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.

Urban Negroes had another important advantage in their opportunity to attend well-regulated Sunday-schools.  These were extensively organized in the towns and cities of this country during the first decades of the last century.  The “Sabbath-school” constituted an important factor in Negro education.  Although cloaked with the purpose of bringing the blacks to God by giving them religious instruction the institution permitted its workers to teach them reading and writing when they were not allowed to study such in other institutions.[1] Even the radical slaveholder was slow to object to a policy which was intended to facilitate the conversion of men’s souls.  All friends especially interested in the mental and spiritual uplift of the race hailed this movement as marking an epoch in the elevation of the colored people.

[Footnote 1:  See the reports of almost any abolition society of the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Special Report of the U.S.  Com. of Ed., 1871, p. 200; and Plumer, Thoughts on the Religious Instruction of Negroes.]

In the course of time racial difficulties caused the development of the colored “Sabbath-school” to be very much like that of the American Negro Church.  It began as an establishment in the white churches, then moved to the colored chapels, where white persons assisted as teachers, and finally became an organization composed entirely of Negroes.  But the separation here, as in the case of the church, was productive of some good.  The “Sabbath-schools,” which at first depended on white teachers to direct their work, were thereafter carried on by Negroes, who studied and prepared themselves to perform the task given up by their former friends.  This change was easily made in certain towns and cities where Negroes already had churches of their own.  Before 1815 there was a Methodist church in Charleston, South Carolina, with a membership of eighteen hundred, more than one thousand of whom were persons of color.  About this time, Williamsburg and Augusta had one each, and Savannah three colored Baptist churches.  By 1822 the Negroes of Petersburg had in addition to two churches of this denomination, a flourishing African Missionary Society.[1] In Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston the free blacks had experienced such a rapid religious development that colored churches in these cities were no longer considered unusual.

[Footnote 1:  Adams, Anti-slavery, etc., pp. 73 and 74.]

The increase in the population of cities brought a larger number of these unfortunates into helpful contact with the urban element of white people who, having few Negroes, often opposed the institution of slavery.  But thrown among colored people brought in their crude state into sections of culture, the antislavery men of towns and cities developed from theorists, discussing a problem of concern to persons far away, into actual workers striving by means of education to pave the

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