Edmiston Center Library and Reading Room
The Edmiston Center Library Collection seeks to procure books written by Western and non-Western theologians, missiologists, historians, and Christian practitioners who exemplify the importance of practical theology on the margins of the world's societies.
Lucy was born in April of 1854, to David and Louise Laney. David and Louise were both born into slavery. David’s master allowed him to earn money by working odd jobs in town — a rarity for enslavers of the day — and the young man eventually saved up enough to purchase his freedom. He married Louise when she was only thirteen, after purchasing her freedom as well. Louise would continue to work for the people who had enslaved her, even once free, and Lucy would credit her love of learning to the extensive library of the Campbells. David himself became a Presbyterian minister.
The Campbells had taught Louise to read, and Louise passed this love of reading onto Lucy, making sure that her daughter was afforded every educational opportunity that arose for them. When the American Missionary Association arranged for a post-war school for emancipated black children in Mason, Lucy was one of their first students. She impressed her teachers with her zeal for knowledge and her love for imparting it.
In 1883, when Lucy was twenty-nine, the Board of Missions for Freeman convinced her to start a school in Augusta. While Lucy had close ties to Congregationalists as well as the Presbyterians who ran the mission board, she would most often receive money and support from the Presbyterian church.
Lucy rented a room for her very first school from Christ Presbyterian Church. She started with a mere five students — by the end of the first year, that number had jumped to seventy-five — by the end of the second year, that number had jumped to two hundred.
Once her two-hundred-student body had outgrown Christ Presbyterian Church, a white undertaker offered her a two-story house on Calhoun Street. Realizing that they would soon outgrow the two-story house, Lucy went to the General Assembly of the Northern Presbyterian Church” in Minneapolis to solicit funding. Said one onlooker who watched Lucy speak, “It was a novel sight to me. A young colored girl brought greetings from her people and besought our mission board for more schools.”
Mrs. F.E.H. Haines, president of the Women’s Department in the PCUS, was particularly encouraging to Lucy, impressed by the young woman’s passion for her students. She would become a generous benefactor. Lucy would, in fact, go on to name her school after Mrs. Haines.
“The state has more than six million Negroes with thirty-six and one half percent of illiteracy as compared with seven and eight-tenths percent of illiteracy among whites, although the Negro group comprises forty-five and one-tenth percent of the total population. Few of the Georgia cities have provided adequately for Negro education and rural school facilities for Negroes are still meager.
A report of the Julius Rosenwald fund shows that Georgia ranks tenth in the number of rural school buildings aided by that foundation between 1913 and 1928. The State ranks forty-eighth in provision for public education and forty-seventh in public health work. Of the children who start school in Georgia, fifty percent never complete the fourth grade. Thus, Haines Institute, an oasis of knowledge in a desert of ignorance, provides for the thirsty."
— Sadie Iola Daniel, Women Builders
“Haines not only offered its students a holistic approach to education but also served as a cultural center for the African American community. The school hosted orchestra concerts, lectures by nationally famous guests, and various social events. Laney also inaugurated the first kindergarten and created the first nursing training programs for African American women in Augusta.”
— Leslie Kent Anderson
“He [David Laney] has put no son into the Gospel ministry to succeed him, but his worthy daughter, Lucy, is today practically doing the work of a faithful minister and servant of Christ. Miss Laney is a graduate of Atlanta University and has an education of which no woman in this land, white or colored, need be ashamed.”
— Sadie Iola. Daniel, Women Builders