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.
poisoned by the abolitionists and rendered the source of discontent and excitement."[2] He believed that education thus perverted would become equally dangerous to the master and the slave, and that while fanaticism continued its war upon the South the measures of necessary precaution and defense had to be continued.  He asserted, however, that education would not only unfit the Negro for his station in life and prepare him for insurrection, but would prove wholly impracticable in the performance of the duties of a laborer.[3] The South has not yet learned that an educated man is a better laborer than an ignorant one.

[Footnote 1:  Hodgkin, An Inquiry into the Merits of the Am.  Col.  Soc., p. 31; and The South Vindicated from the Treason and Fanaticism of the Abolitionists, p. 68.]

[Footnote 2:  Ibid., p. 69.]

[Footnote 3:  The South Vindicated from the Treason and Fanaticism of the Abolitionists, p. 69.]



Stung by the effective charge of the abolitionists that the reactionary legislation of the South consigned the Negroes to heathenism, slaveholders considering themselves Christians, felt that some semblance of the religious instruction of these degraded people should be devised.  It was difficult, however, to figure out exactly how the teaching of religion to slaves could be made successful and at the same time square with the prohibitory measures of the South.  For this reason many masters made no effort to find a way out of the predicament.  Others with a higher sense of duty brought forward a scheme of oral instruction in Christian truth or of religion without letters.  The word instruction thereafter signified among the southerners a procedure quite different from what the term meant in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when Negroes were taught to read and write that they might learn the truth for themselves.

Being aristocratic in its bearing, the Episcopal Church in the South early receded from the position of cultivating the minds of the colored people.  As the richest slaveholders were Episcopalians, the clergy of that denomination could hardly carry out a policy which might prove prejudicial to the interests of their parishioners.  Moreover, in their propaganda there was then nothing which required the training of Negroes to instruct themselves.  As the qualifications of Episcopal ministers were rather high even for the education of the whites of that time, the blacks could not hope to be active churchmen.  This Church, therefore, soon limited its work among the Negroes of the South to the mere verbal instruction of those who belonged to the local parishes.  Furthermore, because this Church was not exceedingly militant, and certainly not missionary, it failed to grow rapidly.  In most parts it suffered from the rise of the more popular Methodists and Baptists into the folds of which slaves followed their masters during the eighteenth century.

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