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Cardozo, Francis L. 1837–1903

Francis L. Cardozo 18371903

Educator, politician, minister

At a Glance


Francis L. Cardozo contributed to the development of two important black educational institutions: the Avery Institute in Charleston, South Carolina, and Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C. Although, noted for his achievements in education, Cardozo was also active in politics. He was elected first as South Carolinas secretary of state, but also served as the states treasurer.

The son of Jacob N. Cardozo, a white journalist, and a free woman of mixed African and Native American ancestry, Cardozo was born on February 1, 1837, in Charleston, South Carolina. Cardozo and his siblings, Thomas W. Cardozo and Mrs. C. L. McKinney, all appear to have been educated in illegalthough toleratedschools for free black children. Cardozo was apprenticed to a carpenter at age 12. He completed five years as an apprentice and four years as a journeyman. A member of the Second Presbyterian Church, Cardozo received a letter of recommendation from the churchs pastor and, in about 1848, left to study in Great Britain. He spent four years at the University of Glasgow, and then spent the next three years attending Presbyterian seminaries in Edinburgh and London.

Cardozo returned to the United States in 1864. He spent a year as pastor of the Temple Street Congregational Church in New Haven, Connecticut. He married Catherine Romena Howell and the couple had six children: four sons and two daughters. At least one daughter died in infancy. Rather than work as a minister, Cardozo aimed at becoming an educator. He asked the American Missionary Association (AMA) to send him south where he would establish a school to train black teachers. The assignment the AMA gave him, however, was to go to Charleston, South Carolina and investigate rumors about the conduct of his brother, Thomas.

Before heading the AMA school in Charleston, Thomas Cardozo had taught school in Flushing, New York. Thomas, a married man, had either seduced one of his students in Flushing, or been seduced by her, and she was blackmailing him. Although Thomas confessed to his brother and promised to change his ways, the AMA fired Thomas and appointed Francis head of the Charleston school in August of 1865.

In his new position, Cardozo directed an integrated staff which included white teachers from the North and black teachers from both the North and South. He often requested that more northern teachers be hired, but these requests were sometimes viewed as indicative of a lack of confidence in black instructors. Cardozo responded, however, by explaining that he wanted northern teachers of both races because of the superior training available in the North. Cardozo was also accused of favoring light-skinned black students, and, in response, he pointed out that many of those students had been free black before the Civil War and had obtained a head start in education.

As southerners reclaimed property confiscated in the Civil War, Cardozo was required to find a new location for the school. Cardozo learned that the Charles Avery estate planned to contribute $10, 000 to establish a

At a Glance

Born on February 1, 1837, in Charleston, SC; died on July 22, 1903.;son of Jacob N. Cardozo (a white journalist) and a free woman of mixed African-and Native-American ancestry; married Catherine Romena Howell; children: four sons and two daughters; Education: University of Glasgow, Scotland; studied for 3 years at Presbyterian seminaries in Edinburgh, Scotland and London, England.

Career: Carpenters apprentice, five years; journeyman, four years; Temple Street Congregational Church, New Haven, CT, pastor; American Missionary Association school, Charleston, SC, principal, 1865-68; served on a board advising South Carolinas military commander about voter registration regulations, 1866; elected to the state constitutional convention, 1868; Union League, president, 1868; SC secretary of state; 1868-72; Howard University, Latin teacher, 1871-72; SC state treasurer, 1872-76; U.S. Treasury Department, 1877; Colored Preparatory High School, Washington, D.C., principal.

school in Atlanta. Cardozo hoped to be granted a similar sum from the trustees of the estate, but first he needed to win the backing of the governor and the mayor of Charleston. Cardozo called on his contacts in the black community and obtained the backing of the white establishment. In addition to monies granted by the Avery estate, Cardozo also received money from the Freedmens Bureau. In April of 1867 Cardozo and his teachers moved to Bull Street and an elegant new building was built on the lot next door. The school was renamed the Avery Institute. A normal school, the Avery Institute retained a primary department mainly for the purpose of teacher training. The school became a very successful teacher education school and, later, a bastion of Charlestons black elite. In April of 1868 Cardozo handed over the reins of the school.

Cardozo began his political activities the spring of 1866, when he served on a board advising the military commander of South Carolina about voter registration regulations. In the spring of 1868 he was elected to the state constitutional convention held in Charleston. Although he still served as principal of the AMA school while he attended the convention, he had to give up teaching classes. While principal, Cardozo also drew up plans for state-supported public education. His plans allowed but did not require separate schools for blacks and whites. In 1868 Cardozo served as president of the Union League, which worked to ensure a Republican victory in the elections. The only black candidate on the state-wide Republican ticket, Cardoza was then elected South Carolinas secretary of state. He resigned his school position on May 1, just days before Avery Institute was formally dedicated.

As secretary of state Cardozo fought against the fraud he found in the states Land Commission, reorganizing the Commission in 1872. He was reelected secretary of state in 1870, and there was some support for him as a possible candidate to the U.S. Senate. During this time, he also worked as a teacher of Latin at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Cardozo was next elected as state treasurer, a position he held until 1876. He supported efforts of reform by the Republicans to lower taxes and do away with corruption.

In 1877 Cardozo left South Carolina, accepting a post in the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, D.C. During this time, South Carolina Democrats launched a smear campaign against all Republicans, and Cardozo was charged with eight counts of fraud. In 1879 a political deal resulted in a pardon and the dismissal of the remaining charges.

Next Cardozo became principal of Washington D.C.s Colored Preparatory High School. The school became best known by its later name, Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. Between 1884 and 1896 Cardozo effectively built the high school into the countrys leading black preparatory school. A commercial department was formed in 1884, and in 1887 Cardozo introduced a two-year non-college preparatory course in business. However, William Calvin Chase of the Washington Bee led a long campaign to oust Cardozo, and Cardozos departure may not have been entirely not voluntary. Cardozo died on July 22, 1903.



Drago, Edmund L. Initiative, Paternalism, and Race Relations: Charlestons Averl; Normal Institute. University of Georgia Press, 1990.

Greenwood, Willard B. Aristocrats of Color. University of Indiana Press, 1990.

Holt, Thomas. Black over White. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1977.

Logan, Rayford W., and Michael R. Winston, eds. Dictionary of American Negro Biography. Norton, 1982.

Notable Black American Men. Gale Research, 1998.

Richardson, Joe M. Christian Reconstruction. University of Georgia Press, 1986.

Simmons, William J. Men of Mark. Geo. M. Rewell, 1887.

Williamson, Joel. After Slavery. University of North Carolina Press, 1965.


Journal of Negro Education, Winter 1979, pp. 73-83.

Journal of Negro History, July 1917, pp. 252-66.

Negro History Bulletin, November 1956, pp. 45-46


Biography Resource Center, Gale, 2001,

Robert L. Johns and Jennifer M. York

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