The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 402 pages of information about The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861.
mentally, socially, and morally?  So has the other.  Is one bound by the laws of God to improve the talents he has received from the Creator’s hands?  So is the other.  Is one embraced in the command ‘Search the Scriptures’?  So is the other."[1] He maintained that unless masters could lawfully degrade their slaves to the condition of beasts, they were just as much bound to teach them to read the Bible as to teach any other class of their population.

[Footnote 1:  African Repository, vol. xxxii., p. 16.]

But great as was the interest of the religious element, the movement for the education of the Negroes of the South did not again become a scheme merely for bringing them into the church.  Masters had more than one reason for favoring the enlightenment of the slaves.  Georgia slaveholders of the more liberal class came forward about the middle of the nineteenth century, advocating the education of Negroes as a means to increase their economic value, and to attach them to their masters.  This subject was taken up in the Agricultural Convention at Macon in 1850, and was discussed again in a similar assembly the following year.  After some opposition the Convention passed a resolution calling on the legislature to enact a law authorizing the education of slaves.  The petition was presented by Mr. Harlston, who introduced the bill embodying this idea, piloted it through the lower house, but failed by two or three votes to secure the sanction of the senate.[1] In 1855 certain influential citizens of North Carolina[2] memorialized their legislature asking among other things that the slaves be taught to read.  This petition provoked some discussion, but did not receive as much attention as that of Georgia.

[Footnote 1:  Special Report of the U.S.  Com. of Ed., p. 339]

[Footnote 2:  African Repository, vol. xxxi., pp. 117-118.]

In view of this renewed interest in the education of the Negroes of the South we are anxious to know exactly what proportion of the colored population had risen above the plane of illiteracy.  Unfortunately this cannot be accurately determined.  In the first place, it was difficult to find out whether or not a slave could read or write when such a disclosure would often cause him to be dreadfully punished or sold to some cruel master of the lower South.  Moreover, statistics of this kind are scarce and travelers who undertook to answer this question made conflicting statements.  Some persons of that day left records which indicate that only a few slaves succeeded in acquiring an imperfect knowledge of the common branches, whereas others noted a larger number of intelligent servants.  Arfwedson remarked that the slaves seldom learned to read; yet elsewhere he stated that he sometimes found some who had that ability.[1] Abolitionists like May, Jay, and Garrison would make it seem that the conditions in the South were such that it was almost impossible for a slave to develop intellectual

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The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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