African American Schools in the South, 1865-1900

The OAH is coordinating a two-component study of African American Schools in the South, 1865-1900 through a task agreement with the National Park Service. We are seeking a principal investigator (or investigators) to lead the case study component of the project.

Project Title:  Historic Context Study:  African American Schools in the South, 1865-1900

Project Budget for PI:  $60,000 (Includes travel for expected fieldwork. Additional funds available to hire regional research associates)

Projected Start Date:  February 2020

Timeline for Completion:  24 months from start (a preliminary schedule can be viewed here)

Expected Date to Award Project:  Late January 2020


The total project entails the compilation of research and the development of a Historic Context Study for African American schools in the South, 1865-1900. The National Capital Region (NCR) of the National Park Service (NPS) is the lead region for this project, but it will be conducted in partnership with the Southeast Region (SER) and the Northeast Region (NER).

This project has two components led by co-Principal Investigators:  a narrative historic resource study that will provide a broad context for the topic (already underway), and a series of case-study that will examine 10 specific sites in greater detail.

The narrative historic resource study will examine two critical periods of African American education: the period immediately following the Civil War, when the Freedmen’s Bureau and northern philanthropic organizations worked with African American communities to establish schools for African Americans in the South, many of whom had been enslaved before 1865; and the fledgling establishment of segregated public African American schools by Southern states.

The case study component will locate historic sites and extant structures related to the themes established in the context study on or near what is now NPS property in the states within the National Capital Region, the Southeast Region, and those in the Northeast region below Pennsylvania. In addition to the District of Columbia, these states are:  Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

Together, the historical context and the identification of relevant cultural resources will enable parks to better interpret to the public this important civil rights story.

The OAH is seeking a principal investigator or investigators to lead the case-study component only, as described below. The full task agreement for this project can be viewed here.

Project Scope of Work

Case Study Component

The case study component of the overall Historic Context Study will complete examinations of 10 specific sites related to African American schools within the geographic scope of the study. The overarching goal of these case studies is to provide a deep investigation and analysis of these specific places within the contextual framework of the historic resource study component.

The two main responsibilities for the Principal Investigator (PI) of this scope are:

  1. Research and writing of 10 case studies of sites including fieldwork. Fieldwork may not be required for all selected sites, especially for those with recent nominations for NRHP and/or NHL status.
  2. Management of up to 5 regional research associates


Research and Writing of Case Studies

The PI will collaborate with the full project team to identify the 10 sites prioritizing those that meet the following conditions in order of importance:

  1. Relevance to the topic of the study
  2. Location within 10 miles of current NPS unit boundaries
  3. Potential eligibility for NRHP or NHL designation.
  4. Sites that convey the variety of school types (e.g. separate buildings, churches, government buildings), location (e.g. rural versus urban), and size

Sites that do not meet any of the above conditions may be considered as a case study if the site is deemed significant enough for inclusion. Each case study will justify the location’s inclusion in the study, highlight the important resources, and demonstrate how the site relates to the larger theme of the study. The primary goal of each case study is to develop as “deep” a study as possible to enable current local NPS parks (as well as other local historical entities) to convey to the public the significance of early African American educational experiences, as well as the overall context of the long Reconstruction Era (1862-1900). The final selection of sites should be as geographically diverse as possible within the overall boundaries of the study. Preliminary research into potential sites in the geographic scope of this project will be conducted over the summer of 2019.

A secondary goal of the case studies is to analyze and evaluate each site for its potential eligibility for NRHP or NHL designation. The PI is not expected to produce formal NRHP or NHL documentation, but the results of the case studies will provide sufficient detail and analysis to determine the potential eligibility of the sites for future nomination.

The case studies should be consistent in length of approximately 2500 words and be accompanied by relevant images selected by the PI. Any original photographs acquired by the PI will be turned over to the National Park Service and become public record. If the PI includes other images, it is strongly recommended that only images in the public domain be used. The PI is responsible for securing any permissions for non-public use images and for any associated fees.

The Case Study PI will also write an introduction to the case studies that includes two components: a summary of findings, followed by a description of project methodology.

Preliminary research into potential sites has already been conducted by NPS researchers, who have also developed a draft GIS map. All research will be made available to the PIs. 

Frequent interaction with NPS and OAH staff, state historic preservation offices, research associates, and the author of the historic resource study component is expected. The two PIs will coauthor an introduction to the finished study and collaboratively develop a transfer of knowledge component, likely a webinar to present the findings of the study.


Management of Research Associates

The PI will work with OAH and NPS staff to identify and hire up to 5 additional researchers to conduct localized research throughout the geographic scope of the project. The PI will coordinate the efforts of these researchers and consolidate their findings. It is expected that the PI will directly manage the efforts of the regional researchers as well as conducting expected fieldwork at select sites.

For More Information

If you are interested in learning more about this opportunity, please contact the OAH Public History Department ( no later than January 11th, 2020.