Founder of Schofield school believed in equality

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At its first Drum Major for Unity Breakfast to honor the life and teachings of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., held at Schofield Middle School, I was asked by the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity to recognize the graduates of old Schofield High School.

Though my obligation was to simply do just that, I could not contain the urge to acknowledge the legacy of Martha Schofield.

Schofield, the founder of the school, answered the request of President Lincoln, who called upon the American people to assist with the education of former slaves.

This brave, noble, Promethean-thinking woman left her family's farm in Pennsylvania in 1867 with her life's savings of $468. She bought the equivalent of two city blocks to embark on what was considered in that day an impossible endeavor: the risky and sometimes (in the South) dangerous task of attempting to educate a person of African lineage.

Congress appropriated more than $5 million to assist with the education of more than 90,000 former slaves. More than 80 percent of school-age children of African descent attended.

One of Schofield's most celebrated graduates was Matilda Evans, who completed her basic education at Schofield and went on to become South Carolina's first native-born black female doctor.

The curriculum used in the early days of the old Schofield Normal and Industrial Institute was rooted in a premise recorded in the Freedmen Reader, which espoused a "bootstrap" philosophy. The philosophy meant that all had the ability to work hard and pull themselves up in life.

Dr. King's dream and Martha Schofield's were the same, actually, and today the children and the grandchildren of her graduates are being judged by what I call King's Standard for Society, that people are viewed by the content of their character, walking hand in hand with each other in a time and place that embrace the development and potential of all.

Dr. Frank G. Roberson has held administrative positions in Aiken and Edgefield county schools.


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