The African-American Schools of Louisa County
The Supervisors of Negro Education

In the early twentieth century, several philanthropic funds were established to aid in the education of African-Americans in the South. The Negro Rural School Fund, which later became known as The Anna T. Jeanes Fund, was the first fund established solely for the purpose of improving rural public education for African-Americans. The fund was created in 1907 by Anna T. Jeanes, a wealthy Philadelphia Quaker, who donated one million dollars to fund positions for supervisors to assist teachers at small rural schools. The Supervisors of Negro education in Louisa County were Jeanes supervisors.

Their job description was simple; assist teachers in every way that every individual situation demanded with all the resourcefulness they could muster. The motto for the Jeanes teachers was "the next needed thing," which applied to all parts of school, home, and community life for students and teachers. They traveled endlessly throughout the county, trying to visit each school monthly. They advocated for teacher's salary increases and professional growth, longer school terms and better instructional materials. 

The Supervisors quickly became trusted advisors and advocates for the entire African-American community.   Carol Sears Botsch of the University of South Carolina Aiken writes: "When asked why most of the Jeanes Supervisors were black women, one retired Supervisor in South Carolina gave this insightful reply, 'It all came down to power. There was no way," she claimed, "that the white communities would have allowed black men to have so much power. Jeanes Supervisors were seen as leaders in their communities, as people to whom one could turn for help. The women were supervised, in turn, by the state agents for the black schools, who were white men. These men seem to have been sympathetic to the needs of the people whose schools they oversaw, and to have earned the respect of both blacks and whites.'"

Lucille Holt courtesy of Milton BrownMiss Lucille Holt,
1st Jeanes Supervisor in Louisa

Lucille Holt was a native of Louisa County, born in February of 1883. She and her widowed mother lived together until she went to Virginia State College for Negroes sometime after 1900. She returned to Louisa County and is listed among the teachers in the Court House district in the 1910 school superintendent's records. In 1916, Miss Holt was appointed the first Jeanes Supervisor for the Louisa County Negro Schools. During a 2007 interview, Mrs. Sarah Fountain Winston shared, "I remember older people talking about Lucille Holt.  I know she went on to Virginia State College and worked there for many more years. " Lucille Holt died in 1958. 


Zelda Morton and Alberta Guy
Zelda C. Morton,
Jeanes Supervisor from 1926-1945

Zelda Carter Fletcher Morton was born about 1875 on Sylvania in Green Springs. Her parents Andrew (born 1843) and Sarah (born 1845) Carter were married while both were still enslaved.  Their marriage was given legal status in the Cohabitation List for Louisa County recorded by the Freedmen's Bureau in 1866.   Neither Andrew nor Sarah ever learned to read or write. Zelda Carter received her early education in Louisa County's public schools and graduated from Virginia State College.  She taught school in Rappahanock and Orange Counties and also in West Virginia before returning to Louisa County to teach at the Mechanicsville School .

She married William Fletcher around 1902 and they lived with Zelda's widowed mother, Sarah, on her farm near Gordonsville. William worked for the railroad.  Zelda Carter became Jeanes Supervisor of Negro Education in 1926 and remained in that position until she retired in 1945. She married Mr. Morton in her later years. Alberta Guy Despot writes, "Under her leadership the program of instruction continued to improve and teachers were made aware of the need for professional growth." She continued to live in Louisa County until her death. 

Mrs. Sarah Fountain Winston was a young teacher when she was supervised by Zelda C. Morton. She shared this recollection in a 2007 interview: "Mrs. Morton was a very soft spoken lady and a good person. She would talk to you just like a mother. We were all young then and we'd listen to every word she said. She was just a lovely person to know. I only worked under her a few years, because she retired about 1945, the same year as my mother. They were good friends." Mrs. Winston took the photograph above.

Edythe R. Carter, Supervisor of Negro Schools 1945-1950

In 1948, Edythe R. Carter furnished the following autobiographical information to Paul Everett Behrens as he prepared his survey of Negro Schools in Louisa County: "Mrs. Carter was born 33 years ago (1915) in Kingston, Jamaica, of the British West Indies. She attended St. Paul's Normal School, now St. Paul's College, in Lawrenceville, Virginia. In 1939 sheEdythe R. Carter received her A. B. Degree from Shaw University, Raleigh, North Carolina. She enrolled in New York University for summer work and received her M. A. degree in 1948."

She came to Louisa in 1945 as Supervisor of Negro Elementary Schools. Her supervisor's reports include her assessments of the strong involvement parent organizations, teacher attendance at professional meetings, how many children needed dental care, how many received eye glasses, and how many books were added to library units. Alberta Guy Despot wrote, "Under her dynamic leadership, the Negroes became fully aware of the need for equalization of educational facilities in Louisa County. The instructional program continued to improve, the number of school lunch programs increased, teachers continued to grow professionally, and the program of consolidation began to move rapidly."�

Mrs. Sarah Winston recalls, "Mrs. Edythe Carter came to us from Suffolk, I believe, to become Supervisor when Mrs. Morton retired. She had been educated at St. Paul's (in Lawrenceville) and then at New York University. I'd describe her as one of those "go-ahead" kind of people. She had so much energy and always seemed to have lots of ideas. I remember one day she stayed just about all day in my classroom showing me ways to correlate subjects; math with geography, that sort of thing. She was the first one to get us into groups within the district. We would have joint days for things like art exhibits and field days. She stayed about five years."   Edythe Carter, who became Edythe R. Haskett, died in 2005.

Mrs. Alberta Guy Despot, Supervisor of Negro Education, 1950-1963

Alberta Guy was a native of Louisa County, born to George and Bertha Guy on April 17, 1916 on a farm on Byrd Mill Road.  She attended Louisa County public school under the tutorship of Miss Lucille Holt and attended two years of high school at the Louisa Training School.  Miss Guy graduated from Fredericksburg Normal School in 1935, Hampton Institute with a Bachelors Degree in 1946 and of Boston Alberta Guy DespotUniversity (M.Ed) in 1953. She studied further at the University of Virginia, where African-Americans were only allowed to attend classes as special students, not in degree programs.

Alberta Guy began her teaching career in 1939 at the Lime Track Elementary school in the Green Springs District.  After serving as a classroom teacher and principal in several Louisa County schools, she became Supervisor of Negro Education in Louisa County in 1950 and remained in that position until 1963.  In the chapter she authored for "A Brief History of Education in Louisa County", by Pearl Mills Harris, she relates that at the time of her appointment, the program of consolidation started under Edythe R. Carter had decreased the number of elementary schools to twenty-two.  There were two three-room schools, five two-room schools and fourteen one-room schools.  The consolidated Louisa Training School included the four-year accredited high school.  Each year the umber of one-room schools decreased, as the program of consolidation continued to move rapidly.

She was active throughout her lifetime in her church, the community, and many state wide professional organizations.  Her hobby was writing.  She was the wife of Reverend Joseph R. Despot, pastor of Piney Branch Baptist Church in Spotsylvania County and Principal of the Mt. Garland School. Alberta Guy Despot died on January 20, 1965.

Mrs. Sarah Winston taught many years under Mrs. Despot's supervision. She remembers her this way, "Miss Guy, or Mrs. Despot later, was just a very nice person. She believed in gathering the teachers around the county together and having us do a lot of things in groups. She also believed in extension classes and arranged for professors to come teach us on a regular basis. We would go at night for so many weeks for each class."

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Funding for this project was provided by The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and
The Louisa County Historical Society