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.

The adjustment of the Methodist and Baptist churches in the South to the new work among the darker people, however, was after the first quarter of the nineteenth century practically easy.  Each of these denominations had once strenuously opposed slavery, the Methodists holding out longer than the Baptists.  But the particularizing force of the institution soon became such that southern churches of these connections withdrew most of their objections to the system and, of course, did not find it difficult to abandon the idea of teaching Negroes to read.[1] Moreover, only so far as it was necessary to prepare men to preach and exhort was there an urgent need for literary education among these plain and unassuming missionaries.  They came, not emphasizing the observance of forms which required so much development of the intellect, but laying stress upon the quickening of man’s conscience and the regeneration of his soul.  In the States, however, where the prohibitory laws were not so rigidly enforced, the instruction received in various ways from workers of these denominations often turned out to be more than religion without letters.[2]

[Footnote 1:  Matlack, History of Methodism, etc., p. 132; Benedict, History of the Baptists, p. 212.]

[Footnote 2:  Adams, South-side View, p. 59.]

The Presbyterians found it more difficult to yield on this point.  For decades they had been interested in the Negro race and had in 1818 reached the acme of antislavery sentiment.[1] Synod after synod denounced the attitude of cruel masters toward their slaves and took steps to do legally all they could to provide religious instruction for the colored people.[2] When public sentiment and reactionary legislation made the instruction of the Negroes of the South impracticable the Presbyterians of New York and New Jersey were active in devising schemes for the education of the colored people at points in the North.[3] Then came the crisis of the prolonged abolition agitation which kept the Presbyterian Church in an excited state from 1818 to 1830 and resulted in the recession of that denomination from the position it had formerly taken against slavery.[4] Yielding to the reactionaries in 1835, this noble sect which had established schools for Negroes, trained ambitious colored men for usefulness, and endeavored to fit them for the best civil and religious emoluments, thereafter became divided.  The southern connection lost much of its interest in the dark race, and fell back on the policy of the verbal instruction and memory training of the blacks that they might never become thoroughly enlightened as to their condition.

[Footnote 1:  Baird, Collections, etc., pp. 814-817.]

[Footnote 2:  Ibid., p. 815.]

[Footnote 3:  Enormity of the Slave Trade, etc. p. 67.]

[Footnote 4:  Baird, Collections, etc., pp. 816, 817.]

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