Images of Virginia Schoolchildren, 1915

Dublin Core


Images of Virginia Schoolchildren, 1915


These pictures depict the difference between white and black education at the start of the 20th century. Although the educational standard was “separate but equal,” the building of the Black school lacked even basic resources compared to the White school. Older, outdated, and situated next to a dirt path, the African-American school faced overcrowding and a high ratio of students to teachers. The interior picture of the African American School shows students from a range of ages lacking basic materials such as pencils, paper, desks, or shoes. However the photograph of the White School reveals a completely different standard of education. A lower ratio of students to teachers combined with a well-built and maintained structure might have resulted in a more stable educational environment for the white students. The school has modern features, including multiple sliding windows for ventilation, whereas the Black school only has one window (as depicted in the photograph).
George Oscar Ferguson, an alumni and a professor of education at the College of William & Mary, photographed these schools in 1915. Ferguson’s reasoning behind photographing these schools is unknown. However, he took multiple photos of daily life in and around Williamsburg. In a 1921 volume of The Scientific Monthly, it is believed that Ferguson wrote about the state of African American education. He argues that “in America the Negro is in much closer contact with the white race…[and] this contact gives him the advantages of white encouragement, achievement, example, and control” (Ferguson 1921). While attempting to give a fair diagnosis of the educational capabilities of the Black community, Ferguson was simply continuing to contribute to the racial hierarchy of the U.S.


George Oscar Ferguson


Swem Special Collections




Anissa Chams-Eddine and Gagan Jathoul, description
Ari Weinberg, metadata




George Oscar Ferguson, “Images of Virginia Schoolchildren, 1915,” The Lemon Project, accessed June 14, 2021,

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