St. Johns County
Public School History -
American Freedmen's  Union
In January 1862 Mr. E. L. Pierce wrote to Rev. Manning of Boston and Mrs. Samuel Cabot discussing the conditions of the Freedmen at Port Royal, South Carolina. An organization was formed on February 7, 1862 called the Education Commission. The object of the commission was to be: "the industrial, intellectural, moral and religious improvement of persons released from slavery in the course of the war for the Union."

By March 30 1862, thirty-one teachers set sail for Port Royal. The teachers received transportation, subsistence, and quarters. In April, twenty more teachers were sent out. In all, seventy-two teachers were sent to Port Royal in the first year. Auxiliary societies were organized town by town until about seventy societies were supportng teachers. Sometimes churches would adopt teachers, even members of a different church.

The different societies came together on May 9, 1865 to form the American Freedmen's Aid Union which was composed of the aid societies from New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New England. Pittsburgh and west joined in August of 1865 to form the American Freedmen's Commission.

The next step was to link with the American Union Commission that provided aid to both whites and freedmen. The new        name was "The Freedmen's Aid Union Commission. The new constitution read that the schools should be open to "all applicants without distinction of race or color." While all the schools were now open to whites or blacks this did not translate into a real program. A few white children would come in but the schools remained different shades of black.

Finnaly, all the societies throught the U.S. joined into one group. In May of 1866, without any sectarian connection, the organization became The Freedmen's Union Commission.

The journal of the organization was published beginning in January, 1865. The name of the journal was the Freedmen's Record. All teachers received copies of the Journal but others could subscibe to it. The organization also published a book for freedmen for eight cents a copy called Handbook for American Citizens. This book contained the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, Emancipation Proclamation, parliamentary rules and a few important historical dates.

The Union adopted a seven-point program for its mission in the south: 1. Systematic organization and grading of the schools;
2.Thorough training of all pupils in the elementary branches; 3.Careful preparation of the best pupils for normal classes;
4. Normal instruction and employment of pupils in teaching as far as possible; 5. Engaging southern white and colored teachers in the work; 6. Enlisting the cooperation of the people in the work of supporting the schools to a still greater extent; and 7. Keeping carefully in view the ultimate object of paving the way for a free school system in the South, sustained by their own people of and for all classes and races.
Teachers Sent to St.Augustine by the American Freedmen's Union through the New York Branch


Miss K. D. Connant
Julia M Bartlett


Kate Foote
Eliza J Smith (Syracuse, NY)
Kate D. Connant
Mary M. Harris
Cornelia N Smith (No Pitcher,    NY)
Emily M. Wood

Special note
: Three teachers were assigned to the 1st S. C.    Vol's or 33 Regt USCT where many St. Augustine men were soldiers. Mrs. William Hawks and Mrs. H. Dewhurst, and Prince Lamkin (African-American) were the assigned      teachers.


Cornelia J. Smith
Eliza Smith
Fannie J.Botts (Syracuse, NY)
Mary M. Harris
Miss F.A Morgan (New Haven        CN)


Cornelia Smith
Mrs. M. M. Williams (NY,NY)
Charlotte J. Smith
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