POINDEXTER'S INTEREST IN EDUCATION
In 1836, two years before Poindexter and his wife became residents of Columbus, the colored people of the town made some provision for educating their children by procuring a teacher and providing a school building. Not until after the Civil War was any action taken to provide tax-supported facilities for Negro children in Columbus, and those facilities were poor. One of the two schools provided for colored youth was located on south Seventh Street (Grant Avenue) between Mound and Fulton streets. The other, called the "Alley School," was located at the intersection of two alleys, LaFayette and Lazelle, just a short distance northeast of the center of the city. It was also called the "Pig Pen." The latter school was an old double house from which the partition had been removed.
It was then the custom for each school to have a "visiting committee," made up of citizens appointed to make recommendations. The visiting committee, of which Poindexter was a member, complained that the school was "unsightly, both in character and situation." Shortly afterward the schools were abandoned and Negro children were sent to the Third Street School at the southeast corner of Third and Long streets. The date of this change was 1872. Poindexter and other members of the committee were not yet satisfied with the provisions made for Negro education. The annual reports of the Columbus Public Schools record complaints against the location of the Third Street School, which had been renamed the Loving School, in honor of Dr. Starling Loving, who on many occasions had championed the rights of Negroes. The last complaint voiced in the Annual Report for 1881 is typical:
Respecting the building, we do not see that any very important repairs are required. But we recommend a change of location. It is certain that no school in the city is surrounded by such an unhealthy moral atmosphere as the Loving School. Saloons and street corners lie on every hand and make it at once one of the worst places for a public school in the city. All these things suggest the necessity of change.10 This section of the city was rapidly acquiring an evil reputation and came to be known as "Bad Lands." Shortly afterward Loving School was razed, and Negro students were distributed in the other public schools according to the school districts in which they lived. This change came in September 1882.
Membership on visiting school committees gave Poindexter practical training for membership on the Columbus School Board. This position came to him on December 30, 1884, by unanimous vote of the school board after the elected incumbent, Dr. Starling Loving, had rendered himself ineligible by moving out of the ward from which he had been elected. For ten years Poindexter served as member of the board, being elected four times from the Ninth Ward. During his term of service on the city school board, he was chairman of the following committees: schoolhouse sites, rules and regulations, textbooks and course of study (six years), discipline, and visiting committees for Spring Street School (three years) and Central High School (two years). He also served as member of the following committees: supplies, hygiene, public library, manual training, printing, salaries, and teachers and examinations.11
During Poindexter's tenure of office some controversy arose when Catholic school authorities sought to obtain the temporary use of an unoccupied schoolroom in the Twenty-third Street School, while awaiting the completion of a new parochial school in the vicinity. Poindexter championed the right of Catholics to use the quarters until their own building was ready for occupancy.
Poindexter is said to have had no formal schooling, althoughhe was tutored by an English-born citizen of Columbus. The fact that he was chairman of the important textbooks and course of study committee for six years would indicate he did his work acceptably. Unquestionably, too, membership on such a variety of commitees in itself was an education of great value to him, though it came to him relatively late in his life.
Six years before assuming his place on the board he had voiced his objection to separate schools for Negro children as follows:
Colored people don't desire to abuse the educational privilege of the white children but simply to put their children on an equality with the white children. Abolish our beneficent system of free schools and the distance between the white and colored people will widen to all eternity. We are poor and ignorant as a class, they are intelligent and rich. They have had the benefit of their own and the colored man's toil for two hundred and fifty years, we have not only been worked without pay, but shut up in cells of ignorance. Oh, No! For heaven's sake don't shut up the free schools until we get some of the benefits of them. Another objection [to integrated schools] is that the colored child can learn four times as much under colored as under white teachers; and another is that the colored teachers draw $320,000 per annum out of the treasury for their services, which . . . would be lost to the colored people if the change be made. . . . More and more as they rise to comprehension of the vast good to our people of mixed schools, will our colored teachers assent to the sacrifice here proposed, as one righteous to be made. Holding aloft this standard, we vindicate the sacrifice suffered for us by the Martyred Lovejoy, Wendell Phillips, William Garrison, O. P. Morton and the great statesman and philanthropist, Charles Sumner.12
10 Annual Report of the Board of Education of the Columbus Public Schools
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