School for Freed Slaves and Native Americans, late 1800s

Prior to the abolishment of slavery in the Untied States, Southern states illegalized teaching slaves to read, write or compute arithmetic, believing education would incite insurrection. Following the 1865 emancipation of enslaved persons, Congress created the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, popularly known as the Freedmen's Bureau. It rented buildings for schoolrooms, provided books and transportation for teachers, superintended the schools, and offered military protection for students and teachers against opponents of Black literacy.

Within four years, the Freedmen’s Bureau schools increased from 740 with 90,589 students to 2,677 schools with 149,581 students. In addition, it inspired the creation of several normal schools and black colleges, among them Howard and Fisk Universities. In 1865 about 90% of the African American population was illiterate but by 1880 it had decreased to 70%. This was an improvement of 200% in 15 short years.