The American form of democracy in the first century of United States history was flawed for a variety of reasons, not only due to the existence of legalized slavery, but because there were significantly marginalized demographic segments of the American population, including blacks, women, children and Native Americans. Emancipation resolved, at least by law, one of those flaws. Unfortunately, marginalization of certain populations in our nation continues to keep us from the democratic ideal of equal access to the rights of citizenship for all. This thesis focuses on the crucial role education plays in a thriving society and how the efforts of the first generation of freed slaves to seize the rights of American citizenship, principally through education, began a profound"u2014but not yet fully realized"u2014transformation of our nation into a healthier, more inclusive democracy through universal civic participation. The flames of the Civil War forged the framework of modern America, and an essential component of that framework included an emerging system of public education"u2014a hallmark of a developed society"u2014for blacks and for whites.