[Footnote 1: Stockwell, History of Ed. in R.I., p. 30.]
In Boston, where were found more Negroes than in most New England communities, the colored people themselves maintained a separate school after the revolutionary era. In the towns of Salem, Nantucket, New Bedford, and Lowell the colored schools failed to make much progress after the first quarter of the nineteenth century on account of the more liberal construction of the laws which provided for democratic education. This the free blacks were forced to advocate for the reason that the seeming onerous task of supporting a dual system often caused the neglect, and sometimes the extinction of the separate schools. Furthermore, either the Negroes of some of these towns were too scarce or the movement to furnish them special facilities of education started too late to escape the attacks of the abolitionists. Seeing their mistake of first establishing separate schools, they began to attack caste in public education.
In the eastern cities where colored school systems thereafter continued, the work was not always successful. The influx of fugitives in the rough sometimes jeopardized their chances for education by menacing liberal communities with the trouble of caring for an undesirable class. The friends of the Negroes, however, received more encouragement during the two decades immediately preceding the Civil War. There was a change in the attitude of northern cities toward the uplift of the colored refugees. Catholics, Protestants, and abolitionists often united their means to make provision for the education of accessible Negroes, although these friends of the oppressed could not always agree on other important schemes. Even the colonizationists, the object of attack from the ardent antislavery element, considerably aided the cause. They educated for work in Liberia a number of youths, who, given the opportunity to attend good schools, demonstrated the capacity of the colored people. More important factors than the colonizationists were the free people of color. Brought into the rapidly growing urban communities, these Negroes began to accumulate sufficient wealth to provide permanent schools of their own. Many of these were later assimilated by the systems of northern cities when their separate schools were disestablished.
Encouraging as had been the movement to enlighten the Negroes, there had always been at work certain reactionary forces which impeded the intellectual progress of the colored people. The effort to enlighten them that they might be emancipated to enjoy the political rights given white men, failed to meet with success in those sections where slaves were found in large numbers. Feeling that the body politic, as conceived by Locke and Montesquieu, did not include the slaves, many citizens opposed their education on the ground that their mental improvement was inconsistent