Brilliance in the Valley
The Brilliance in the Valley Hight Sch Museum Education Curriculum encourages teen exploration and active preservation of a worthwhile agricultural, social, and economic history. By learning and applying historical practices, participants prevent the erasure of the history of African American students then enrolled in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the American South, who participated in northward seasonal labor migrations to earn money for higher education before, during, and after World War II.
Hope & the Beginnings of Southern Student Tobacco Labor Migration
In 1916, John Hope, Morehouse College president, and civic leader, was tapped by the National Urban League to recruit college students to fulfill the farm labor needs of Connecticut's shade tobacco growers, whose "million-dollar crop" was jeopardized due to labor shortages caused by WWI. The Urban League and Hope recognized the unique opportunity afforded by a partnership with New England tobacco growers; the alignment would simultaneously provide employment opportunities by which "young people would have an opportunity to earn money for their education" and allow for seasonal departure away from the daily vigilante terror then rampant throughout the south.
Amidst the jarring landscape of a brutally segregated Southern landscape, John Hope recruited 25 Morehouse students to participate in the social "experiment" knowingly referred to by a Connecticut journalist as "Labor on a Plantation to Earn an Education." In short order, other African-American Colleges and Universities, i.e., Howard University, Tuskegee Institute, and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, followed Hope's lead and began recruiting students for participation in what would be a fifty-year-long relationship between Shade Tobacco growers in the Connecticut River Valley and Historically Black Colleges and Universities throughout the American South.