The (unwritten) History of North Carolina’s Public School’s

Chapter One — NC State Board of Education.

As part of my historical investigation of N.C. schools, one of the first “methods” I have used has really just been to run Internet searches for terms like “history of nc public schools.”  May as well start with what on the outer surface of available historical knowledge.  And as expected, these searches have turned up the usual broad, survey-level wikipedia links as well as a lot of links to individual schools’ (mostly college and university) history sites.  One particularly interesting hit that these initial searches came up with is an overview of the history of North Carolina’s public schools that extends all the way back to the drafting of the NC Constitution in 1776.

The constitution provided for State-supported schools then, though the idea of a school board would not really take hold until 1825 with the establishment of the “Literary Board.”  I thought this name had a certain Orwellian ring to it.  And so, I was disgusted, but not entirely surprised when I read that the Literary Fund was originally fed by “bank stocks and proceeds from the sales of vacant lands [my emphasis], as well as dividends from navigation companies, license taxes and money received from the federal government for aid in the removal of Cherokee Indians” (NC State Board of Education).

This was, after all, the age of The Indian Removal Act (1830) and the Trail of Tears, which forcibly displaced many thousands of the original inhabitants of the territory now known as North Carolina.  It is a pretty gross error that the author of this institutional history retains the designation “vacant lands” in this description and fails to interrogate such an obvious misrepresentation by the founders of North Carolina’s public school bureaucracy.

But as I mentioned, as despicable a move as it was to link the early funding of North Carolina’s public schools to the displacement and genocide of aboriginal people was not entirely unexpected.  It certainly fits the larger pattern of colonialism and imperial capitalism that have been the hallmark of the State and Federal governments of the U.S. since the beginning.

Who has written about the learning traditions of the Cherokee who were forced into hiding in the Appalachian Mountains the 1830s?  I am vaguely familiar with legendary figures like the Cherokee man, Tsali, who led a late wave of resistance against Jackson’s forces.  But I suspect that the stories I have heard, whitewashed as they were though Boy Scouts campfire rituals, are severely lacking in authenticity.

Here’s a link to a Cherokee newspaper which has some useful looking resources on EBCI Treaties between the Cherokee and US Government, but nothing after 1819 for some reason…

And here is a link to the Cherokee Central Schools website, which I want to explore in much greater length in the future.

What are the origins of these schools?  When, how were they established?  Why do they use North Carolina curriculum and assessments as they report on this site?  What are the consequences of this positive and negative?