The Jeanes Teachers were a group of predominantly Black female educators who worked as “master teachers” and community advocates and had a profound impact on the education of southern Black children during the era of Jim Crow and segregation.
Anna T. Jeanes, a wealthy Quaker woman, founded the Anna T. Jeanes Foundation, also known as the Negro Rural School Fund, in 1907, with a $1 million bequest. Booker T. Washington served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees. For more than 60 years, Jeanes Teachers worked in rural school communities, providing curriculum development, teacher training, and school and district leadership, and serving as community advocates and social workers.
Their informal mantra, “the next needed thing,” captures the spirit of the Jeanes Teachers as flexible, entrepreneurial, driven leaders. In addition to improving instructional practices in schools, Jeanes Teachers helped design and implement a range of community projects. All of their work aimed to improve the lives of Black children and their families, with schools as hubs of this activity in rural communities. Historians have compared the Jeanes Teachers to the modern-day Peace Corps.
In the Spring of 2021, against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread protests of racial injustice, TIP convened a group of education leaders to envision a modern-day incarnation of the Jeanes Teachers program. The group identified several key features that would be crucial elements of a re-envisioned program and brainstormed innovative approaches to program development. TIP is now partnering with a small group of visionary leaders to develop a full Jeanes Teachers program concept and landscape analysis with alternative pathways forward and recommendations on program format and key partners.