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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 341 pages of information about The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861.

A resolution of the House instructing the educational committee to report a bill for the establishment of schools for the education of the colored children of the State was overwhelmingly defeated in 1853.  Explaining their position the opponents said that it was held “to be better for the weaker party that no privilege be extended to them,” as the tendency to such “might be to induce the vain belief that the prejudice of the dominant race could ever be so mollified as to break down the rugged barriers that must forever exist between their social relations.”  The friends of the blacks believed that by elevating them the sense of their degradation would be keener, and so the greater would be their anxiety to seek another country, where with the spirit of men they “might breathe fresh air of social as well as political liberty."[1] This argument, however, availed little.  Before the Civil War the Negroes of Indiana received help in acquiring knowledge from no source but private and mission schools.

[Footnote 1:  Boone, History of Education in Indiana, p. 237.]

In Illinois the situation was better than in Indiana, but far from encouraging.  The constitution of 1847 restricted the benefits of the school law to white children, stipulating the word white throughout the act so as to make clear the intention of the legislators.[1] It seemed to some that, in excluding the colored children from the public schools, the law contemplated the establishment of separate schools in that it provided that the amount of school taxes collected from Negroes should be returned.  Exactly what should be done with such money, however, was not stated in the act.  But even if that were the object in view, the provision was of little help to the people of color for the reason that the clause providing for the return of school taxes was seldom executed.  In the few cases in which it was carried out the fund thus raised was not adequate to the support of a special school, and generally there were not sufficient colored children in a community to justify such an outlay.  In districts having control of their local affairs, however, the children of Negroes were often given a chance to attend school.

[Footnote 1:  The Constitution of Illinois, in the Journal of the Constitution of the State of Illinois, 1847, p. 344.]

As this scant consideration given Negroes of Illinois left one-half of the six thousand of their children out of the pale of education, earnest appeals were made that the restrictive word white be stricken from the school law.  The friends of the colored people sought to show how inconsistent this system was with the spirit of the constitution of the State, which, interpreted as they saw it, guaranteed all persons equality.[1] They held meetings from which came renewed petitions to their representatives, entreating them to repeal or amend the old school law.  It was not so much a question as to whether or not there

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