North Carolina Education

North Carolina Education 1801 to 1900


University of North Carolina - Gerrard Hall - Completed in 1838
Click Here for another overview of Antebellum Educational Opportunities provided elsewhere in this website.
Archibald DeBow Murphey is considered by many historians to be the "father of education" in North Carolina.
The concept of Public Education had been around in North Carolina since before the turn of the nineteenth century, but little was done early in this century to move it forward. By 1800, forty-two (42) private academies had been established across the state, however, there were no truly public schools to be found. In the 1810s, legislation was introduced to make this happen, but no one wanted the tax increases needed to make it happen. The first real legislation to make public schools a reality was enacted in 1839, and the first truly public school in North Carolina opened in January of 1840 in Rockingham County. By 1850, there were 2,657 schools across the state, and by 1860, there were 3,082 public schools that included over 118,000 students enrolled. 

This Author has not been able to locate copies of the Laws/Acts passed by the North Carolina General Assembly for the years of 1791 to 1816, so there were probably several more Acts passed on education prior to those identified below. If they are ever found, the Acts will be added herein.

Prior to the American Civil War, the majority of all Acts dealt with the establishment of benevolent societies that were set up to help build private academies, schools for orphans and the poor, and to provide a public education for all children. After the American Civil War, the greatest majority of all Acts were for the establishment or modification of a specific school district within a specific county. For the duration of the nineteenth century, many also dealt with the establishment or modification of charters for the state colleges and universities across the State.

Each Legislative Act and Resolution pertaining to education within a specific county can be found in said county page. Click Here to also view all available Acts and Resolutions associated with each specific county.

All Acts pertaining to education of a "more general nature" or to be applied across the State are described individually below.

The North Carolina General Assembly passed over 1,360 Acts and Joint Resolutions during the 1800s (1800 to 1816 not found) pertaining to education.

On December 31, 1824, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a "Resolution to Prepare a Plan or System of Public Education."

On January 4, 1826, the General Assembly passed its first legislative "Act to Create a Fund for the Establishment of Common Schools." 

The following legislative Acts and Resolutions were subsequently passed by the General Assembly to establish and modify the overall approach to public education state-wide. All can be found in date order at Click Here:

- February 12, 1827: Act to Authorize the President and Directors of the Literary Fund to Raise Money by Way of Lottery, and for Other Purposes
- January 4, 1831: Four (4) Resolutions Concerning Education 1830-1831
- January 14, 1832: Two (2) Resolutions Concerning Education 1831-1832
- January 13, 1834: One (1) Resolution Concerning Education 1832-1834
- December 20, 1834: Act to Provide Funds for the Establishment of Free Schools in the State of North Carolina (Not sure this Act was passed)
- January 20, 1837: Act to Drain the Swamp Lands of this State, and to Create a Fund for Common Schools
- January 20, 1837: Resolution Concerning Common Schools
- January 7, 1839: Resolution Relative to Common Schools
- January 8, 1839: Act to Divide the Counties into School Districts, and for Other Purposes
- January 11, 1841: Act for the Establishment and Better Regulation of Common Schools
- January 11, 1841: Act to Amend "An Act to Drain the Swamp Lands of this State, and to Create a Fund for Common Schools"
- January 25, 1843: Act to Amend "An Act for the Establishment and Better Regulation of Common Schools passed in 1841"
- January 9, 1845: Act to Consolidate and Amend the Acts Heretofore Passed on the Subject of Common Schools
- January 18, 1847: Act to Amend "An Act to Consolidate and Amend the Acts Heretofore Passed on the Subject of Common Schools
- January 29, 1849: Act Concerning the President and Directors of the Literary Fund
- January 29, 1849: Act to Amend the Acts Now in Force on the Subject of Common Schools
- January 29, 1849: Resolution Instructing the Literary Board to Sell the Swamp Lans of the State Belonging to the Literary Fund
- January 27, 1851: Act to Amend Act of 1849 (above) Concerning the President and Directors of the Literary Fund
- January 28, 1851: Two (2) Acts to Amend Act of 1849 (above) Amending the Acts Now in Force on the Subject of Common Schools
- January 28, 1851: Act to Repeal the 20th Section of the Revised Statutes, Executors and Administrators, Chapter 46
- January 28, 1851: Act to Vest in the President and Directors of the Literary Fund, all Property that Shall Hereafter Escheat to the State
- January 28, 1851: Resolution Directing the President and Directors of the Literary Board to Look into Expediency of Draining Certain Lands
- December 4, 1852: Act to Appoint a Superintendent of Common Schools
- December 4, 1852: Act to Amend the Ninth Section of Act Concerning Common Schools Passed in 1843
- February 10, 1855: Act Concerning Literary Fund and Common Schools
- February 2, 1857: Act Concerning the Common Schools of North Carolina
- February 2, 1857: Act to Distribute the Proceeeds of the Literary Fund to Each County in the State
- February 16, 1859: Act Concerning Common Schools
- February 23, 1861: Act Concerning Common Schools in North Carolina [More Below]

Contrary to what is provided directly below in a State Historical Marker, the State Educational Association of North Carolina was organized on October 21, 1856 in the town of Salisbury, published "The North Carolina Journal of Education, Volume I" in 1858 - the first of annual publications, and was incorporated by an Act of the North Carolina General Assembly on February 23, 1861. They continued to publish the North Carolina Journal of Education until 1864, when the organization was disbanded due to the American Civil War. A subsequent version was re-established in ??? [stay tuned]

The North Carolina Association of Educators can trace its roots to a meeting in Warrenton on June 30, 1857. At that gathering, the name “Educational Association of North Carolina” was chosen and a constitution adopted. The Association was inactive and disbanded during the American Civil War and Reconstruction years. But, in August of 1883, editors of a publication called "The North Carolina Teacher" conceived the idea of having a “Chautauqua” meeting in the mountains. The term “Chautauqua” derives from a movement born in New York in the mid-1870s whereby gatherings were held that combined study and recreation in a pastoral setting. The Chautauqua idea received a favorable response from many of the state’s educators.

The site chosen for the meeting—held in June 1884—was the White Sulphur Springs Hotel, approximately one mile from downtown Waynesville, the county seat of Haywood County. Attendees planned a two-week stay at Waynesville and a series of lectures and discussions on the methods of teaching, school government, organization, and similar matters relating to education. At the gathering, the group elected to call itself “The North Carolina Teachers’ Assembly.” The members decided to meet every year in June, but did not designate a permanent meeting place.

From 1888 to 1900, the Teacher’s Assembly met in Morehead City in a building constructed for that purpose. The group kept the designation of Teachers’ Assembly until 1922, when it was officially chartered as the North Carolina Education Association. On July 1, 1970, the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) was formed when the North Carolina Education Association merged with the North Carolina Teachers Association. The latter group, which served black teachers, had formed in 1880, after the establishment of the NCEA. Today, the organization works to advance and ensure equitable, quality public education in North Carolina.

The above write-up (with edits) was provided by the North Carolina Highway Marker program. Click Here to read and to view their sources.

The Morrill Act of 1862 allowed the U.S. Government to donate federally owned land to the states for them to establish colleges that would teach "agriculture and mechanic arts." In the 1870s, the federal funds were first accepted by North Carolina and assigned to the University of North Carolina, which they invested in "worthless securities." Little more happened at the University. In 1887, the NC General Assembly re-chartered the Industrial School created in 1885 and renamed it to the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts. This opened in 1889, and eventually became what is now known as North Carolina State University.
More Legislative Acts and Resolutions pertaining to public schools in general within North Carolina. Click Here:
- February 12, 1863: Act to Amend an Act Passed in 1861 Concerning Common Schools
- December 23, 1864: Act to Grade the Common Schools and to Increase their Usefulness
- February 26, 1867: Act to Consolidate the Securities of the State Held by the Literary Board
- February 28, 1867: Act to Authorize Incorporated Towns and Cities to Establish Systems of Public Schools
- February 28, 1867: Act to Protect Certain Interests of the Common Schools
- July 28, 1868: Resolution Instructing the Board of Education to Prepare and Report a Plan and Code of Laws for Free Public Schools
- March 17, 1869: Act in Relation to Property Belonging to the Board of Education
- April 12, 1869: Act to Provide for a System of Public Instruction
- February 14, 1870: Resolution Regarding "An Act to Provide for a System of Public Instruction"
- January 21, 1871: Resolution Requesting Aid of US Congress in Creating a Literary Fund
- April 5,. 1871: Act to Amend Act to Provide for a System of Public Instruction
- April 6, 1871: Act for the Better Protection of the Literary Fund
- December 13, 1871: Act to Incorporate the Educational and Loan Association of North Carolina
- February 12, 1872: Act to Consolidate the School Laws and to Provide for a System of Public Education
- February 26, 1873: Act to Amend the School Law of February 12, 1872 (above)
- February 11, 1874: Act to Provide for and Furnish Arms to Military Schools
- March 19, 1875: Act to Provide Additional Arms for Military Schools
- March 9, 1877: Act to Revise and Consolidate the Public School Law
- March 1, 1879: Act to Authorize a History of North Carolina for the Use of the Common Schools [More Below]
In 1880, African American educators established the North Carolina Teachers Association to promote education as a way toward racial progress. This organization remained segregated until 1970, when it merged with its white counterpart to form the North Carolina Association of Educators.
More Legislative Acts and Resolutions pertaining to public schools in general within North Carolina. Click Here:
- January 31, 1881: Resolution to Instruct US Senators and Representatives to Vote for an Educational Fund
- February 17, 1881: Act to Require Public Treasure to Sell Certain Bonds and Apply Proceeds to the Common School Fund
- March 10, 1881: Act to Revise and Consolidate the Public School Law to Make More Efficient
- March 11, 1881: Act to Encourage State Colleges in Establishing Libraries
- March 12, 1881: Act Supplemental to Act (above) to Revise and Consolidate the Public School Law to Make More Efficient
- January 26, 1883: Resolution in Regard to Distribution of Surplus Funds in the US Treasury for School Purposes
- February 6, 1883: Act to Amend the Public School Law
- March 8, 1883: Act to Provide for Local Assessments in Aid of Public Schools
- March 12, 1883: Act to Amend Act to Revise and Consolidate the Public School Law to Make More Efficient of 1881
- February 16, 1885: Act to More Effectually Enable the Board of Education to Drain Swamp Land
- February 17, 1885: Resolution to Instruct US Senators and Representatives in Regard to Surplus Funds in the US Treasury to Help NC Schools
- February 25, 1885: Act to Prohibit the Importation of Obscene Books and Pictures
- March 11, 1885: Act to Amend the Public School Law
- March 11, 1885: Act to Repeal Part of the Public School Law that Exempts School Committeemen from Jury and Road Duty
- February 14, 1887: Act to Authorize the State Board of Education to Construct and Complete Certain Roads and Canals in Eastern NC
- February 17, 1887: Act Supplemental to the Act Directly Above - Construct and Complete Certain Roads, etc.
- March 7, 1887: Act Supplemental to the two Acts Directly Above - Construct and Complete Certain Roads, etc.
- March 7, 1887: Act to Authorize the Sdtate Board of Education to Execute Certain Conveyances
- January 30, 1889: Resolution to Instuct US Senators and Representatives in Regard to Surplus Funds in the US Treasury to Help NC Schools
- March 9, 1889: Act to Punish the Making of False Returns by School Committeemen [More Below]
On March 11, 1889, the North Carolina General Assembly passed an Act to abolish the eight (8) white Normal Schools in the State and launched County Institutes across the State to train teachers and other educators. Each teacher had to attend full time for a designated length of time, most often during summers, and then must pass a written examination to obtain their teaching certificates, which were now good for three years.
More Legislative Acts and Resolutions pertaining to public schools in general within North Carolina. Click Here:
- March 11, 1889: Act to Amend the Public School Law
- March 11, 1889: Act for the Protection of Schools and Colleges against "women of ill fame"
- February 27, 1891: Act to Provide for the Study of the Nature of Alcoholic Drinks and Narcotics in all Public Schools
- March 6, 1891: Act to Authorize the State Board of Education to Invest the Funds from the Sale of Swamp Lands, etc.
- February 15, 1895: Act to Aid Public Schools by Local Assessments
- March 13, 1895: Act to Credit the Public School Fund with the Uncalled For Refund of the Direct Land Tax
- March 13, 1895: Act to Amend the General School Law of North Carolina
- March 13, 1895: Act to Incorporate the North Carolina Teachers' Association
- March 3, 1897: Act for the Protection of School Entertainments, etc.
- March 9, 1897: Act to Encourage Local Taxation for Public Schools
- March 9, 1897: Act to Permit the Establishment of Public Libraries
- March 9, 1897: Act for the Protection of Educational and other Institutions
- March 4, 1899: Act to Abolish the County Board of Education
- March 6, 1899: Act to Repeal Act that Encourages Local Taxation for Public Schools (above)
- March 7, 1899: Act to Appoint Members of the County Board of School Directors for All Counties in the State
- March 7, 1899: Act to Revise and Consolidate the Public School Law
- March 8, 1899: Act to Appropriate $100,000 to the Public Schools of North Carolina
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