Edward Lavoisier Blackshear, teacher and administrator, was born in Montgomery, Alabama, on September 8, 1862, the son of Adlene Pollard and Abram Vandiver, who were slaves. Because his mother was a maid in the main house, he learned to read and write along with the white children of the Pollard family. He attended the first public school for African-American children in Montgomery and the Swayne School and Academy, established by the American Missionary Society there. In 1875 he entered Tabor College in Iowa, where he graduated in 1881 with Hightower T. Kealing Blackshear taught in public schools for a year before joining Kealing in Waco in 1882. Blackshear's health failed during this year, and when he moved to Waco he first worked as a laborer putting up telegraph poles on the Texas-Midland Railroad. He afterwards attributed regaining his health to this labor and believed that physical, as well as intellectual, development was necessary for a well-educated person. He was soon hired to teach at Paul Quinn College, but in early 1883 he moved to Austin to teach at the Eighth Ward School. In the fall of 1883 he became principal of the Wheatsville School, and in May 1884 he was appointed principal of the summer normal school for Black teachers to be held in Goliad. In 1888 he became the principal of the Central Grammar School and in 1892 the supervisor of all the African-American schools in Austin, as well as the principal of the high school, where he succeeded Kealing. After his first wife died, he married Rachel Works. They had three children.
In August 1896 Governor Charles A. Culberson appointed Blackshear, a Democrat, to succeed Laurine C. Anderson, a Republican, as the third principal of Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College. While Blackshear was principal he helped secure considerable legislative appropriations from the state and the school prospered. He earned a master's degree from Tabor College in 1902, and served as president of the Teachers State Association of Texas in 1903-04. He formed the Negro State Farmers’ Congress of Texas and served as president for several years. In 1913 he was elected president of the National Negro Farmers’ Congress in Birmingham, Alabama. In the 1914 Democratic gubernatorial primary, Blackshear, a prohibitionist, supported Thomas H. Ball against the eventual winner, James E. Ferguson. The following year the newly inaugurated governor demanded that Blackshear be removed. Blackshear was reelected president by the board of directors in 1915, but resigned from the position in a letter on June 12, 1915. He rescinded the resignation a short time later, but the board of directors voted to displace Blackshear as principal in early August. In that same year he was made head of government extension work for Kansas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. He died on December 12, 1919, and is buried in Hempstead. Gregorytown School in Austin was renamed Blackshear School in his honor in 1936, when an extensive renovation and expansion program for the school began.