Concord School

 

During Reconstruction most southern communities, assisted by the Freedmen's Bureau and the churches, established local schools for the children of former slaves. Concord school near Miccosukee in Leon County originated during this era.

 

Since this country's beginning, public education has been connected with the principles of democracy. Consequently, after the Civil War, whites and blacks both supported black schools as a means of facilitating the transformation of slaves to citizens. Meager resources, however, restricted this support and black education was, at best, rudimentary. If pupils could write their names and compute simple arithmetic their education, was considered complete.

 

In these early days, black -schools in Florida were supported by a tax of one dollar on all black men and a fee of fifty cents per pupil per month. Half a dollar was a significant sum in the rural south at that time and for many blacks it was prohibitive. In some areas local leaders attempted to diminish the cost of educating poor blacks. In Jefferson County in 1868, for example, a group of white citizens raised enough money to support two teaches and a schoo1 for one hundred black students.

The earliest known record of the Concord School is in the 1878 school board minutes; the teacher's salary was twenty dollars a month. It was one of forty-eight schools in the county. Concord School probably began in the Miccosukee A.M.E. Church, as there is no indication of a schoolhouse until the 1890s. In 1986 there were fifty-six county schools, and only five were meeting in buildings owned by the county.

 

In 1893, Fayette and Jennie Burned sold a half-acre of land in Miccosukee for the nominal sum of one dollar with the provision that a schoolhouse would be built and used exclusively for school purposes. It was on this half acre that the one room Concord schoolhouse was constructed in 1394.

 

The Concord school is typical architecture for a rural school in the south; a simple rectangular, frame building with one entrance at the gable end and side windows. It may have been built by the parents of the children who attended. It was originally unpainted. There were probably two outhouses in the back.

 

Rural students walked to school from their farm homes. The school term was during the winter so that children were available to work during the main farming seasons. Florida school attendance was not compulsory until 1919 If) and students were kept home when needed, so progress was irregular. The schools in 1893 met for six hours a day, exclusive of recess, five months of the Year. C10) The white school year was extended to six months in 1895.

 

 

The early school board minutes show how closely the schools were tied to their community and the families whose children attended them. Parents petitioned the school board to open schools in their community, to hire certain teachers, and to replace teachers; children who were described as incorrigible were dismissed from attending school. In 191O, a Mr. Revel petitioned the board so that his children could attend McCaskill School, provided Mrs. Cooper is willing for them to pass through her pasture and provided the teacher at McCaskill suits him.

 

School began at the ringing of a bell. Commonly, students lined up outside the door, girls and boys in separate lines, and walked in to stand beside their bench until all were in place. Children of all ages learned in the same room under the guidance of one teacher, most often a man, with the older students helping the younger ones. The earliest teacher's name known for the Concord School is Lucien Fisher who taught in 1893 and 1894; from 1895 through 1897, the teacher was A. B. Spencer, followed by J. H. Stroman, who filled the post from 1893 through 1904. Teacher qualifications were established by the state and teachers were examined by the school board during the summer, receiving certificates based on three levels of proficiency.

 

The schoolroom was heated with a wood stove; students and the teacher shared the duties of hauling wood and cleaning the stone. Older students also hauled water from a nearby open well. The windows provided the only light.

 

Students sat on long wooden benches, with their work on their lap. Twenty such benches were purchased by the county school board for Concord in 1909.The teacher's table was at the front of the room. The subjects studied were reading, spelling, writing, English literature and grammar, arithmetic, history, geography and physiology. Physiology was a late 1880s concession to the growing temperance movement and focused on the Effects of alcoholic stimulants and narcotics upon the human character and systems. Agriculture was an additional subject taught in the one-room schools of Leon County by 1910.

 

s early as 1880, an approved series of textbooks was announced by the county, but in spite of the official list variety of books was in use at any given time. Some books belonged to the teacher, others belonged to the students, purchased by their parents and passed from child to child within a family. Schoolbooks were first provided free of charge in the 1920s, and black schools would inherit the used books when white schools acquired newer texts.

 

Because of the lack of textbooks and paper, many rural schools emphasized recitation and elocution - memorizing speeches, poems and stories as a mental exercise. Students at the same level of reading could share the same book, one memorizing while the other recited for the teacher. Recitation, memorization, copying, and reading went on in the room simultaneously. School programs for the community at which students recited inspirational and patriotic pieces were common, often organized around a holiday. Spelling contests were intense, competitive and "bees" were held for the community. In a Leon County spelling content in 1908, students competed for a gold medal.

 

Math problems were worked on a slate; writing was practiced in a copy book. If the room had a blackboard, it might literally be a board painted black, or a stretched and painted canvas. The teachers' erasers were rags or were carpet strips glued or tacked to small blocks of wood.

 

Recess was a time for free play. Typical games involved little equipment and a lot of activity. snap-the-whip, kick-the-can, drop-the-handkerchief, hide-and-seek, steal-the-bacon. The playground at Concord was bare except for several large oak trees.

 

At lunch, a drink of water from the communal dipper accompanied the food brought from home. Carried in a bucket or pail or tied in a cloth, lunch was predictably a sweet potato with biscuits and syrup, with an occasional hard-boiled egg.

 

In 1909, some small one-room schools were closing because the school board would only pay the teacher if there were at least seven students attending. Concord was not threatened, however; by 1912 it was one of the five largest black rural schools in Leon County and was granted an assistant teacher.

 

One-room rural schools persisted in the black communities longer than for white students because no money was provided for transportation of black students to larger, consolidated schools. Vehicles for transporting white students were purchased over twenty years before similar aid was provided for black students.

 

The Concord one-room schoolhouse sheltered students for over sixty years. In the 1930s the school was enlarged, and in the 1960s it was combined with the white Miccosukee school; the combined school retained the name Concord. Concord school in Miccosukee closed in 1985.