The General Education Board
was an organization created for the purpose of distributing gifts made by John D. Rockefeller
, who in 1893 had chosen the Baptist clergyman Frederick T. Gates
as his business and benevolent representative. Begun in 1902, it was chartered by Congress in 1903. As will appear below, it was the policy of the board to make its gifts to existing agencies and institutions, and accordingly it did not undertake independent educational work. The gifts were made mainly for the four following purposes:
- 1. The promotion of practical farming in the Southern States. Through the Department of Agriculture the board had made appropriations amounting in 1912-1913 to $659,700 for the purpose of promoting agriculture by the establishment of demonstration farms under the direction of Dr. Seaman A. Knapp. About 236 men were employed in supervising such farms.
- 2. The establishment of public high schools in the Southern States. For this purpose the board expropriated to the State universities in the South sums to pay for the salaries of high-school representatives to travel throughout their States and stimulate public sentiment in favor of high schools. As a result of this work, 912 high schools had been established in 11 Southern States by 1914.
- 3. The promotion of institutions of higher learning. By 1914 the board had made conditional appropriations to the amount of $8,817,500, gifts towards an approximate total of $41,020,500.
- 4. Schools for Negroes. By 1914, the board had made contributions, amounting to $620,105, to schools for Negroes, mainly those for the training of teachers. Mrs. Anna T. Jeans had contributed $1,000,000 for that purpose.
At first, $50,000,000 was given. Rockefeller gave it $180 million, which was used primarily to support higher education and medical schools in the United States and to improve farming practices in the South. It helped eradicate hookworm and created the county agent system in American agriculture, linking research at state agricultural experiment stations with actual practices in the field. By 1934 it was making grants of $5.5 million a year. It spent nearly all its money by 1950 and ceased operating as a separate entity in 1960, when its Programs were subsumed into the Rockefeller Foundation.
In 1906 The Education Board put out a statement that read in part, “We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or men of science. We have not to raise up from among them authors, educators, poets or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians, nor lawyers doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen, of whom we have ample supply. The task we set before ourselves is simple...We will organize children...and teach them to do in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way.”
- Fosdick, Raymond Blaine, Adventures in Giving: The Story of the General Education Board, New York: Harper & Row, 1962.
- Harr, John Ensor, and Peter J. Johnson. The Rockefeller Century: Three Generations of America's Greatest Family, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1988.
- General Education Board, The General Education Board: An Account of Its Activities, 1902-1914. (1915)
- Activities in Tennessee
- Activities in 1939
- General Education Board Archives