Anna Thomas Jeanes, a Quaker of Philadelphia, was born in 1822. She survived all other members of her family and inherited the family's wealth. She was a remarkable woman with a vision for Christian peace which she used her fortune to promote. She constructed and endowed The Friends Boarding House, a home for the aged and the infirmed, in Germantown, Pennsylvania and resided there during the years just before her death in 1907. In her will, she generously endowed several other non-sectarian efforts. Included among them was what came to be known simply as "The Jeanes Fund," which would support Supervisors of Negro Education until 1968.
Two years before Anna Jeanes died, she was approached by the principal of Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia, and Dr. Booker T. Washington, of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, to see if she would help fund their efforts. Although she was interested in both institutions, she felt that others had given to the large schools. If she could, she wanted to help "the little country schools." Therefore, in 1907, Jeanes set aside one million dollars to fund a program for the fostering of rudimentary education in small, African-American rural schools. In her will, Anna T. Jeanes spelled out the goal of the program as being to "encourage moral influence and social refinement which shall promote peace in the land, and goodwill among men." The fund was formally named the Negro Rural School Fund, Anna T. Jeanes Foundation. It funded salaries for those who simply came to be known as "Jeanes Supervisors."
James Dillard was appointed to be the fund's president, and among his first appeals for funds was one from Jackson Davis, Superintendent of Henrico County, Virginia. Davis asked for aid to pay the salary of an industrial supervisor who would be employed under what he entitled the "Henrico Plan." The plan was modeled on the existing work of Virginia Estelle Randolph in the rural areas outside Richmond. Miss Randolph, the child of former slaves, was at work inspiring teachers and communities to improve the educational quality and the physical appearance of local African-American schools.
(Jackson Davis later became the general field agent for the General Education Board in New York. In this role, he traveled extensively to visit African-American schools. His poignant photographs document schools in several states and span the period from 1906-1947. Our Resources page contains a link to the University of Virginia Special Collections site where his photos of Virginia counties surrounding Louisa can be searched and viewed online.)
Anna T. Jeanes, taken about 1907. Image courtesy of Southern Education Foundation Records
James Dillard granted Jackson Davis the necessary funds for a salary of $40.00 a month for nine months. This helped pay the salary for Virginia Randolph, who thus became the first Jeanes supervisor. The reports Virginia Randolph submitted for the 1908-1909 school year of her work with the twenty-three schools she supervised so impressed The Jeanes Fund board, that they authorized payment for eleven other Virginia counties the following year. They sent copies to white state supervisors throughout the South and the Henrico Plan was adopted throughout across the southern states.
Dr. Dillard credited Jackson Davis and Virginia Randolph as the inventors of the real Jeanes plan. In 1912, state education superintendents across the South were invited to Hampton Institute to hear Virginia Randolph describe her methods. She was both a persuasive and gentle spokeswoman for the needs and vision served by rural supervisors. In 1916, Louisa County received funding for its first Jeanes Supervisor, Miss Lucille Holt.