 262.

(31) Jayne R. Beilke, "The Changing Emphasis of the Rosenwald Fellowship Program," The Journal of Negro Education 66, no. 1 (1997): 4.

(32) Crocco and Waite, "Fighting Injustice Through Education," 581.

(33) Jerome (retired) interview by Vanessa B. Garry, March 24, 2016, interview 2, transcript.

(34) Ibid.

(35) James (retired administrator) interview by Vanessa B. Garry, March 24, 2016, interview 1, transcript.

(36) Alfred (retired administrator) interview by Vanessa B. Garry, March 28, 2016, interview 3, transcript.

(37) Ibid.

(38) Michael Fultz, "The Displacement of Black Educators Post-Brown: An Overview and Analysis," History of Education Quarterly 44, no. 1 (2004):14. Linda C. Tillman, "(Un)Intended Consequences?: The Impact of the Brown v. Board of Education Decision on the Employment Status of Black Educators," Education and Urban Society 36 (2004):280-303..

(39) Peter (retired administrator) interview by Vanessa B. Garry, March 31, 2016, interview 4, transcript.

(40) Ibid.

(41) Harris, Stowe Teachers College and Her Predecessor, 96. Myrdal, Gunnar. An American Dilemma (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1944), 337-344. Myrdal concluded in the North either poverty restricted African Americans' access to education or their migration to urban areas and eventually inhabiting impoverished areas gave them access to inferior schools.

(42) James (retired administrator) interview by Vanessa B. Garry, March 24, 2016, interview 1, transcript.

(43) Ibid.

(44) Jerome (retired educator) interview by Vanessa B. Garry, March 24, 2016, interview 2, transcript.

(45) Alfred (retired administrator) interview by Vanessa B. Garry, March 28, 2016, interview 3, transcript.

(46) Ibid.

(47) Harris, Stowe Teachers College and Her Predecessor, 112.

(48) Ibid, 54.

(49) See St. Louis Women of Achievement 7, (1964): 1-11.

(50) Alfred (retired administrator) interview by Vanessa B. Garry, March 28, 2016, interview 3, transcript.

(51) James (retired administrator) interview by Vanessa B. Garry, March 24, 2016, interview 1, transcript.

(52) Harris, Stowe Teachers College and Her Predecessor, 121-124.

(53) Jerome (retired educator) interview by Vanessa B. Garry, March 24,2016, interview 2, transcript. Alfred (retired administrator) interview by Vanessa B. Garry, March 28, 2016, interview 3, transcript.
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Author:Garry, Vanessa
Publication:Vitae Scholasticae
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Date:Mar 22, 2016
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