Social History for Every Classroom


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A Northern Reformer Teaches Freed Children to Read

Calling themselves Gideon’s Band (after the biblical hero), many northern reformers went to the Sea Islands in Georgia to live with and assist the freed population. Abolitionist Laura M. Towne, shown here with three of her students, ran a school on St. Helena Island. A report from North Carolina indicates how urgent the need for teachers, black and white, was: “The whole number of schools…is 63, the number of teachers 85, and the number of scholars 5,624.” Eventually freedpeople operated most of the Sea Island schools themselves and replaced northern teachers who lost their zeal and returned home as Reconstruction dragged on.

Feb. 1866--Laura M. Towne
Dick, Maria, Amoretta
Source | From R.A. Holland, ed., Letters and Diary of Laura M. Towne (1912), American Social History Project.
Creator | Unknown
Item Type | Photograph
Cite This document | Unknown, “A Northern Reformer Teaches Freed Children to Read,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed December 7, 2023,

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