Remembering the First Black College: The Extended Life of Avery College

Author: ORCID icon
Hanna, Cassondra, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Hill Edwards, Justene, University of Virginia

In the year 1849, industrial philanthropist Rev. Charles Avery founded the Allegheny Institute and Mission Church. Despite the momentous invention of the first Black college, its story has been largely overlooked by historians of race and education. While historians of Black education accept that the college closed in 1873, an 1892 movement to reopen Avery College as an industrial school reveals the continuity of the school beyond that closure. Necessarily, this microhistory weaves through broader histories of race, education, labor, and industrialization in the Ohio River Valley –the Borderlands of American Slavery and expansion across the Long 19th century. Exploring the flow of capital and ideas to and through the school, from its creation to its ultimate demise, casts a critical light on the tentacles of Enslavement and indigenous dispossession within the histories of American education and philanthropy. Consequently, Avery College, as a lens, unveils the role of Racial Capitalism in making the modern American political economy. Ultimately, the decision to bulldoze Avery College for an interstate and replace it with a historical marker embodies a process of discrimination, displacement, and desecration that has reverberated across the entire history of the United States. Overall, remembering Avery College seeks to disrupt the triumphant history of interest convergence as told by the minority of Black schools which survived the 20th century. Instead, from the ashes of Avery Colleges emerges a longer history of race, education, and inequality preserved within the very landscape from which it was erased.

MA (Master of Arts)
Pittsburgh, History of Education, Black education, spatial history, mapping, capitalism and education, labor, African American history, Long 19th Century, Black Intellectual History
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