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The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 eBook

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

The struggle of the Northern Quakers to enlighten the colored people had important local results.  A strong moral force operated in the minds of most of this sect to impel them to follow the example of certain leaders who emancipated their slaves.[1] Efforts in this direction were redoubled about the middle of the eighteenth century when Anthony Benezet,[2] addressing himself with unwonted zeal to the uplift of these unfortunates, obtained the assistance of Clarkson and others, who solidified the antislavery sentiment of the Quakers and influenced them to give their time and means to the more effective education of the blacks.  After this period the Quakers were also concerned with the improvement of the colored people’s condition in other settlements.[3]

[Footnote 1:  Dr. DuBois gives a good account of these efforts in his Suppression of the African Slave Trade.]

[Footnote 2:  Benezet was a French Protestant.  Persecuted on account of their religion, his parents moved from France to England and later to Philadelphia.  He became a teacher in that city in 1742.  Thirteen years later he was teaching a school established for the education of the daughters of the most distinguished families in Philadelphia.  He was then using his own spelling-book, primer, and grammar, some of the first text-books published in America.  Known to persecution himself, Benezet always sympathized with the oppressed.  Accordingly, he connected himself with the Quakers, who at that time had before them the double task of fighting for religious equality and the amelioration of the condition of the Negroes.  Becoming interested in the welfare of the colored race, Benezet first attacked the slave trade, so exposing it in his speeches and writings that Clarkson entered the field as an earnest advocate of the suppression of the iniquitous traffic.  See Benezet, Observations, p. 30, and the African Repository, vol. iv., p. 61.]

[Footnote 3:  Quaker Pamphlet, p. 31.]

What the other sects did for the enlightenment of Negroes during this period, was not of much importance.  As the Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists did not proselyte extensively in this country prior to the middle of the eighteenth century, these denominations had little to do with Negro education before the liberalism and spirit of toleration, developed during the revolutionary era, made it possible for these sects to reach the people.  The Methodists, however, confined at first largely to the South, where most of the slaves were found, had to take up this problem earlier.  Something looking like an attempt to elevate the Negroes came from Wesley’s contemporary, George Whitefield,[1] who, strange to say, was regarded by the Negro race as its enemy for having favored the introduction of slavery.  He was primarily interested in the conversion of the colored people.  Without denying that “liberty is sweet to those who are born free,” he advocated

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