Missouri State Archives
Guide to African American History
Department of Elementary & Secondary Education
The Missouri legislature first established a state office of education, with an elected state superintendent, in 1839. The 1865 state constitution stated in Article IX, Section 2, that "Separate schools may be established for children of African descent." When the constitution was revised in 1875, Article XI, Section 3, read "Separate free public schools shall be established for the education of children of African descent." In 1889, the legislature approved a measure upholding this section of the constitution and creating the means by which "schools for colored children" could be established, based on African American population in the area; a minimum number of school-age children was required to establish a school. In Lehew v. Brummell (1890), the Missouri Supreme Court held that segregated schools were not forbidden or in conflict with the United States Constitution. Segregated schools remained the status quo in Missouri until the United States Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas that declared "in the field of public education the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place." This decision made Missouri's school segregation laws null and void. Most school districts agreed to submit desegregation plans; some opposition occurred, though. Missouri's statutes mandating separate schools were not amended until August 3, 1976 (Constitutional Amendment No. 5).
Annual/biennial reports of the State Superintendent of Schools and the Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, 1845 to the present, can be located in the State Government Documents collection.
Record Group 105: Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, Letterpress Copybook (Outgoing Correspondence), 1871 - 1872; arranged chronologically; includes WPA name and subject index.
This series contains outgoing correspondence to local school officials, county officers, and citizens. Topics include school laws, legal holidays, speaking requests, "colored" schools, annual enumerations, and more.
Record Group 105: Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, Annual Reports of the County Superintendent, 1927/28 - 1938/39; arranged chronologically.
From the 1920s to just after World War II, reports filed by the county superintendent of schools with the Department of Elementary & Secondary Education indicate the conditions under which African American schoolchildren were educated in Missouri. The annual reports are arranged by county. The reports detail the number of schoolchildren enrolled in a specific school, enumerated by race, sex, and school grade. Salary information is included, as well as teacher data and district financial data.
Record Group 105: Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, High School Reports, 1935/36 - 1947/48; arranged alphabetically by name of high school district.
The earliest high school reports date from 1907; beginning in 1935, reports of Missouri's "colored" high schools are included. The reports are statistical in nature and include the recommendations of the high school supervisor with regard to the class rank of the school and units to be approved. The information provided in each report consists of name of teacher, scholastic preparation, classroom experience, number of classes taught, certificate, and salary; for course of study, the reports provide the name of each course, the number of pupils enrolled, teacher, and length of class.
Record Group 105: Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, Application for Classification of Schools, 1948 - 1968; arranged alphabetically by county, then school district.
This series is a continuation of the High School Reports, but with greater detail. The superintendent of the school district, rather than the high school supervisor, made the statistical report. The following information is included: financial data, organization, records, enrollment by grade, teacher data, program of study, and classification. A schedule of classes is included, offering the following information: name of teacher, class period, time, activities sponsored. These reports include all high school and elementary districts; "colored" schools are listed separately for the 1948-1949 school year, but filed with other schools for subsequent years.