The Board of Trustees of the Negro Rural School Fund convened in the office of the president of the United States on December 14, 1911. The mission of the fund was to assist Southern black schools, supplying black supervising teachers to rural areas.
President William Howard Taft presided over the meeting, which included members from banking, industry, philanthropy, higher education, and the clergy, demonstrating the importance of associated action in policy and political development in the early twentieth century.
These elite reformers hoped to guide policymaking in education reform, and their work was just one part of a far-reaching agenda for education in the Jim Crow South, based on the premise that public schooling was important to a strong national state.
Yet, it was difficult for elite actors to implement national policy goals in state and local areas, particularly for education. Local control was an important characteristic of American schooling, and Southern education reform was a particularly complicated terrain, dominated by rural areas committed to states’ rights, local control, and the racial state.
While the fund's trustees hoped to direct efforts from their lofty White House venue, foundation efficacy required extensive collaboration with organizations and actors across the South. This work, referred to here as interstitial collaboration, included a set of initiatives tailored to state and local regions, supported by cooperative relationships between governmental and nongovernmental organizational entities and with citizens across the political spectrum.