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For nearly the first century of our nation’s history, formal education was reserved almost exclusively for the wealthy who could afford private schools. Very few educational opportunities existed for African Americans, and Southern states made it a crime to educate slaves.

In the middle of the Civil War, which ultimately ended the inhuman practice of American slavery, Congress began to address national educational inequities.

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Stan Bumgardner is the former editor of Goldenseal magazine, and has been a historian in West Virginia for more than 30 years.

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