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date: 08 May 2021

Thomas Jesse Jones, the Phelps Stokes Commissions, and Education for Social Welfare in Colonial Africalocked

  • Andrew BarnesAndrew BarnesSchool of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, Arizona State University

Summary

During the 1920s and 1930s American strategies for racial social engineering had a major impact of colonial education policy in Africa. During this time the ideas of the American educator Thomas Jesse Jones held a broad audience among Christian missions and colonial governments and the recommendations he made in the two Phelps Stokes Education Commission reports he authored became the basis for educational reforms primarily in British held African colonies but also other colonial territories as well. Jones drew attention to himself in early 20th-century America for promoting the application of the sociological theories of his mentor Franklin Giddings to the tasks associated with educating European immigrants to what he identified as America’s Anglo-Saxon values. Jones made a name for himself, however, by rethinking Giddings ideas to apply to non- white American populations such as African Americans and Native Americans. Significantly, Jones identified the industrial education strategies he argued were followed at Hampton Institute and Tuskegee Institute as offering the most useful approach to adjudicating racial tensions between white Americans and black Americans. Making use of his position as education director of the Phelps Stokes Fund, an educational philanthropy dedicated to non-white education, Jones came to influence all philanthropic giving directed toward African American and Native American schools. Jones’s ideas appealed to American Christian liberals, who recommended him to the British Colonial Office and Christian liberals in Britain as someone who could resolve the mounting tensions over colonial development between Europeans and Africans in Africa. Jones advocated the introduction of Hampton Institute-/Tuskegee Institute-style industrial education in Africa, by which he meant education towards social amelioration and community development, but also education away from notions of citizenship and political rights. His ideas about social amelioration and community development took root and facilitated a social revolution in Africa with the creation of new corps of social welfare providers such as teachers and nurses. Jones’s ideas about educating Africans away from political mobilization failed, as the people trained as social welfare providers joined the front ranks of Africans demanding an end to colonialism.

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