Early Education in North Carolina

NC Minute Masthead

In 1936 the State of North Carolina celebrated their Century mark in education.

It was a rough beginning; however, it was a beginning. Prior to 1836 only private schools or “Academies” existed in the state. All of these educational institution had to be chartered by the North Carolina General Assembly. Many of them were built with lottery money, also needing to be approved by the Assembly, but no state money was provided for these schools.

So many of these academies were started in such a close span of time, it is somewhat difficult to tell which was the first. Three academies are believed to be the first or at least one of the first; Tate Academy in Wilmington, started in 1760 by the Reverend James Tate; An academy in Edenton, taught by Reverend Daniel early in 1756, also claims to be first. Additionally, Reverend James Reed opened the New Bern Academy in 1766. The longest operated Academy during the 1700’s was the “log college” operated by David Caldwell in Hillsborough from 1767 to 1822.

In looking at these early secondary schools or academies, we find that most were for the education of boys. Out of one hundred seventy-five chartered schools prior to 1825, only thirteen were for girls. There were a few academies that were for the teaching of free blacks. John Chavis, a free black teacher in Raleigh, taught both white and black children. The white children attended school during the day and the black children were taught at night.