It is the center to which we should cling': Indian schools in Robeson County, North Carolina, 1900-1920.

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Bailey, Anna. ''It is the center to which we should cling': Indian schools in Robeson County, North Carolina, 1900-1920." The history of discrimination in U.S. education: marginality, agency, and power. Ed. Eileen H. Tamura. New York: Palgrave McMillan, 2008. Pp 67-90.


Bailey traces Croatan support for the Democratic Party between 1898 and 1920 as a mechanism for keeping their Indian-only schools well funded. At the same time, she explains how the Croatan struggle for school funding and to keep non-Indians out of their schools helped define their Indian identity.

This essay gives a detailed account of Democrats' courting of Croatan voters in 1898 to help them regain political power from the "Fusion" coalition of poor White Populists and Black Republicans that took control of North Carolina's state and local government between 1894 and 1896. John D. Bellamy, Robeson County's Democratic representative in the state legislature, held meetings with Croatans in which he promised support for school funding, they in turn, voted overwhelmingly for him for US Congress. Bellamy introduced a bill in the U.S. House for school funding for the Croatans, but the bill died in the House. In exchange, however, Bellamy and the Democrats expected the Croatans to support an amendment to the state constitution that would disfranchise Black male voters but would not disfranchise Croatans. White Democrats wrote letters to the Robesonian urging Croatans to support the amendment, reminding them that because of Democratic assistance, they were separated from Blacks as far as tax listings, marriage licenses, and space in the state insane asylum and also noting that Congressman Bellamy was striving to obtain $50,000 in educational funding for them. Croatans A. N. Locklear and O. R. Sampson also wrote the Robesonian urging support of the amendment. Some Croatans attended a Democratic rally in support of the amendment. It passed on July 1, 1902.

Nevertheless, by 1906, Croatan Schools were at the bottom of the three school systems in Robeson County in terms of value of school property, length of school term, and percentage of school-age children enrolled. A local community had arisen around the Indian Normal School at Pembroke, instilling not just education but also values. Croatan leaders placed improvement of the normal school at the top of their priority list. They sought assistance from Col. N. A. McLean, a Democrat, who helped convince the state legislature to increase the state appropriation for the normal school. By 1910, possibly due in part to Croatan support for Democrats, Croatan schools surpassed Black schools in value of school property and average funding per student. In addition, Croatan schools were less crowded than Black schools.

Bailey next provides a detailed and insightful discussion of Croatan efforts from 1910-1915 to change the tribal name at the state level to Cherokee Indians of Robeson County, as well as various efforts to receive federal recognition. These initiatives were spurred by desire for increased education funds as well as acknowledgement of Indian identity. Assistance from Democratic officials accompanied the various initiatives.

Finally, Bailey explains a controversy over admission of the nephews of Fannie Goins to the Indian Normal School primary department. The Goins and Smiling families moved to Robeson from Sumter County, South Carolina. The challenge was that they had too much Negro blood to be allowed admission to schools designated for Croatan Indians. The case (Goins v. Board of Trustees of the Indian Normal Training School) was decided by the North Carolina Supreme Court in fall, 1915. Although the Supreme Court ruled that the Goinses could attend Croatan schools, they chose not to. These people (as well as the separate church, school, and community they helped establish) came to be known in Robeson County as the Smiling Independent Indians.

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