These were the words of a mother to a teacher at Philadelphia's Institute for Colored Youth in May of 1857. Opened in 1852 at 716-718 Lombard Streets, the Institute was funded and managed by Quakers. Institute faculty and students were some of the best and brightest of the city's African American community. Graduates of the school became teachers, physicians, government employees, diplomats, and businessmen and women. They acted as leaders for the African American community, supported the Union war effort, and worked for equal rights as citizens of the United States. Institute teachers and student made their mark in Philadelphia and in cities across the United States--and even around the world.
"A Great Thing for Our People: The Institute for Colored Youth in the Civil War Era" explores the lives of the men and women who graduated from the Institute between 1852 and 1866, when the school moved from its site on Lombard Street to a new location in the city. In addition to biographies of these first thirty-seven graduates, the project also presents important moments during the Civil War Era in which these men and women played integral roles, reaffirming the praises of that unnamed mother that the Institute for Colored Youth was indeed "a great thing for our people."