This book examines the dynamic process of black education reform during the Jim Crow era in two southern states, North Carolina and Mississippi. Through extensive archival research that explores the initiatives of foundations and reformers at the top, the impact of that work at the state and local level, and the voices of southerners, including those in rural black communities, the book demonstrate the importance of schooling to political development in the South and challenges us to re-evaluate the relationships among political actors involved in education reform. Foundation leaders were self-conscious state builders and policy entrepreneurs who aimed to promote national ideals through a public system of education, efforts they believed critical in the South, and black education was an important component of this national agenda. Through extensive efforts to create a more centralized and standard system of public education that would bring isolated and rural black schools into the public system, schooling served as an important site for expanding state and local governance capacity. It provided opportunities to reorganize local communities and affect black agency in the process. Because foundations could not unilaterally impose their educational vision on the South, particularly in local black communities, collaboration between foundation agents and local citizens was necessary to education reform and had the potential to open political opportunity structures in rural areas. Unfortunately, that potential was difficult to realize because foundations were less effective at implementing programs consistently in local areas.