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.



Such an impetus was given Negro education during the period of better beginnings that some of the colored city schools then established have existed even until to-day.  Negroes learned from their white friends to educate themselves.  In the Middle and Southern States, however, much of the sentiment in favor of developing the intellect of the Negro passed away during the early part of the nineteenth century.  This reform, like many others of that day, suffered when Americans forgot the struggle for the rights of man.  Recovering from the social upheaval of the Revolution, caste soon began to claim its own.  To discourage the education of the lowest class was natural to the aristocrats who on coming to power established governments based on the representation of interests, restriction of suffrage, and the ineligibility of the poor to office.  After this period the work of enlightening the blacks in the southern and border States was largely confined to a few towns and cities where the concentration of the colored population continued.

The rise of the American city made possible the contact of the colored people with the world, affording them a chance to observe what the white man was doing, and to develop the power to care for themselves.  The Negroes who had this opportunity to take over the western civilization were servants belonging to the families for which they worked; slaves hired out by their owners to wait upon persons; and watermen, embracing fishermen, boatmen, and sailors.  Not a few slaves in cities were mechanics, clerks, and overseers.  In most of these employments the rudiments of an education were necessary, and what the master did not seem disposed to teach the slaves so situated, they usually learned by contact with their fellowmen who were better informed.  Such persons were the mulattoes resulting from miscegenation, and therefore protected from the rigors of the slave code; house servants, rewarded with unusual privileges for fidelity and for manifesting considerable interest in things contributing to the economic good of their masters; and slaves who were purchasing their freedom.[1] Before the close of the first quarter of the nineteenth century not much was said about what these classes learned or taught.  It was then the difference in circumstances, employment, and opportunities for improvement that made the urban Negro more intelligent than those who had to toil in the fields.  Yet, the proportion did not differ very much from that of the previous period, as the first Negroes were not chiefly field hands but to a considerable extent house servants, whom masters often taught to read and write.

[Footnote 1:  Jones, Religious Instruction, p. 117.]

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