W.E.B. Du Bois


June 1, 1911

There are people in the United States who say: “We have tried education as a solution for the race problem and failed, therefore,” etc.

We cannot too often insist that this is not true. We have never tried the experiment. We have begun the experiment—we have tried it here and there, but the United States has not to-day, and never has had, a complete rational system of elementary education for its myriads of black and white children, and this fact is perhaps the greatest arraignment of American democracy.

Educational facilities are not good throughout the North, while in the South they are on the whole, wretched.

The Birmingham Age-Herald said editorially in 1910: “About one-third of the children of school age in this State go to school, and two-thirds do not. … This puts Alabama on the Russian basis. … It is safe to say that one-half of the 700,000 children of to-day are not sent to school and are, therefore, growing up without a public school education. It is also safe to say that the school accommodations of this State are not ample enough to care for one-half of the State’s children.” Why in the face of such facts will people insist that education has failed?

Let us try education and try it on a national scale. Let us have federal aid to common school training, even if it delays our battleships and puts the annual army manœuvres out of business. A statement made a few years ago by the superintendent of education in the Southern States set forth these facts:

Comparative statistics of undoubted authority show that of all sections of the United States the public schools of the South have the poorest houses and equipment, the most poorly paid teachers, the shortest school terms, and the most inadequate supervision. The average salary of teachers for the country at large is $49 for men and $40 for women, while the average salary for teachers in the Southern States is $35.63 for men and $30.47 for women. The average length of the public school term for the country at large is 145 days. The average length of the public school term for the North Atlantic States is 177.3 days; the average length of the public school term for the Southern States, including Tennessee, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia, Texas, Virginia and Florida is 99 days.

For every woman and child of its population the country at large is spending $2.99 for the education of its children. The South is spending barely 98 cents. The country at large is spending $20.29 for every pupil enrolled in its public schools. The Southern States are spending only $6.95. The country at large is spending for every child of school age in the United States an average of $10.57; the Southern States are spending for every child of school age within their borders $4.05. … Twenty-four per cent, of the white population of the United States dwell in the Southern States that composed the Confederacy, while 64 per cent, of all the white illiterates over 10 years of age are found in these States.


For attribution, please cite this work as:
Du Bois, W.E.B. 1911. “Education.” The Crisis 2 (2): 62.