Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education


Curriculum and Instruction PhD

First Advisor

R. Lee Davidson

Second Advisor

Duane M. Covrig

Third Advisor

Kathryn Silva


Problem. Many historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are experiencing major challenges in meeting accreditation requirements. Without good accreditation status they are in jeopardy of losing student enrollment and facing closure. Concern about accreditation has become a growing topic of interest within the African American higher education community. This study explored the topic by looking at some of the historical origins of the accreditation movement in HBCUs. It uses various experiences of two higher education organizations to detail some of the original challenges and the impact on HBCUs from regional accreditation. It focuses on HBCUs through the time period 1920-1940. This time period was selected as it is considered a crucial time for two premier colleges selected for this study. Tuskegee Institute and Atlanta University modeled the industrial and classical curriculum, respectively. These two curriculum models were the most common models utilized in HBCUs. Understanding the role that accreditation may have played on HBCUs and their curricula, particularly teacher education programs, is critical when one considers the far-reaching influence African American teachers had on their community. Analyzing the interaction of the regional accreditation organization, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), and the approval processes of these schools highlights the forces shaping these schools, these teachers, and later their community. The role of accreditation in this process, primarily regional accreditation, will be specifically detailed.

Method. This study used a problem-oriented historical approach to research. It formulated a question generally prompted by reading secondary sources in a historiography, then evaluated primary sources in order to draw conclusions for this initial reading. While the purpose, statement, and objectives emerged from an extensive review of the literature, the historical method was utilized and the research stayed close to primary and secondary data sources related specifically to HBCUs and higher education.

Results. The accreditation process was a catalyst for curricula changes in the teacher education programs at Tuskegee Institute. Furthermore, social, economic, political, and racial hegemonic forces were apparent in these curricula changes at the institution. The impetus for curriculum changes at Atlanta University ranged from meeting student and African American community needs to remaining current with national educational trends. Although governmental, state, and private organizations urged HBCUs toward the vocational curriculum, regional accreditors such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) did not endorse a particular curriculum model.

Conclusions. First, accreditation standards influenced the Tuskegee Institute’s teacher education curriculum. Second, Tuskegee employed the accreditation movement to strengthen the academic curriculum of the teacher education program which allowed them to avoid pejorative repercussions by not strictly adhering to the Tuskegee-Hampton curriculum model, an education that combined cultural uplift with moral and manual training. Third, accreditation did not influence schools to adopt any particular curriculum model. Fourth, economic, social, and political realities provided an impetus for the adoption and maintenance of the Tuskegee-Hampton curriculum model. Significant federal, state, and private funding directly impacted the teacher education program at Tuskegee. Finally, social motivations such as the needs of the African American community and norms of educational practices influenced teacher education curriculum changes at Atlanta University.

Subject Area

African American universities and colleges--Accreditation, Education--Study and teaching, Accreditation (Education).

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