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.
slavery existed.  Another writer discussing Jefferson’s equivocal position on this question said that one would have thought that “modern philosophy himself” would not have the face to expect that the wretch, who is driven out to labor at the dawn of day, and who toils until evening with a whip over his head, ought to be a poet.  Benezet, who had actually taught Negroes, declared “with truth and sincerity” that he had found among them as great variety of talents as among a like number of white persons.  He boldly asserted that the notion entertained by some that the blacks were inferior in their capacities was a vulgar prejudice founded on the pride or ignorance of their lordly masters who had kept their slaves at such a distance as to be unable to form a right judgment of them.[3]

[Footnote 1:  Smyth, Works of Franklin, vol. vi., p. 222.]

[Footnote 2:  Gregoire, La Litterature des Negres.]

[Footnote 3:  Special Report of the U.S.  Com. of Ed., 1871, p. 375.]



Would these professions of interest in the mental development of the blacks be translated into action?  What these reformers would do to raise the standard of Negro education above the plane of rudimentary training incidental to religious instruction, was yet to be seen.  Would they secure to Negroes the educational privileges guaranteed other elements of society?  The answer, if not affirmative, was decidedly encouraging.  The idea uppermost in the minds of these workers was that the people of color could and should be educated as other races of men.

In the lead of this movement were the antislavery agitators.  Recognizing the Negroes’ need of preparation for citizenship, the abolitionists proclaimed as a common purpose of their organizations the education of the colored people with a view to developing in them self-respect, self-support, and usefulness in the community.[1]

[Footnote 1:  Smyth, Works of Benjamin Franklin, vol. x., p. 127; Torrey, Portraiture of Slavery, p. 21.  See also constitution of almost any antislavery society organized during this period.]

The proposition to cultivate the minds of the slaves came as a happy solution of what had been a perplexing problem.  Many Americans who considered slavery an evil had found no way out of the difficulty when the alternative was to turn loose upon society so many uncivilized men without the ability to discharge the duties of citizenship.[1] Assured then that the efforts at emancipation would be tested by experience, a larger number of men advocated abolition.  These leaders recommended gradual emancipation for States having a large slave population, that those designated for freedom might first be instructed in the value and meaning of liberty to render them comfortable in the use of it.[2] The number of slaves in the States adopting

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