Fisk: Fisk University and American Missionary Association Essay

Submitted By ravensavannah
Words: 2310
Pages: 10

Before and even during the Civil War, a desire to educate blacks began to grow and become an important task throughout the nation. Sympathizers of the Union and preachers began the process of teaching uneducated slaves throughout the North. After the Civil War ended, many teachers headed south to teach the newly freedman. Among those that headed south there were three important men: John Ogden, Reverend Erastus Milo Cravath, and Reverend Edward P. Smith.1 John Ogden served in the Civil War as a second lieutenant in the Second Wisconsin Cavalry. While on duty in Tennessee, he was captured by Confederate forces and spent a few months in a prison camp. This however did not waiver his interest in the progression of black troops. After he was released and the war was over, he was appointed superintendent of education for the Freedman’s Bureau in Tennessee and in 1865 he took office with a headquarters in Nashville. Reverend Erastus Milo Cravath grew up in Homer, New York and was raised with an abolitionist family. During Cravath’s childhood, his father ran an underground railroad station where he housed many escaped fugitive slaves. He attended not one, but two antislavery abolitionist universities: New York Central College and Oberlin College. In 1857, he graduated from the latter of the two, where he had completed the theological seminary program. The time between graduation and the start of the war, he served as Berlin Heights Ohio Congregational Church. Eventually he would leave this position and enlist as chaplain to the 101st Regiment of Ohio Volunteers. While serving as chaplain, Reverend Cravath saw first hand the need freedman had for more education in the south and decided to take action after the war’s end. Staying true to his decision, Cravath accepted the position of field secretary of the American Missionary Association in 1865. The AMA was one of the most prominent societies engaged in the education of freedman. The American Missionary Association is where Reverend Erastus Milo Cravath and Reverend Edward P. Smith paths crossed. Smith was the district secretary of the newly formed Middle West Department of the American Missionary Association at Cincinnati. The two men were appointed the task to establish an elementary school for blacks in Nashville. After surveying the city, the men decided that there was more room for growth than just a new elementary school; the visualization for a university for freedman began to form. The man to help grow these plans was non other than Superintendent of Education, John Ogden. The three men all agreed that Nashville was an exceptional location to open up a successful and thriving school. The population then consisted of 16,988 citizens, of which 3,945 of those were black.2 The well sized black community that existed and the central location to surrounding border states pushed Ogden to quickly agree to enlist aid from the Freedman’s Bureau. Scouting for suitable land for which to build the school started promptly there after. There was an array of money issues before the school had even started. The three men had much difficulty finding owners that would sell them land for their intended purposes; when they did find owners that would sell, the land in many cases would be too expensive or in the wrong location. After much searching, the men learned that the Union hospital in TN would soon be given up by the government and quickly became an option for school grounds. However, the total price of just the land was 16,000 with 25 percent down which greatly exceeded their budget. This did not foil the men’s plan and they pledged to raise the money needed. The first of four annual installments was raised by Ogden, Cravath, and Smith. The American Missionary Association and the Western Freedmen’s Aid Commission paid the second and fourth installment, while the Freedmen’s Bureau held up their vow to aid and paid the third. Finally the land was theirs. Finally the men had the