Pan-African connections, transnational education, collective cultural capital, and Opportunities Industrialization Centers international.

Author:Franklin, V. P.

When I plan for the future, my thoughts rum eventually to Africa. ... I envision a bridge from America to Africa over which one day my children and my black brothers and black sisters will move freely from one side to the other and back again. The Bible has said, "The day will come when Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hands again." and I know that day is coming, though I shall not live to see it. The time is not far off when black technicians, artisans, and craftsmen by the thousands and tens of thousands will visit a flourishing Africa, helping to mold that continent into a new greatness glorious to see. --Leon H. Sullivan, Build Brother Build (1969) (1) The educational programs put in place by and for African Americans in the United States were at times exported to their brothers and sisters in Africa in the 20th century. When the vocational education program created by Rev. Leon Sullivan's Opportunities Industrialization Centers (OIC) was transferred to many African nations in the 1970s, it was dependent upon the collective cultural capital and philanthropy raised by the people themselves in Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, and other nations for its successful implementation. This was a very different situation from the early decades of the 20th century when the Hampton-Tuskegee form of black industrial education was introduced and promoted by European colonial powers and by the Phelps Stokes Fund in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s and implemented in European colonies in West, East, and Southern Africa. Indeed, many Africans rejected the educational programs trumpeted by Booker T. Washington and the imperial powers and preferred to support missionary schools and independent African schools that provided training in English, French, and other local and foreign languages, literary studies, mathematics, and higher education.

Beginning with General Samuel Armstrong, the founder of Hampton Institute in Virginia in 1867, and continued by Booker T. Washington at Tuskegee Institute and at a number of "little Tuskegees" opened in various parts of the American South in the late 19th century, a distinctive form of "Negro industrial education" was developed for African Americans. The curriculum consisted of basic literacy skills; character education; rudimentary training in several trades, including carpentry, agriculture, and printing; as well as large amounts of manual labor. The social purposes to be served by the Hampton-Tuskegee form of industrial education were to instill discipline, develop a commitment to agriculture, and provide a corps of conservative teachers and leaders for southern black public and private schools and communities. The training that was provided at Hampton and Tuskegee was not intended to produce highly skilled workers who could compete with white workers in the industrial workplace, although many students were attracted to the schools because of the promise of industrial training. Because the training provided at Hampton and Tuskegee accommodated the social and racial realities of southern life, and was aimed at making sure that southern black workers remained in the South as agricultural laborers, these institutions received great support from northern philanthropic foundations such as the John D. Rockefeller's General Education Board, the Andrew Carnegie Foundation, the John Slater Fund, the Phelps Stokes Fund, the Anna T. Jeanes Foundation, and the Rosenwald Fund. Despite the fact that African Americans sought various types of schooling, especially literary studies and higher education comparable to that available to white students, these foundations provided funding specifically for elementary and secondary forms of industrial education, along the lines of Hampton and Tuskegee. (2)

During the Civil War when the supply of high-quality Upland cotton produced in the U.S. South was no longer being supplied to textile mills in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and other European nations, these countries attempted to find viable substitutes. The British turned to India for cotton and Indian producers hoped to provide a substitute. But the short-staple cotton grown in India was only a short-term substitute for U.S. cotton, and following the war, the United States continued to be the major supplier for European textile manufacturers. (3) With the carving up of the African continent by the European powers in the 1880s, and the widespread belief that the only way to produce the Upland cotton that came out of the South was with "the Negro and a mule," the European imperialists began to investigate the possibilities of introducing cotton production into their African colonial territories.


Booker T. Washington, the principal of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, received national and international recognition for his industrial education program, and he gained enormous influence over the black educational institutions interested in receiving financial aid from the major philanthropic foundations. Through the highly publicized "farmers conferences" held at Tuskegee Institute annually, Washington claimed to be bringing black farmers the latest information on agricultural techniques and equipment that would greatly improve their fanning practices and increase their yields of cotton and other staple crops for the local and national markets. On the basis of the national recognition he achieved after his famous speech at the Cotton States Exposition in 1895, Washington received inquiries from various European nations about the potentiality of introducing his educational program and agricultural techniques in other parts of the world. (4)

The Germans were claiming and taking control of huge amounts of land in western and southwestern Africa in the 1880s and 1890s, and contacted Washington to learn more about his educational and agricultural programs. German officials eventually entered into an arrangement to have African Americans from Tuskegee travel to the German-controlled territory of Togo in West Africa and set up schools to train the Togolese people to raise Upland cotton, similar to that produced in the U.S. South, for the German and European markets. In Alabama in Africa: Booker T. Washington, the German Empire, and the Globalization of the New South, Andrew Zimmerman described the military conquest and economic subjugation of the Ewe peoples in Togo in 1895.

The German state established political and economic control in Togo, less with the construction of Ewe ethnic identities, than with direct military force accompanied by economic transformations that robbed many Africans of their previous independence. Establishing African cotton cultivation for export to European industry played a central role in the process. ... The Tuskegee expedition followed German conquests, establishing cotton farming to consolidate colonial rule in the aftermath of the military conflicts. (5) Mirroring the racist ideologies and practices coming out of the "New South," the Germans believed that, as was the case with black southerners, it was necessary to reduce the Africans to a state of economic dependency, and they sought to work with the educators from Tuskegee to "impose a "Negro" identity from New South ideology, first on the Ewe, and later on Africans throughout Togo." Three black educators from Tuskegee--James Nathan Calloway, John Wilfrey Robinson, and Shephard Lincoln Harris--arrived in January 1901, and eventually set up their school in Notse. While the Notse graduates were able to set up farms to produce cotton for the export market, it was at great cost. Zimmerman concluded that "the [Tuskegee] expedition succeeded in creating a cotton export market in Togo because it sent Africans backward along lines of progress commonly accepted by Germans, Africans, and Americans: from literate office work to agricultural labor, from domesticity to social disintegration, from prosperity to poverty, from skilled work to forced labor, and from freedom to domination." (6)

Missionary schools had been set up in Togo beginning in 1892 by Protestant and Catholic groups where they offered English language, reading and writing, arithmetic, and other subjects that prepared the graduates for white-collar positions. While the mission school graduates were needed for the colonial administration, they were universally disparaged by the Germans as "dandies" because they "challenged the singularity and superiority of European culture and the uniquely European face of political and economic authority in Africa." (7) However, unlike the Togolese Tuskegee at Notse that aimed at "subverting Togolese aspirations for literacy and white collar employment to make them a subject 'Negro' peasant population," the mission schools were very popular; though in 1897 there were only 15, but by 1911 there were over 140 mission schools. (8) Reports of atrocities committed as part of the military conquests carried out in East Africa and in Southwest Africa made their way to the German parliament in 1906, 1907, and afterward. At the same time, Kaiser Wilhelm II sought to reform the colonial practices. However, following Germany's defeat in World War I, the African territories were taken away, and in the postwar period the British, Belgians, and French attempted to emulate the German agricultural "success" in Togo with the assistance of U.S. foundations.

The Phelps Stokes Fund was organized in 1910 under the terms of the will of Caroline Phelps Stokes, and Booker T. Washington was contacted about what needed to be done in the area of schooling for African Americans. Eventually, the Phelps Stokes Fund would promote Tuskegee-style industrial education in the southern United States and in European colonies in Africa. With regard to black education in the U.S. South, Washington recommended a survey of the entire field of "Negro education" for the purpose of determining those schools worthy of financial assistance...

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