Teachers College Helped Southern Black Educators
When Dr. Wiley Bolden left the army at the end of World War II, he planned to continue his education. He had already received a bachelor’s in chemistry from Alabama State Teachers College (now Alabama State University). As a man of color living in Alabama in the 1940s, Bolden’s choices for graduate school were limited to schools in the North.
“At that time, we were restricted in attending any of the graduate schools in the South except Atlanta University, which offered only a master’s degree,” Bolden explains. “No other school in the South at that time would admit Black students seeking a degree beyond a bachelor’s.”
The South, to satisfy the federal government, agreed to pay the difference between the cost of attending a Southern university and the costs for Black students to attend school outside the state “They paid the difference in tuition, room and board, and train fare back and forth,” says Bolden.
Wiley’s wife, Willie, attended Teachers College in the summers under this program. She received her master’s in teaching of social studies in 1948. Wiley joined her and earned a master’s degree in psychological services in 1947.
“We had grown up under segregation, and it was a hostile environment in the South,” Bolden says. “We knew things would be somewhat different in New York, and TC was particularly receptive. TC’s willingness to serve and be helpful was evident. I enjoyed that atmosphere.”
He continued his doctoral studies at TC during the summers while working at Clark College in Atlanta. In 1953, he received a one-year fellowship to complete his doctorate, which he did in 1954. He wrote his dissertation on comparing student-centered and teacher-centered education and received his education doctorate in psychological services in 1957.
Oliver Greene also came to Teachers College under the same program, receiving a master’s in secondary school administration in 1957. He returned in 1963 for a professional diploma in elementary school administration, which he received in 1967.
“My experience at TC was exceptional because it really provided crucial skills in school administration,” Greene says. “I was greatly influenced by one of my professors at Morris Brown College who told me to go to one of the largest schools in the East.”
Greene taught high school history and attended TC in the summers, and as soon as he received his master’s degree, he became an elementary school principal.
Others came to TC without the help of Southern financial aid. Rosa Beard, who attended TC in the summers and taught high school in Georgia during the school year, paid for school on her own.
“I was not aware of the program for Black students to study at graduate schools in the North until I almost graduated,” says Beard, who worked in the TC cafeteria during the summers she attended. She received her master’s in science education in 1951 and taught chemistry at Thomas Walter Josey Comprehensive High School in Augusta, Ga., until 1983.
Ulysses Byas came to TC from Fort Valley State College in Georgia in 1950 with a bachelor’s in secondary education and social studies. He received a master’s in Education Administration in 1951. Byas did not opt to use the funds available to him from the South, but attended Teachers College with funds from the GI Bill. Byas returned to Georgia where he taught for two years before becoming principal of Hutcheson High School in Douglasville County. In the fall of 1970, Byas became the first Black person to serve as a county school superintendent in the formerly segregated South, when he was made superintendent of schools in Tuskegee, Ala.
Byas left the South in 1977 to become superintendent of schools in Roosevelt, N.Y. “The Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School in Roosevelt is now named after me,” Byas says. He returned to his hometown in Macon, Ga., after acting as interim superintendent for Hempstead, N.Y., schools from 1990 to 1991.
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