Since 1851: 160 Years of Scholarship and Achievement in the Nation’s Capital

Cleveland Park Library

Since 1851: 160 Years of Scholarship and Achievement in the Nation’s Capital

Author Talk

Book Cover: Since 1851Please join us on Thursday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. for a historical look at the District of Columbia and public higher education.

This presentation will highlight two eras, approximately 100 years apart, when D.C. and higher education in the District underwent dramatic change. Although very different in many significant ways, the period of Reconstruction following the Civil War and the decade of the 1960s shared a rare generosity of spirit, enlightened black and white leadership, a relatively liberal Congress, and some degree of home rule. In both periods, new institutions and reforms in education, especially higher education, moved to the forefront of the political agenda in support of efforts to build a democratic future for the District that reflected its multiracial population. The presenters will accompany their remarks with archival photographs and will moderate an open discussion with the audience afterwards.

More about the program:
Dr. William Zeisel will begin the presentation with “Reconstruction and the Dream of an Independent Black Educational System.”  After the Civil War, whites and blacks had to decide whether the main focus of education should be private or public; and if public, whether it would be segregated by race. The answers to these questions were affected by major political, social and economic changes in the nation and the District.

During Reconstruction, when the federal government sought to re-integrate the secessionist states into the Union, the District underwent a political reorganization that increased its autonomy while it continued to enjoy the benefits of wartime legislation that had established the Freedman’s Bureau, including the Freedman’s Bank. The tensions and possibilities of the period provide an illuminating insight into relatively unexamined events, such as formation of the first high schools, the beginning of Miner and Wilson Teachers Colleges, and especially the critical public role played by the Miner Fund, which held one of the black community’s largest pools of financial capital during the 1870s through 1920s.

Dr. Marjorie Lightman will follow with “The Chase Report of 1963 and the Revival of Black Agency in the Newly Black-Majority District.” After nearly a century of underfunding and inadequate expansion, public higher education in D.C. entered a new era with publication of the Chase Report in 1963. Commissioned by President John F. Kennedy, the report described the District’s higher education needs and captured the role of education in creating a democratic society. It expressed the belief that education was essential to economic and social advancement and therefore deserved substantial public investment.

The report proposed a radical expansion of higher education in the District including the establishment of a liberal arts college with graduate education. With soaring rhetoric that reflected a generosity of spirit and an inclusive vision of an educated, knowledge-rich future, the report formed the basis for Congressional action, creating the Federal City College and Washington Technical Institute and set the stage for awarding the schools land-grant status.  As in the period after the Civil War, the reconstruction of public higher education in the District went hand-in-hand with a growing sentiment for home rule and the presence of a new generation of articulate black and white leaders.

About the Authors:
Marjorie Lightman Ph.D. is Principal of QED Associates LLC, and Senior Fellow at The Women's Research and Education Institute (WREI). William Zeisel Ph.D. is Managing Principal, QED Associates LLC. 

This event is a presentation of the Women’s Research and Education Institute, in Collaboration with the University of the District of Columbia, and supported by a grant from the DC Humanities Council.