In 1866 a Missouri law passed which obligated towns to be responsible for public schools. In November, 1866, a school for the Black children of Gallatin was started, in a room rented from Capt. John Ballinger until a school house could be built. Wilberforce School was completed in 1867 at the northeast corner of Johnson and Chestnut Streets in the west side of Gallatin.
By 1870 over half of the Black children of school age in Daviess County were attending Wilberforce School in Gallatin. In 1874, the school had 66 students. There was no other school for Blacks anywhere else in the county. This school operated for 90 years until 1957. The 1870 County Superintendent, Dr. Samuel P. Howell, stated that "school privileges (in Gallatin) were equal to those of the whilte children." The school was named after M.P. William Wilberforce (1759-1833). He stated in 1787 "above all protested that a nation (Great Britain) officially Christian still tolerated the trade in African slaves." In 1790 British vessels took the lead in transporting slaves to the Americas; slaves numbered 74,000 that year. Historian Will Durant stated "that was probably the most criminal action in history." Wilberforce, with others, formed the Society for the Abolution of the Slave Trade in 1789, and offered a legislative bill in the British House of Commons to end the evil. He tried again in 1798, again in 1802, again in 1804, and again in 1805. In 1807, the bill finally passed. Wilberforce also sought abolution abroad, but retired from Parliament in 1825. After his death, all slaves on British soil were emancipated and slavery was abolished in all British territories. William Wilberforce was born at Hull, England, on Aug. 24, 1759, the son of a wealthy merchant. He was educated at St. John’s Cambridge by 1780. In 1784 he represented the Yorkshire district in Congress. He was a close friend of William Penn, and supported Clarkson and the Quakers for 19 years toward abolution.
Written by David Stark, Gallatin; March, 2000.