Soul Stirring: The Black Church as a Vanguard for 'Brown'

Shantella Y. Sherman | 10/30/2013, 3 p.m.
Following Emancipation, the vast majority of African Americans sought to increase their intellectual and social mobility by enrolling in church-sponsored ...
The first-grade class of the Miner Normal School, located in Northwest Washington, is seen here. The initial curriculum provided African Americans instruction in reading, writing and basic math, as well as social and personal hygiene classes. (Courtesy photo)

Dorsey, 40, said that while the AMA and Rosenwald Fund helped establish and financially support thousands of schools in the South, it was the grassroots efforts of individual Black churches that provided the financial, mental and spiritual support students required to succeed.

“There were no Pell Grants back then and definitely no student loans. When those collection plates went around the church, it was a collective investment disenfranchised people were making in the racial and social uplift of the next generation. It wasn’t just tuition money; it was clothing money, it was book money, it was ‘we are giving you what we really don’t have to spare’ money; and it was ‘we are making a way for you, so you can make it better for us all’ money,” Dorsey said. “No matter what you may believe about the Black church today, they were the life rafts that helped bring us safely through a treacherous and vile past. Even after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, it was these centers of education in the basements of Black churches that helped citizens navigate voting literacy exams, supplied supplemental education and resources to students of all ages, and helped usher in the Civil Rights Movement.”