Monday, January 11, 2010

RIP John G. Fee (1816-1901)

Even before the Civil War, there were those who dared dream of a world where African-Americans and whites (and even men and women) might learn together in the same classroom. Reverend John Gregg Fee, the co-founder of Berea College, was one of these men.

Born in Bracken County, KY, in September 1816 to slaveholders, he dedicated his life to fighting against the institution in print & in his preaching. This attracted the attention of well-known KY emancipationist Cassius M. Clay. In the late 1850s, Clay put up the land & money for a coed, integrated mission school in Berea. Due to harrassment, this was not to be, at least prior to the Civil War. Fee did not stand still. He formed a missionary at Camp Nelson, a haven for African-American refugees during the war.

Ultimately, Fee & Clay parted ways, but Fee carried on the dream. Berea College lived on - and still lives on. Though Fee died (today, in 1901) before the 1904 Day Laws & never saw national integration of schools, his progressive school continues to survive, supporting the dreams of students from throughout Appalachia.

Berea's Citizen published an elaborate obituary for him a few days after his death. For a better view, click on the image, or go directly to the original page from January 17, 1901.

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