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Who was the first Jeanes teacher?

Virginia Estelle Randolph (1870–1958) became the first black Jeanes teacher in 1908. She was one of the most effective educators of her day. The Jeanes teacher program was fashioned after Randolph’s notable practices in Henrico, Virginia. Through the Jeanes movement, Randolph was instrumental in bringing about improvements in the lives of thousands of teachers, children, and community residents. Born in Richmond, Virginia, to parents who were slaves, her early years were difficult. Her father died when she was young, and she took her first job when she was eight years old. After attending schools in Richmond, she obtained a job teaching in a county school at age sixteen, and moved to the Henrico school three years later. Her many achievements there extended beyond the regular school week; she organized a Sunday School, and taught in it herself for five years. Randolph left the Henrico School when she became a Jeanes teacher, and spent time working in a number of states, including Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia. Her success led to expansion of the Jeanes movement, with Jeanes teachers supervising industrial education and building community support for black schools all over the South. The program was later broadened to include supervision of instruction in regular academic curricula. The Virginia Randolph Fund, established as a tribute to her in 1936, was merged with the Anna T. Jeanes Foundation, which had been renamed the Negro Rural School Fund. These funds were later merged with others to become the Southern Education Fund. It has been said that confusion over the role of the Jeanes teachers—whose successes were unquestioned—when desegregation was begun contributed to the death of the program. Many tributes to Randolph exist, including a Virginia museum named for her, which was designated a national historic landmark in 1976. She was living in Richmond at the time of her death.



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