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North Carolina Era 7: New South – 1876 - 1900: Subscription Schools in Western North Carolina Lesson Plan

Subscription Schools

LESSON: Subscription Schools in Western North Carolina
UNIT: Era Seven – New South – 1876 - 1900




  1. Ask students what a ‘subscription school’ was. Many will be able to guess simply from the name. [a short term school in which parents paid for their students to
  2. Give each pair of students’ copies of the subscription school from 1876 and 1877 and have them read through them
  3. Ask the following questions:
    • When and where was each written? [November 14, 1876 and March 1, 1877, both in Madison County, NC.]
    • What levels would be taught in the schools? How would we differentiate between those levels today? [Primary, Intermediate, Upper level – generally, elementary, middle and high school levels]
    • How much would each level cost? How was payment accepted other than cash (specie)? [$1.00, $1.25, $1.50 per month; could barter with produce at market price]
    • How many students were enrolled in the winter session? The spring session? Why might this be? [winter – 31 ½ ; spring – 11 ½. This could
      simply be that children were needed for farm work. Some students may indicate that some parents were not satisfied with the work in the winter
    • What might be a ½ student? [this could be for attending ½ of the time or it could be for ½ of the courses available]
    • What do you believe would be the effect of these schools? Was this a reliable form of income for the teachers? [answers will vary]
    • Why do you believe that regions needed to have subscription schools? [students may recognize that schooling was uneven during the time of reconstruction – some places had free public schools and other did not. In some areas the only public schools were primary schools.]




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