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Jabez Curry (American National Biography)


Wayne Urban, "Curry, Jabez Lamar Monroe," American National Biography Online, February 2000,

Although he had defended slavery as an Alabama Congressman and had served the Confederacy, Curry spent much of his later years as an advocate of education for freed slaves and spoke out against lynching. As agent for the Peabody Fund, he threatened to deny support to Southern communities that refused to educate their black children on the ground that blacks paid little or nothing in taxes. His advocacy, however, was carefully couched and calibrated not to offend either the white Southern aristocracy to which he belonged or the Northern philanthropists who sponsored his activities. He knew Booker T. Washington and was a firm advocate of the industrial education that Washington had learned at Hampton Institute in Virginia and pioneered at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

Personally, Curry thought that enfranchisement of African Americans after emancipation had been a mistake, and he believed that there were firm limits to what the black race could accomplish, even with increased educational privileges. Thus, although Curry worked assiduously for the education of freed slaves, he was firm in his commitment to continued segregation in schools. He never advocated biracial education, and this almost certainly reflected his own personal views as well as the desires of the white aristocracy of North and South. Thus, Curry's reputation as an educational reformer was well earned but also subject to the distinct limits that he and his sponsors put on the achievement of the freed people.

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