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.
of his precious institution was the low condition of the free people of color of the North.  Remove this excuse by elevating them and you will hasten the liberation of the slaves.  The best refutation of the proslavery argument is the “presentation of an industrious, enterprising, thrifty, and intelligent free black population."[1] An element of this kind, he believed, would rise under the fostering care of vocational teachers.

[Footnote 1:  Douglass, The Life and Times of, p. 251.]

With Douglass this proposition did not descend to the plane of mere suggestion.  Audiences which he addressed from time to time were informed as to the necessity of providing for the colored people facilities of practical education.[1] The columns of his paper rendered the cause noble service.  He entered upon the advocacy of it with all the zeal of an educational reformer, endeavoring to show how this policy would please all concerned.  Anxious fathers whose minds had been exercised by the inquiry as to what to do with their sons would welcome the opportunity to have them taught trades.  It would be in line with the “eminently practical philanthropy of the Negroes’ trans-Atlantic friends.”  America would scarcely object to it as an attempt to agitate the mind on slavery or to destroy the Union.  “It could not be tortured into a cause for hard words by the American people,” but the noble and good of all classes would see in the effort “an excellent motive, a benevolent object, temperately, wisely, and practically manifested."[2] The leading free people of color heeded this message.  Appealing to them through their delegates assembled in Rochester in 1853, Douglass secured a warm endorsement of his plan in eloquent speeches and resolutions passed by the convention.

[Footnote 1:  African Repository, vol. xxix., p. 136.]

[Footnote 2:  Douglass, Life and Times of, p. 252.]

This great enterprise, like all others, was soon to encounter opposition.  Mrs. Stowe was attacked as soliciting money abroad for her own private use.  So bitter were these proslavery diatribes that Henry Ward Beecher and Frederick Douglass had some difficulty in convincing the world that her maligners had no grounds for this vicious accusation.  Furthermore, on taking up the matter with Mrs. Stowe after her return to the United States, Douglass was disappointed to learn that she had abandoned her plan to found a vocational institution.  He was never able to see any force in the reasons for the change of policy; but believed that Mrs. Stowe acted conscientiously, although her action was decidedly embarrassing to him both at home and abroad.[1]

[Footnote 1:  Ibid., p. 252.]



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