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  • Glenda-Stroud-Peace

How the South Was Invaded by An Army of Scholars

Updated: Aug 5, 2021

Established by the federal government to assist freed slaves after the Civil War, the Freedmen’s Bureau recruited an army of teachers and sent them into hostile territory. While I could find no historical record of a Freedmen’s Bureau teacher in the Wiregrass, the fact that 3,000 schools were set up throughout the South during Reconstruction – many, although not all, by the Bureau – led me to posit the existence of such a school in Southeast Alabama.

My Freedmen’s Bureau teacher, Miss Julia Tenpenny, who was born and bred in the fictional village of Little Turnbridge, Massachusetts, is dear to my heart for several reasons. First, she bears the last name of my seventh grade English teacher, a surname I have always considered musical and fanciful. (I do not recall that teacher’s first name and in that era would not have dared utter it if I did, for the custom of last-names-only for one’s elders lingered much longer in the South than elsewhere.) Second, like the original Miss Tenpenny, Julia is an excellent English teacher who encourages every youngster to express him- or herself in the best English, using impeccable grammar, punctuation, and spelling, while setting it all forth in beautiful penmanship.

But more than that, Julia is a compassionate, brave woman whose concern for others – whether a former slave learning to read, a farm boy itching to become a scholar, or a defeated Confederate soldier struggling to heal from psychological war wounds – overrides her northern family’s fears for her safety in the conquered South. Dowdy she may be, but Julia has a beautiful, determined soul. She will not be dissuaded from her urge to teach, to liberate through education, despite the Victorian restraints imposed in her time.

WIREGRASS CHRONICLES ~ Your Road Map to the Wiregrass

Glenda Stroud-Peace, a Floridian by birth, is a retired English teacher and a descendant of Alabama Wiregrass pioneers who continues to learn about and share her knowledge of this region through her blogs.


Wiregrass Chronicles - Long Rows to Hoe, is the first book in her four-book series primarily set in the Wiregrass. Be sure to read Long Rows to Hoe to learn more about a determined Yankee schoolteacher during Reconstruction following the Civil War. Rich in historical content, the book also focuses on the lives of indigenous people and Wiregrass settlers and their descendants from the Creek Wars through World War I. Buy your copy today by clicking on the Buy Books button above!

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