In a forgotten corner of The Washington D.C. Public Library, a photo archivist has discovered what may be a momentous piece of history.
It’s a list of signatures from public figures of the early 1800’s, including President Thomas Jefferson, offering their own money for a seemingly humble proposal: to build a simple pair of elementary schools. But Jefferson’s ultimate goal, we learn, is far loftier. With this venture, he is quietly floating his plan to launch the nation’s first public school system.
Eventually he would go broke through such acts of charity, but Jefferson’s ideals of public education would transform the nation. Could it all have begun with a modest $200 pledge?
History Detectives investigates the beginnings of public education in the United States.
- Also with Wes Cowan General Lee's Farewell Address Could this be a signed copy of one of the most famous documents in the history of the Civil War?
- Related Investigation Andrew Jackson's Mouth How was this wood fragment connected to one of the most celebrated political protests of the 19th century?
- Also with Wes Cowan WWII Diary Does this diary hold the key to understanding the fate of a missing bomber pilot from World War II?
- Related Investigation Special Agent Five How did this tale of robbery and murder help FBI director J. Edgar Hoover consolidate his power?
- Also with Wes Cowan Copperhead Cane How did this cane inspire a fiery political movement that threatened Lincoln's presidency?
- Also in Season 5 NC-4: First Across The Atlantic Is this piece of fabric a remnant from the first transatlantic flight?
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