In the 19th century, teaching was viewed as a respectable career for a woman. In the years after the Civil War and emancipation of the slaves, many young black women sought training as teachers. The newly formed black colleges and universities had pedagogy programs where teachers were trained in the most accepted methods of instruction.
Sedalia’s black school, Lincoln School, located at 721 N. Osage Ave., had developed a reputation for hiring good teachers who expected a great deal from their students. As a result, their students performed well.
One of the teachers who made Sedalia’s black schools so successful was Princess Hubbard. Princess Webb was born in Marion, Alabama, in 1873. In 1902, she married teacher C.C. Hubbard. Professor Hubbard, as he was called, came to Sedalia to become principal of Lincoln School in 1906. According to the 1910 Census, Princess Hubbard was then a homemaker, caring for their the family home at 325 W. Johnson and the couples two daughters Eulalia and Mazie.
By 1920, according to the census, Princess was a teacher at Lincoln High School. The couple had become financially successful; they owned their home at 501 W. Johnson clear from any mortgages or liens. More important, however, they had both developed reputations as outstanding educators.
The Lincoln School building was not the only building to serve Sedalia’s black students. When Lincoln School became overcrowded, the Franklin School building, a two-story brick structure located at the corner of Moniteau Avenue and Cooper Street, was used for Black elementary students from first through fifth grades, while junior high and high school schools students remained at Lincoln School. Princess Hubbard served as principal of Franklin School from 1907 through 1927.
Record books from the 1920s from Franklin School provide insight into schooling during the 1920s, and into Mrs. Hubbard’s management of the school. The record book for the 1920-21 school year for the two first-grade classes shows an organization of the day into short periods geared to a young child’s short attention span and a variety of subjects presented in ways that could be adapted to the children’s various learning styles.
For example, during reading class, students completed the primer and first reader. They reinforced their skills with blackboard work, phonics drill, word charts, and learning sight words. These skills were further reinforced during language, spelling, and handwriting classes, where students learned to use capital letters, periods, and questions marks as they created sentences. They dramatized some of the stories they read in order to learn expression. Spelling lists were drawn from their reading, and students were expected to master the spelling of 150 words. They used their understanding of sentence structure and punctuation as they wrote original compositions about home life and nature study.
The care and attention given to the students showed the degree to which teachers Dawn Casey and Flossie Bass valued their pupils and expected them to succeed. They truly believed that black lives mattered and that children deserved the best.
Next week’s column continues a study of the education at Lincoln and Franklin Schools.
Rhonda Chalfant is the president of the Pettis County chapter of NAACP and the Pettis County Historical Society.