The Calhoun Colored School was a private boarding and day school that was located around twenty eight miles from Montgomery. It was founded in 1892 by Charlotte Thorn, Mabel Dillingham, and Booker T. Washington. It was first designed to educate African American students from rural settings in the industrial school model. It sponsored a land bank that helped eighty five families buy land, improved the local road with help from the county, so that farmers could their products to the market. As the Calhoun Colored School developed it raised standards, and offered more of an academic curriculum. The only surviving building of the initial school is the Principals Cottage (Calhoun Colored School, 2015).
1891 many African Americans were still working under the sharecropping system,
and although the price of cotton continued to drop, Southern Agriculture was
still dependent on it. This caused a lot of difficulties for economic progress
in that region. Along with that, Southern white democrats made it extremely
hard for blacks and poor whites to vote in the region by making the task so complicated.
This led parents to desperately want their children to be educated. Booker T
Washington spoke at Hampton Institute about the great desire of Calhoun
students to learn, hoping to recruit teachers. He did persuade two white
teachers from New England, Charlotte Thorn and Mabel Dillingham, they traveled
to Calhoun alongside Washington to find a location for the school, build it,
and begin operation. They used family, friends, and the Hampton Institute
publication The Southern Workman, to
raise funds and receive donations (Calhoun Colored School, 2015).
student began school they would receive a basic elementary education and then
as they got older they would receive an industrial education. This would
prepare the students for work that was available in the rural setting that they
lived in. The highest achieving students were encouraged to become teachers, so
that they could help others continue their education. The students were not
taught to challenge politics. They were only taught skills that could help them
survive. Washington was afraid that if the students were taught to challenge
racist politics that white citizens in the county might force them to close the
school (Calhoun Colored School, 2015).
Mabel Dillingham’s death in 1985, Charlotte Thorn died in 1932. After her death
Calhoun continued on as a private school for several years until the Great
Depression. The Great Depression reduced the support that the school had, along
with mechanization of agriculture. Rural labor was not in high need anymore and
African Americans migrated to Midwestern industrial cities for jobs. In 1943
the State of Alabama acquired the school and built a new facility for a public
high school. The county is still majority African American (Calhoun Colored School, 2015).