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1865-1877 The Peabody Education Fund organized to establish a permanent system of public education in the South and to enlarge the number of qualified teachers in the region. The Peabody Fund allocated millions of dollars in support of African American schools, as well as to support the growth of public schools for Blacks and Whites across the South.

1878-1895 John F. Slater, a Connecticut textile manufacturer, established the Slater Fund with a gift of $1 million after having been inspired by the work of the Peabody Fund. This fund supported most of the South’s Black colleges.

1896-1915 A wealthy Quaker from Philadelphia, Anna T. Jeanes, entrusted $1 million to establish a fund to assist rural schools for Blacks in the South and provided 125 lead teachers to improve curriculum and instruction at those schools. During this time, the Peabody Fund merged into the Slater Fund.

1916-1931 The Slater Fund had by this point contributed $2.2 million toward the expansion of African American education in the South and had worked to increase the number of public high schools for African American students in Southern states. This contributed to a sharp rise in African American enrollment in the South’s Black colleges and universities.

1932-1944 The Peabody Fund, Slater Fund, Jeanes Fund and the Virginia Randolph Fund merged to become the Southern Education Foundation, Inc., which set up initial offices in Washington, DC. It chose that location since no southern city would allow the foundation to maintain an interracial staff with interracial public meetings.

1945-1953 After relocating its headquarters to Atlanta in 1947, the Southern Education Foundation worked to advocate Black education in Southern state governments and to stimulate the employment of Black personnel in Southern state departments of education. SEF also developed a graduate training program for African American principals that would help to integrate Southern state universities. The Ford Foundation sponsored SEF to compile a study of the conditions of Black education in the South in anticipation of the US Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

1954-1972 From the late 50s through the 60s SEF produced programs aimed at advancing education in the South. It provided scholarships to Southern universities for Black PhD students, launched a movement to establish public kindergartens across the South, and initiated a program to assist historically Black Colleges and Universities to meet new accreditation standards.

1973-1982 SEF worked with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in developing a Southern strategy to accelerate effective and fair desegregation in higher education across the South. The organization initiated a public policy program to address problems of inequitable opportunities and resources for public education.

1983-1993 SEF’s Board of Trustees voted to change the Foundation’s status from a private to a public foundation. It launched the Black College Library Improvement Project and provided a grant to support voting rights for redistricting plans for school boards in the South.

1994-2004 SEF released the Beyond Racism report at the World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa. It also completed its Gateway 21 project that enhanced technological connectivity of HBCUs and began the Instructional Technology Assistance Project. SEF launched the Education Summers Initiative to involve college students in educational change to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board decision.

2005-Today In a new report, SEF finds that the South leads the nation in the percentage of young children enrolled in state-supported pre-kindergarten programs and calls high-quality Pre-K “the South’s primary comparative advantage” in catching up with the rest of the nation in educational achievement and attainment. In another study, A New Diverse Majority, SEF reports that students of color comprise a majority of the South’s public schoolchildren for the first time in history. The report also finds that the South’s public schools continue to have a growing majority of low income students. Also, SEF intensifies its work with HBCUs to improve their accreditation rates in light of ever-changing, strict regulations.

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