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.

[Footnote 1:  Schoepf, Travels in the Confederation, p. 149.]

[Footnote 2:  Brissot de Warville, New Travels, vol.  I., p. 220.]



Sketching the second half of the eighteenth century, we have observed how the struggle for the rights of man in directing attention to those of low estate, and sweeping away the impediments to religious freedom, made the free blacks more accessible to helpful sects and organizations.  We have also learned that this upheaval left the slaves the objects of piety for the sympathetic, the concern of workers in behalf of social uplift, a class offered instruction as a prerequisite to emancipation.  The private teaching of Negroes became tolerable, benevolent persons volunteered to instruct them, and some schools maintained for the education of white students were thrown open to those of African blood.  It was the day of better beginnings.  In fact, it was the heyday of victory for the ante-bellum Negro.  Never had his position been so advantageous; never was it thus again until the whole race was emancipated.  Now the question which naturally arises here is, to what extent were such efforts general?  Were these beginnings sufficiently extensive to secure adequate enlightenment to a large number of colored people?  Was interest in the education of this class so widely manifested thereafter as to cause the movement to endure?  A brief account of these efforts in the various States will answer these questions.

In the Northern and Middle States an increasing number of educational advantages for the white race made germane the question as to what consideration should be shown to the colored people.[1] A general admission of Negroes to the schools of these progressive communities was undesirable, not because of the prejudice against the race, but on account of the feeling that the past of the colored people having been different from that of the white race, their training should be in keeping with their situation.  To meet their peculiar needs many communities thought it best to provide for them “special,” “individual,” or “unclassified” schools adapted to their condition.[2] In most cases, however, the movement for separate schools originated not with the white race, but with the people of color themselves.

[Footnote 1:  Niles’s Register, vol. xvi., pp. 241-243 and vol. xxiii., p. 23.]

[Footnote 2:  See The Proceedings of the Am.  Conv. of Abolition Societies.]

In New England, Negroes had almost from the beginning of their enslavement some chance for mental, moral, and spiritual improvement, but the revolutionary movement was followed in that section by a general effort to elevate the people of color through the influence of the school and church.  In 1770 the Rhode Island Quakers were endeavoring to give young Negroes such an education as becomes Christians.  In 1773 Newport

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