Historians continue to debate the role of the colonial state in the history of Africa and whether and how the state addressed problems of social welfare. In the early twentieth century, plans for Native Education were central to the construed mission of the state to serve as “Trustees for native peoples.” This article surveys the theories, aims, and practice of British education in Africa, focusing on the period between WWI and WWII when the colonial state took an unprecedented role in crafting an education policy for the whole of its African territory. It examines the role of American philanthropy, the controversy of English vs. vernacular language education, the relationship between settler communities and African labor, and African and metropolitan social movements in forming and executing education policy.