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Albany Enterprise Academy (Plaque)
*On this date in 1863, we celebrate the founding of the Albany Enterprise Academy. This was an Ohio school created for the education of Blacks.
A testimony to the intent of their curriculum can be found in paperwork issued on March 14, 1864; this broadsheet appeared in Albany, Ohio. It was distributed to "The Friends of the Colored People" and was signed by several board members of the Academy to gain support for the completion of their school.
The school's first trustees included Thomas Jefferson Furguson (co-founder of the Ohio Colored Teacher's Association, member of the Albany City Council, and the first Black to serve on a jury in Athens County), Cornelius Berry (father of Edwin Berry of the Berry Hotel), Philip Clay, David Norman, Woodrow Wiley, and Jackson Wiley. Financing was raised by selling shares of stock for $25 each, and donations came in from supporters. By November 20, 1863, about twenty acres of land were purchased for the school, and by June of the next year, a two-story building called the Chapel was almost complete. The school had two departments: primary and academic. Classes began with 49 students enrolled at the school.
According to its constitution, Albany Enterprise Academy was founded to furnish "all persons of good moral character who may wish to avail themselves of its privileges, a sound Christian and Literary education particularly colored persons who wish to prepare themselves for teachers or educators of their race or to fill with honor other positions in Society." The academy's first principal was the Rev. A. Binga. In its 1871 catalog, tuition was listed at $3.50 a term for the primary education department and $5 for the academic department. Each term lasted 14 weeks.
Classes included reading, writing, spelling, practical and higher arithmetic, higher geography, grammar and analysis of the English language, algebra, geometry, bookkeeping, natural, moral, mental philosophy, anatomy, chemistry, astronomy, and history. According to Tribe's book Albany, Ohio: The First Fifty Years of a Rural Midwestern Community, the Enterprise Academy had in "excess of one hundred students" in its early years of operation (about the same number of students were enrolled at Ohio University at the same time). A second building was built to house a girls' dormitory in 1870. The school enjoyed support not only from the community but from neighboring counties as well. I. W. Andrews, then-president of Marietta College, expressed his support for the academy.
Thomas Wickes, the pastor of the Congregational Church in Marietta, expressed his support in a letter dated July 2, 1864: "It is the only institution in the State which is under the control of the colored people. If this race, too, is ever to rise and fulfill its destiny, this is the direction in which it must move. We regard this effort, therefore, with peculiar interest, as one destined to accomplish important work and prove one of the instrumentalities for elevating this long-oppressed race." "I think that, generally, Albany was a harmonious community. Race relations were generally good," explained Tribe. But the Enterprise eventually fell on hard times. By the late 1870s, enrollment figures went down due largely to the decline in the area's Black population. In 1886, the Enterprise's last year, its founder and staunchest supporter, T. J. Furguson, fell ill and resigned, causing the school to close that same year.