After the American civil war in 1865 President Abraham Lincoln gave a proclamation which marked the freedom of slaves and brought to an end the dark history of slavery. It is from this proclamation that congress amended the constitution of the United States. There were three amendments that were made to the constitution granting the African American and other marginalized groups a chance to feel they belong to the American dream.
The amendments was to make slavery illegal and recognizing the African American as citizens of the united states of America where they were to be recognized like any other American and accorded all the privileges enjoyed by other citizens of this nation. States were outlawed from having any forms of discrimination on any group of people especially the African American. Changing of the constitution outlawing slavery gave a lot of hope to the African Americans as they realized that previously they had been denied many opportunities that a human being needed to prosper. (Cynthia, N, 1989)
One of the tools that they have been deprived of was the power of the education. There were very few African Americans who new how to read and write before this great amendment of the constitution was made freeing them from the yolk of forced labor and great discrimination. Before then educating a black person was viewed as a crime in many states which lagged behind in the abolition of slavery especially those in the south.
These states had to change the laws in line with the amendments made to the constitution by the congress allowing the African Americans to access the education just like any American. The laws were changed but they were replaced by the segregation where African Americans could not interact with the whites. . (Alexander, and David, K. 2005)
Education system was divided on racial lines with separate schools for the whites and the blacks. . (Cynthia, N, 1989)
Repealed laws meant that blacks were to go through an education system which was different from the one whites went through. Black children attended different schools from those attended by the white children; they had different teachers and textbooks too.
This segregation was not only experienced to the African American children but also to the African American teachers who handled larger classes than their white counterparts but received a salary half of what the white teachers received. Schools attended by the black students were in most cases treated differently, the supplies especially the school equipment were the unwanted items in the white schools dumped to the black schools.
Black schools were largely under funded leading to many problems being experienced in these institutions impacting negatively on the education of the African American in the southern states. (Blum, E 2003)
Despite these short comings the African Americans did not loose hope they were still determined to get education a tool that will liberate them fully from dependence and abject poverty that characterized their lives. It was noted that enrolment in the black schools rose during reconstruction period, this shows that African Americans were keen to learn and catch up with the rest after years of missed opportunities. Donations were made to fund black schools from various quarters.
Numeruos contribution were made by different black Americans like W.E.B. Dubois who disagreed with Washington authorities suggestion that African American should pursue courses which give them skills on agriculture and manual labor. Dubois challenged the method of training advocated by the Washington; instead he proposed that African American should be well educated just like the whites.
He believed that what African Americans needed were not segregated or mixed schools but rather quality education that will help them compete on equal terms with the whites. Other notable contributors towards the education of African Americans were Lucy Lancy, Nannie Helen and Mary Mac Lead. These women are renowned for the input on black American education particularly establishment of institutions which specifically uplifted girls education. . (Cynthia, N, 1989)
As we have seen there existed sharp disparities on white and African American education in terms of access and quality. Even within the African American circles there existed gender disparities in education in terms of access. Women and particularly the girls were greatly disadvantaged as they faced a double jeopardy, they were segregated just like their male counterparts and when it came to family level or at the societal levels they did not receive equal treatment with men.
Society then accorded women and girls a lesser role in the society and a woman place was in the house. This was also reflected in the education system of the African American where boys were encouraged to take up courses that equipped them with skills in vocational jobs while girls leaned more towards gaining skills on domestic issues and skills which lead to career which are low paying.
Societal expectations were played in the education system; boys are expected to take up from their fathers. As a man the society expects a lot as man is the provider for the family. Therefore boys were supposed to acquire skills that will enable them to take up this role in future hence being encouraged to pursue vocational training such as carpentry, masonry among others as well as agriculture.
Women on the other hand are expected to raise the children and take care of the family. Their education was aiming at equipping them with skills to perform these tasks. They took up courses that dealt more with domestic responsibilities, social work and other related areas. Those who were broad enough took courses that equipped them with skills that would enable them to work as secretaries and typists. (Blum, E 2003)
There are subjects that were regarded as male dominated, these are mathematics and sciences. Boys were performing well in arithmetic and general sciences as opposed to girls whom performance was low. This can be attributed to the general perception that sciences favor male and this is not a place for the girls. Sciences were considered hard subject and they were meant for the boys who are perceived to be tough and take up challenges easily than girls who were seen as weak and should be handled carefully.
Gender differences were well exhibited in African American schools and this perhaps discouraged girls from taking courses perceived to be male. . (Cynthia, N, 1989)
One of the thing s that has promoted these differences is the school system which favored the male child. Text books that were used in the school are written in a male language, they did not recognize girls, for example when referring to a person, word man was dominantly used as opposed to recognition of both gender .
This created the perception that education was meant for the boys since girls were not even given a place of recognition and appreciation in these study materials. When it came to graphics most of them depicted man as strong while a woman as weak and many other negative aspects. This is the message that children got and they could not move away from these perception hence the continuation of male dominance in the society.
Teaching styles also were largely to blame for the disparities that existed during this time in the African American education system.
Teachers were seen to favor boys in class as they were perceived to be sharp while girls were shy. This takes us back to culture, in most society especially the African American of this period expected women to be shy and only talk when it is necessary.
Girls through acculturation picked these traits from their mothers and by large extended it to the classroom. (Alexander, and David, K. 2005)
In most cases girls will wait for the male counterpart to respond to the teacher’s question while taking a back seat. Teachers unknowingly focused more on the boys while girls were overlooked a tendency that exists even today though not to a large extent. This automatically led to poor performance of girls in school compared to the boys.
The way teachers were trained to deal with the student is another aspect that shaped the girls performance in schools.
Teachers were trained to cater to the boy’s interest. Largely boys are known to be rough while girls tend to soft. To keep class order the teacher has to control the boys’ behavior. Boys in most cases vent their frustrations in an open but in a rough manner while girls tend to repress their anger and withdraw.
To control boys teacher had to make them well attentive by ensuring they make contribution in class discussions. Through this method of approach it can be said that boys were favored at the expense of boys’ therefore performing better.
One of the areas where girls performed better than boys was on social studies and languages. Perhaps this is because women in general are good in the issue affecting the society as they are its pillars and again women have been known to be good speakers as the master language with perfection that can not be matched with men. This may explain the reason why girls took career that tends to incline towards the social issues, careers that do not require calculation and too much analytical work. . (Eric, F, 1988)
Cultural bias is another area that brought great disparities in the education of African American boys and girls. Parents and society expectation varied greatly as far as boys and girls were concerned.
Even teachers saw different potentials between these two sexes. When solving problems in classrooms there tended to be a trend where boys were left out to figure for themselves whereas girls were given clues and in some cases answers, this practice gave boys courage to tackle issues on themselves even in real life situation while denying the girls the same chance.
This was extended in the societies where in most cases women expected their men to offer solution in most cases, therefore decision making process being dominated by men where women took a back seat though they played very important roles as far as society was concerned. Research has shown that the kind of assistance offered to girls in class pulls down their self confidence and self esteem. Hence impacting negatively on their lives and education at large.
Girls were largely raised to work at home and not to pursue careers. Women were not expected to work for a living but depend on their men for provision of basic needs. This situation made girls not take education seriously as they will later have a partner who will provide for her and the family as well.
Women were not directed to take career paths so even if the woman was to be employed they settled lower class jobs therefore continuing to be in occupations that are perceived to traditional women jobs such as secretarial and clerical works.
Since boys were encouraged from the word go to take education as the path that will redeem them from poverty most of them took it seriously and this may partly explain why their performance was better than girls and ended up taking careers that were well paying.
Number of the days a student attends school to some extent determines the performance. A student who attend the entire lessons and attentively participates in the classroom tend to perform better.
Teenage African American girls just like any other girl of their age went through a life cycle where they would miss school due to menstruation. Since this process is repeated every month it means some of the girls were absent from school for a long period of time. Boys on the other hand missed school for reason such sickness therefore most of the time they were in class participating giving them an upper hand as opposed to girls as far as performance is concerned.
Girls were also expected to help their mothers with domestic chores at home so in some cases they missed school as they were taking care of a sick sibling or their mother was away on a journey and they had to take care of their younger siblings.Absentism impacted negatively on girls education as they missed important lessons which were examinable therefore leading to the poor performance as compared to the boys.
Drop out rates were higher for girls than in boys. This is largely attributed the fact that girls were taking education as a preparation for a marriage life. Most girls did not proceed to higher levels as they were married to bring up families. On average girls married earlier than boys.
This denied them a chance to proceed with education. On the other hand boys waited a little longer to establish a career before starting a family so this meant that boys went a step further and acquired higher education. This helped them to gain access to well paying jobs at their disposal. Early pregnancies also forced girls out of school as she could not be allowed to continue schooling. (Eric, F, 1988)
Getting pregnant out of wedlock and especially while still in school was something that was frowned at and in some cases led to punishment of the girl. When a girl got into this situation it meant that her school life has been cut short regardless of the level she may attained.
This was not the case when it came to the boys who were responsible for the pregnancy, the continued with their education while girls were left out to suffer on their own. This is an extension of the cultural prejudices that existed in the society where women were not treated as equal to men. This explains why women were left behind in career development as they were at disadvantaged position compared to their male counterparts.
Sexual harassment in school and out of school affected girl education. In some cases girl became pregnant as a result of these advances meaning they had to drop out of school. Since girls are vulnerable in the society due to their position in the society, sometime they have no control on their reproductive issues. In some cases women were not even allowed to decide on the size of the family.
Lack of education has contributed largely to this state of affairs because with education comes empowerment. A woman who was educated, become empowered as she can be able to get employment and earn her own money something which removed her dependence on men. These women were viewed as a threat in the society and were largely seen as rebels as they have defied the odds and establish themselves as equal with men thus threatening the status quo. (Earl,L,1991)
Through denying girl child opportunity to precede with the education the society had put a woman at disadvantaged position as she has to continue depending on the man for upkeep. Though African American man had been freed from slavery the African American woman was still in the bondage of slavery this time not advanced by the master but by a man in her life. Continued subordination of a woman and the girl meant that this trend was not to end in the near future as this practice was deeply rooted in the culture not only in the African American culture but also in their white counterparts.
Though education was there for all there were many hurdles including segregation that an African American woman had to deal with. Her male counterpart had an easy ride since he called the short and the decision whether a woman was to be educated fell his hands. Man had been given power by the society to make decision for and on behalf of the woman and this mantle was well passed from one generation to the other through the process of enculturation. (Blum, E 2003)
Educating a woman is equivalent to educating a society. The woman will bring up the children most likely the same way she was brought up.
If she was educated she will be able to bring children who are educated as well and if the trend continues the whole population of African American will be educated therefore empowered and in this way bringing segregation to an end.
Perhaps lack of equal opportunities for boys and girls in the African American societies contributed to the injustices that were committed against this group. If the society allowed the girl child to further education without many hindrances, many steps would have been made and this would have been a very big step towards changing the America people largely the racist to embrace the black societies and other minorities through persuasions and other methods.
Reconstruction period offered so many opportunities for the boys and girls of African American origin and others at large. With the education for all there were enough jobs for all therefore if both boys and girls had equal opportunities to quality education big strides would have been made therefore helping in reduction of poverty in this group that was coming from the dark history of slavery. There was a great need for engineers, technician and other jobs that boys were encourage to pursue with encouragement and full support girls would have performed more the same or even better as they have come to prove in the recent times.
Although the gap has slowly been closed African American women have come from far and the struggle they had to undergo has proved that with determination and persevererance we can change a situation for the better. Our girls are beating men in their own games we have women in high offices calling the shots in the cooperate world. Careers that we male dominated now have a good number of women who are doing well. Girls have proved that what a boy can do a girl can and perhaps better.
Cynthia, N. 1989. Afro-American women of the south and the advancement of the race – 1895-1925.Knoxville, Tennessee University Press.
Blum, E. 2003. Atlanta, ASA Race, gender and transformation work of the missionary work in the south
Eric, F.1988. Reconstruction: America unfinished, 1863-1877. Newyork; Harper and Row
Earl, L, 1991. In their own interests: Race, Class and Power in the Twentieth century. Norfolk, California Press.
Alexander, and David, K. 2005. America. Public School law, 6th Ed.