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.
Some learned by intuition without having had the guidance of an instructor.  The fact is that these drastic laws were not passed to restrain “discreet” southerners from doing whatever they desired for the betterment of their Negroes.  The aim was to cut off their communication with northern teachers and abolitionists, whose activity had caused the South to believe that if such precaution were not taken these agents would teach their slaves principles subversive of southern institutions.  Thereafter the documents which mention the teaching of Negroes to read and write seldom even state that the southern white teacher was so much as censured for his benevolence.  In the rare cases of arrest of such instructors they were usually acquitted after receiving a reprimand.

With this winking at the teaching of Negroes in defiance of the law a better day for their education brightened certain parts of the South about the middle of the nineteenth century.  Believing that an enlightened laboring class might stop the decline of that section, some slaveholders changed their attitude toward the elevation of the colored people.  Certain others came to think that the policy of keeping Negroes in ignorance to prevent servile insurrections was unwise.  It was observed that the most loyal and subordinate slaves were those who could read the Bible and learn the truth for themselves.  Private teachers of colored persons, therefore, were often left undisturbed, little effort was made to break up the Negroes’ secret schools in different parts, and many influential white men took it upon themselves to instruct the blacks who were anxious to learn.

Other Negroes who had no such opportunities were then finding a way of escape through the philanthropy of those abolitionists who colonized some freedmen and fugitives in the Northwest Territory and promoted the migration of others to the East.  These Negroes were often fortunate.  Many of them settled where they could take up land and had access to schools and churches conducted by the best white people of the country.  This migration, however, made matters worse for the Negroes who were left in the South.  As only the most enlightened blacks left the slave States, the bondmen and the indigent free persons of color were thereby deprived of helpful contact.  The preponderance of intelligent Negroes, therefore, was by 1840 on the side of the North.  Thereafter the actual education of the colored people was largely confined to eastern cities and northern communities of transplanted freedmen.  The pioneers of these groups organized churches and established and maintained a number of successful elementary schools.

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