The Albany (Athens County, Ohio) Manual Labor Academy, was founded in 1847 in by William and Eliza Lewis. It would be the first school for black children in Ohio. The school’s original mission statement was “By combining Manual Labor with study, we intend to rebuke the withering spirit of caste…make all forms of useful industry respectable, and furnish community with practical men and women instead of mere theorists….no one shall be rendered ineligible to office, or refused admittance as a student, on terms of perfect equality, on account of caste, color, or place of nativity.”

Classes included reading, writing, algebra, geography, geometry, chemistry, and philosophy. The school owned six hundred acres of farm land, where the labor, which paid their tuition, was performed. The cost of education was two to four dollars per academic term, and two dollars and fifty cents a week for room and board. The Lewis family was very active in the anti-slavery movement. They, and many other Athens County residents, helped escaped slaves as they traveled along the Underground Railroad.

The Disciples of Christ Christian Church purchased the Academy in 1862, and “refused further admission to the black community.” In response, in 1863 the Albany Enterprise Academy was founded, and it served black students in Southeastern Ohio for another 20 years.

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