Formal African American education began in Oakland with the first private school for what were then called 'colored' children in 1857.

Private Schools

Elizabeth Thorn Scott-Flood opened the school at the corner of 7th and Market Streets in the former Carpenter school house. When regular schools wouldn't accept her children, she opened one of her own.

Previously, the building was a school for white children only, but due to overcrowding a new school house was built for those students at a different location. Mrs. Scott-Flood was given the use of the abandoned building for a 'colored' school.

Public Schools

The California statutes of 1865 and 1866 mandated the opening of the first public school for 'colored' children. The statute in part states the following:

"An Act to provide for a system of common schools, Section 56.  Any board of trustees or board of education, by a majority vote, may admit into any public school half-breed Indian children and Indian children who live in white families or under guardianship of white people." 1

"Section 57.  Children of African or Mongolian descent and Indian children not living under the care of white people shall not be admitted into public schools except as provided in this act, provided that upon the written application of the parents or guardians of at least ten such children to any board of trustees or board of education a separate school shall be established for the education of such children, and the education of a less number may be provided for in separate schools or in any other manner.  The same laws, rules and regulations which apply to schools for white school children shall apply to schools for colored children." 1

With the new law in place the first public school for 'colored' children was established in Brooklyn, and first teacher at the school was Miss Mary J. Sanderson. Located east of Lake Merritt, the school was in operation from 1867 to 1871.

Brooklyn Colored School students with their teacher,
Mary J. Sanderson (1870) 2, 3

Links and References

  1. The Negro Trail Blazers of California by Delilah Beasley
  2. Visions Toward Tomorrow by Lawrence P. Crouchett
  3. African American History in Oakland