The Cumberland County Historical Society in Carlisle, PA (just down the road from us at Messiah College) has an amazing collection of photos from the Carlisle Indian School. Head over to RadioLab and check out these “before” and “after” photos of the school’s students. Here is a taste of the accompanying article:
Just to quickly set these images up… a little bit of backstory. The Carlisle Indian School was founded in 1879 by Colonel RH Pratt, a complicated figure with a troubling legacy. While he championed racial equality (something he set out to showcase at the school), his idea of equality was a peculiarly 19th Century one. He aimed to prove that American Indians were the equals of whites by making them as white as possible. His slogan at Carlisle was “kill the Indian, save the man.” Students were forbidden from speaking their own languages. Their hair was cut, they were dressed in suits and ties and corseted dresses. They didn’t go home for years at a time. And they were taught trades, like baking and blacksmithing, which were meant to give them a foothold in the white world after graduation. Yet many students had good experiences, and remembered Pratt as a good man… the “father of Indian education,” as one student describes him in our story.
Since Pratt’s mission was to show that American Indians still had a place in a world that was destroying their homes and cultures, he was eager to hold up examples of students succeeding on his terms. Pratt commissioned these “Before and After” photos to demonstrate the transformations happening at Carlisle.
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