SumterCountyHistory.com has an article by Alan Anderson that places Americus Institute in the context of the history of Americus education. Era of Progress and Promise carries a sketch of the school. There is a summary of the school in the 1916 Bulletin issued by the U.S. Office of Education. Mercer University provided a copy of James E. Brown’s 1957 History of Americus College.
Until Dr. Major W. Reddick opened Americus Institute, there was no education for blacks in Americus, GA, beyond elementary school. According to Alan Anderson, the Americus school board reflected the tenor of the times: since there was no reason for a black to have a high school education, a high school for blacks was superfluous. Riddick, a graduate of Atlanta Baptist College, opened Americus Institute in 1897 with two teachers and nine students. By 1910, Era of Progress and Promise lists 8 teachers and 193 students. Southwestern Georgia Colored Baptist Association, a consortium of 70 churches provided $154 the first year. Within 15 years the same group was providing $8,000 annually to provide the “fundamentals of an English education.” According to the postcard advertisement, its curriculum contained both the ideal (literature and music) and the practical (Domestic Service, Agriculture, Teacher Training, Sewing and Rural Community Work). The Bulletin criticizes the curriculum as being too heavy on foreign languages (four years of Latin, one of Greek) at the expense of more practical subjects. It also noted the lack of financial resources.
Bricks and Mortar
Anderson notes that Americus Institute began in a two-room cabin. By 1910 the campus consisted of a main building containing a chapel and classrooms, two dormitories, and a dining hall—all located at the east side of North Lee Street between Patterson and Primitive. The Bulletin says that the campus was seven acres, part of which was a farm supplying produce for the dining hall. The buildings appear to be wood frame structures, and as such did not long survive the school. The Bulletin describes the campus as being “unattractive,” and the buildings as being “poorly constructed.”
A.S. Stanley High School was built in 1936 on the site of the former Institute. Fires in 1970 and 1972 destroyed the original building. It has since been rebuilt as a middle school.
Prior to 1907 Americus students practiced and played sports on their own. In 1907 James E. Brown began to coach their teams. But it was not until 1909 that they were able to arrange a game, losing to a powerful Tuskegee team. In what became an annual game until 1922, Americus was never able to score on Tuskegee. The low point in the Americus football history had to be the 101-0 loss to Morehouse College in 1919. But Brown notes that in 1912 Americus defeated Georgia State 14-0, Alabama State 7-0 and Florida State 14-7.
After hiring a girls’ physical education teacher, Americus formed a girls team in 1921, defeating Albany High School 11-9. Soon after a men’s team was formed. A 1928 note in the Savannah newspaper shows them losing in basketball in the first round of the Morehouse tournament to Beda-Etta College 26-9.
Americus Institute is mentioned in the 1911 Spalding Baseball Guide, suggesting a baseball history.
1908 Graduating Class (Baptist Home Mission Monthly, <babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=wu.89077054815;view=2up;seq=216>. Accessed 5-4-2018
Americus College boasted of a literary society that met twice monthly. For social organizations the school sponsored the Loyal Sons of Chivalry for men and a Social Purity Club for women. These emphasized etiquette and manners. Female students were forbidden to wear silk or lace. As a Baptist organization, it sponsored chapters of the YMCA, YWCA and BYPU.
In financial difficulties, Americus Institute closed in 1932.
Americus Main Building (Era of Progress and Promise <digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/ref/collection/p249901coll37/id/4276>) Accessed 5-4-2018