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By 1865 the Civil War was over and President Abraham Lincoln had already begun a process to resolve wartime and post-war issues that came to be known as the Reconstruction Period (1865-1877). One of most important early reconstruction actions came when President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Though the Proclamation freed slaves in areas still under the control of the Confederacy, it did not free slaves in areas under Union control.

Though the Emancipation Proclamation did not free slaves in Maryland, it did set a precedent that led Maryland to abolish slavery in 1864. Specifically, Article 24 of the Declaration of Rights in the new state Constitution of 1864, stated, "That hereafter, in this State, there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except in punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted and all Persons held to service or labor as slaves are hereby declared free."

With the ending of the Civil War in the spring of 1865, the Reconstruction Period proceeded in earnest. During this period the President and Congress attempted to heal the nation and restore the Union by returning the former Confederate states to the Union and to determine the role of African-American freedmen (former slaves) in the nation.

During the Reconstruction Period, laws passed by Congress provided African Americans with employment, educational, legal, and medical aid through the Freedmen’s Bureau (1865), freedom with the abolition of slavery through the Thirteenth Amendment (1865), citizenship rights through the Fourteenth Amendment (1868), and voting rights through the Fifteenth Amendment (1870)

In Maryland the changes made by emancipation and Reconstruction policies still did not make African Americans equal to whites.

In 1865 Maryland's State Superintendent of Schools,  Libertus Van Bokkelen, said the state should start a school system just for blacks. 

"His contention was that educated blacks would make better laborers than ignorant ones and vice and crime among them would be lessened". - The Education of Blacks in Maryland, An Historical Survey. Clarence Kenneth Gregory 1976.

In education, which would be important to the advancement of African Americans, the Maryland Assembly during the late 1860s passed laws to establish a uniform public education system and provide schooling for African Americans. Since the law for African American schooling was not compulsory, education was made available only to some African Americans, thus, they still needed to rely on schools provided by various private associations and the Freedmen’s Bureau.

A formal system of state education for African Americans was finally established in 1872, but it was a segregated system. The following is from the State School Law of 1872:


"CHAPTER XVIII. -"Schools for Colored Children."

SECTION 1. It shall be the duty of the Board of County School Commissioners to establish one or more public schools in each election district for all colored youth between six and twenty years of age, to which admission shall be free, and
which shall be kept open as long as the other public schools of the particular county; provided, the average attendance be not less than fifteen scholars.

SEC. 2. These schools shall be under the direction of the Board of District School Trustees of the respective school districts within the limits of which they are established; they shall be subject to the same laws, and furnished instruction in the same branches as the schools for the white children.

SEC. 3 The Comptroller shall apportion the sum appropriated for the support of the colored schools of the several counties and the City of Baltimore, in proportion to their respective colored population petitionment to be made at the time he apportions the levy for the white schools.

SEC. 4 The total amount of taxes paid for school purposes by the colored people of any county, or in the City of Baltimore, together with any donations that may be made for the purpose, shall also be devoted to the maintenance of the schools for colored children."

From: Maryland Archives, Volume 190, pp.3229-3230
A small number of African-American children were educated long before this law passed. In the 1860's churches and other organizations formed schools, even though it was against the law in some places, to teach these children how to read.
Mason Springs School, Class 1951
Mason Springs School, Class 1951

With the passage of that 1872 law, a long history of segregation in Charles County schools officially began. The law clearly directed the counties to provide separate schools for white and black students.

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