The Department of Public Instruction School Photographs digital collection includes a sample of photographs from the Department of Public Instruction, School Planning Section, School Photographs Files. The photographs initially selected document school conditions and construction efforts in African American communities across the state in the years c. 1918-1955. The photographs depict construction, newly completed schools, and older structures that reveal the inadequate and poor learning conditions Black North Carolinians endured in the early twentieth century. Of significance are many schools constructed with assistance from the Julius Rosenwald Fund. Many of these structures are not documented among the photographs in the Rosenwald Fund archives at Fisk University and no longer survive. Students, teachers and other school personnel, residents, contractors and builders, though rarely identified, are occasionally pictured.
The School Planning Section of the Department of Public Instruction was initially known as the Division of Plans and Buildings. Its primarily objective over the last hundred years has been assistance to “public schools, architects, and design teams in the planning and design of high-quality school facilities that enhance education and provide lasting value to the children and citizens of North Carolina.” In the course of that work, an extensive number of photographs documenting school construction and repair efforts was collected by the section and eventually deposited in the State Archives of North Carolina.
Many of the early photographs collected by the section were clearly taken or collected by other divisions within the Department of Public Instruction, including the Division of Negro Education (DNE). For more information about related records in the Department of Public Instruction Record Group, see especially the records of the School Planning Section and DNE records, portions of which are digitized.