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The Education Of The Negro Prior To 1861
Better Beginnings
by Woodson, Carter Godwin


Sketching the second half of the eighteenth century, we have observed how the struggle for the rights of man in directing attention to those of low estate, and sweeping away the impediments to religious freedom, made the free blacks more accessible to helpful sects and organizations. We have also learned that this upheaval left the slaves the objects of piety for the sympathetic, the concern of workers in behalf of social uplift, a class offered instruction as a prerequisite to emancipation. The private teaching of Negroes became tolerable, benevolent persons volunteered to instruct them, and some schools maintained for the education of white students were thrown open to those of African blood. It was the day of better beginnings. In fact, it was the heyday of victory for the ante-bellum Negro. Never had his position been so advantageous; never was it thus again until the whole race was emancipated. Now the question which naturally arises here is, to what extent were such efforts general? Were these beginnings sufficiently extensive to secure adequate enlightenment to a large number of colored people? Was interest in the education of this class so widely manifested thereafter as to cause the movement to endure? A brief account of these efforts in the various States will answer these questions.

In the Northern and Middle States an increasing number of educational advantages for the white race made germane the question as to what consideration should be shown to the colored people.[1] A general admission of Negroes to the schools of these progressive communities was undesirable, not because of the prejudice against the race, but on account of the feeling that the past of the colored people having been different from that of the white race, their training should be in keeping with their situation. To meet their peculiar needs many communities thought it best to provide for them "special," "individual," or "unclassified" schools adapted to their condition.[2] In most cases, however, the movement for separate schools originated not with the white race, but with the people of color themselves.
[Footnote 1: "Niles's Register", vol. xvi., pp. 241-243 and vol. xxiii., p. 23.]

[Footnote 2: See "The Proceedings of the Am. Conv. of Abolition Societies".]
In New England, Negroes had almost from the beginning of their enslavement some chance for mental, moral, and spiritual improvement, but the revolutionary movement was followed in that section by a general effort to elevate the people of color through the influence of the school and church. In 1770 the Rhode Island Quakers were endeavoring to give young Negroes such an education as becomes Christians. In 1773 Newport had a colored school, maintained by a society of benevolent clergymen of the Church of England, with a handsome fund for a mistress to teach thirty children reading and writing. Providence did not exhibit such activity until the nineteenth century. Having a larger black population than any other city in New England, Boston was the center of these endeavors. In 1798 a separate school for colored children, under the charge of Elisha Sylvester, a white man, was established in that city in the house of Primus Hall, a Negro of very good standing.[1] Two years later sixty-six free blacks of that city petitioned the school committee for a separate school, but the citizens in a special town meeting called to consider the question refused to grant this request.[2] Undaunted by this refusal, the patrons of the special school established in the house of Primus Hall, employed Brown and Hall of Harvard College as instructors, until 1806.[3] The school was then moved to the African Meeting House in Belknap Street where it remained until 1835 when, with funds contributed by Abiel Smith, a building was erected. An epoch in the history of Negro education in New England was marked in 1820, when the city of Boston opened its first primary school for the education of colored children.[4]
[Footnote 1: "Special Report of U.S. Com. of Ed.", 1871, p. 357.]

[Footnote 2: "Ibid.", p. 357.]

[Footnote 3: Next to be instructor of this institution was Prince Saunders, who was brought to Boston by Dr. Channing and Caleb Bingham in 1809. Brought up in the family of a Vermont lawyer, and experienced as a diplomatic official of Emperor Christopher of Hayti, Prince Saunders was able to do much for the advancement of this work. Among others who taught in this school was John B. Russworm, a graduate of Bowdoin College, and, later, Governor of the Colony of Cape Palmas in Southern Liberia. See "Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed.", 1871, p. 357; and "African Repository", vol. ii., p. 271.]

[Footnote 4: "Special Rep. of the U.S. Com. of Ed.", 1871, p. 357.]
Generally speaking, we can say that while the movement for special colored schools met with some opposition in certain portions of New England, in other parts of the Northeastern States the religious organizations and abolition societies, which were espousing the cause of the Negro, yielded to this demand. These schools were sometimes found in churches of the North, as in the cases of the schools in the African Church of Boston, and the Sunday-school in the African Improved Church of New Haven. In 1828 there was in that city another such school supported by public-school money; three in Boston; one in Salem; and one in Portland, Maine.[1]
[Footnote 1: Adams, "Anti-slavery", p. 142.]
Outside of the city of New York, not so much interest was shown in the education of Negroes as in the States which had a larger colored population.[1] Those who were scattered through the State were allowed to attend white schools, which did not "meet their special needs."[2] In the metropolis, where the blacks constituted one-tenth of the inhabitants in 1800, however, the mental improvement of the dark race could not be neglected. The liberalism of the revolutionary era led to the organization in New York of the "Society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves and Protecting such of them as have been or may be liberated." This Society ushered in a new day for the free persons of color of that city in organizing in 1787 the New York African Free School.[3] Among those interested in this organization and its enterprises were Melancthon Smith, John Bleecker, James Cogswell, Jacob Seaman, White Matlock, Matthew Clarkson, Nathaniel Lawrence, and John Murray, Jr.[4] The school opened in 1790 with Cornelius Davis as a teacher of forty pupils. In 1791 a lady was employed to instruct the girls in needle-work.[5] The expected advantage of this industrial training was soon realized.
[Footnote 1: La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, "Travels", etc., p. 233.]

[Footnote 2: "Am. Conv.", 1798, p. 7.]

[Footnote 3: Andrews, "History of the New York African Free Schools", p. 14.]

[Footnote 4: "Ibid.", pp. 14 and 15.]

[Footnote 5: "Ibid.", p. 16.]
Despite the support of certain distinguished members of the community, the larger portion of the population was so prejudiced against the school that often the means available for its maintenance were inadequate. The struggle was continued for about fifteen years with an attendance of from forty to sixty pupils.[1] About 1801 the community began to take more interest in the institution, and the Negroes "became more generally impressed with a sense of the advantages and importance of education, and more disposed to avail themselves of the privileges offered them."[2] At this time one hundred and thirty pupils of both sexes attended this school, paying their instructor, a "discreet man of color," according to their ability and inclination.[3] Many more colored children were then able to attend as there had been a considerable increase in the number of colored freeholders. As a result of the introduction of the Lancastrian and monitorial systems of instruction the enrollment was further increased and the general tone of the school was improved. Another impetus was given the work in 1810.[4] Having in mind the preparation of slaves for freedom, the legislature of the State of New York, made it compulsory for masters to teach all minors born of slaves to read the Scriptures.[5]
[Footnote 1: "Ibid.", p. 17.]

[Footnote 2: "Proceedings of the American Convention of Abolition Societies", 1801, p. 6.]

[Footnote 3: "Ibid.", 1801, Report from New York.]

[Footnote 4: Andrews, "History of the New York African Free Schools", p. 20.]

[Footnote 5: "Proceedings of the American Convention of Abolition Societies", 1812, p. 7.]
Decided improvement was noted after 1814. The directors then purchased a lot on which they constructed a building the following year.[1] The nucleus then took the name of the New York "African Free Schools." These schools grew so rapidly that it was soon necessary to rent additional quarters to accommodate the department of sewing. This work had been made popular by the efforts of Misses Turpen, Eliza J. Cox, Ann Cox, and Caroline Roe.[2] The subsequent growth of the classes was such that in 1820 the Manumission Society had to erect a building large enough to accommodate five hundred pupils.[3] The instructors were then not only teaching the elementary branches of reading, writing, arithmetic, and geography, but also astronomy, navigation, advanced composition, plain sewing, knitting, and marking.[4] Knowing the importance of industrial training, the Manumission Society then had an Indenturing Committee find employment in trades for colored children, and had recommended for some of them the pursuit of agriculture.[5] The comptrollers desired no better way of measuring the success of the system in shaping the character of its students than to be able to boast that no pupils educated there had ever been convicted of crime.[6] Lafayette, a promoter of the emancipation and improvement of the colored people, and a member of the New York Manumission Society, visited these schools in 1824 on his return to the United States. He was bidden welcome by an eleven-year-old pupil in well-chosen and significant words. After spending the afternoon inspecting the schools the General pronounced them the "best disciplined and the most interesting schools of children" he had ever seen.[7]
[Footnote 1: Andrews, "History of the New York African Free Schools", p. 18.]

[Footnote 2: Andrews, "History of the New York African Free Schools", p. 17.]

[Footnote 3: "Ibid.", p. 18.]

[Footnote 4: "Ibid.", p. 19.]

[Footnote 5: "Proceedings of the Am. Convention of Abolition Soc.", 1818, P. 9; Adams, "Anti-slavery", p. 142.]

[Footnote 6: "Proceedings of the American Convention", etc., 1820.]

[Footnote 7: Andrews, "History of the New York African Free Schools", p. 20.]
The outlook for the education of Negroes in New Jersey was unusually bright. Carrying out the recommendations of the Haddonfield Quarterly Meeting in 1777, the Quakers of Salem raised funds for the education of the blacks, secured books, and placed the colored children of the community at school. The delegates sent from that State, to the Convention of the Abolition Societies in 1801, reported that there had been schools in Burlington, Salem, and Trenton for the education of the Negro race, but that they had been closed.[1] It seemed that not much attention had been given to this work there, but that the interest was increasing. These delegates stated that they did not then know of any schools among them exclusively for Negroes. In most parts of the State, and most commonly in the northern division, however, they were incorporated with the white children in the various small schools scattered over the State.[2] There was then in the city of Burlington a free school for the education of poor children supported by the profits of an estate left for that particular purpose, and made equally accessible to the children of both races. Conditions were just as favorable in Gloucester. An account from its antislavery society shows that the local friends of the indigent had funds of about one thousand pounds established for schooling poor children, white and black, without distinction. Many of the black children, who were placed by their masters under the care of white instructors, received as good moral and school education as the lower class of whites.[3] Later reports from this State show the same tendency toward democratic education.
[Footnote 1: "Proceedings of the American Convention", etc., 1801, p. 12.]

[Footnote 2: "Ibid.", p. 12, and Quaker Pamphlet, p. 40.]

[Footnote 3: "Proceedings of the American Conv.", etc., 1801, p. 12.]
The efforts made in this direction in Delaware, were encouraging. The Abolition Society of Wilmington had not greatly promoted the special education of "the Blacks and the people of color." In 1801, however, a school was kept the first day of the week by one of the members of the Society, who instructed them gratis in reading, writing, and arithmetic. About twenty pupils generally attended and by their assiduity and progress showed themselves as "capable as white persons laboring under similar disadvantages."[1] In 1802 plans for the extension of this system were laid and bore good fruit the following year.[2] Seven years later, however, after personal and pecuniary aid had for some time been extended, the workers had still to lament that beneficial effects had not been more generally experienced, and that there was little disposition to aid them in their friendly endeavors.[3] In 1816 more important results had been obtained. Through a society formed a few years prior to this date for the express purpose of educating colored children, a school had been established under a Negro teacher. He had a fair attendance of bright children, who "by the facility with which they took in instruction were silently but certainly undermining the prejudice"[4] against their education. A library of religious and moral publications had been secured for this institution. In addition to the school in Wilmington there was a large academy for young colored women, gratuitously taught by a society of young ladies. The course of instruction covered reading, writing, and sewing. The work in sewing proved to be a great advantage to the colored girls, many of whom through the instrumentality of that society were provided with good positions.[5]
[Footnote 1: "Ibid.", p. 20.]

[Footnote 2: "Ibid.", 1802, p. 17.]

[Footnote 3: "Proceedings of the American Convention", etc., 1809, p. 20.]

[Footnote 4: "Ibid"., 1816, p. 20.]

[Footnote 5: "Ibid"., 1821, p. 18.]
In Pennsylvania the interest of the large Quaker element caused the question of educating Negroes to be a matter of more concern to that colony than it was to the others. Thanks to the arduous labors of the antislavery movement, emancipation was provided for in 1780. The Quakers were then especially anxious to see masters give their "weighty and solid attention" to qualifying slaves for the liberty intended. By the favorable legislation of the State the poor were by 1780 allowed the chance to secure the rudiments of education.[1] Despite this favorable appearance of things, however, friends of the despised race had to keep up the agitation for such a construction of the law as would secure to the Negroes of the State the educational benefits extended to the indigent. The colored youth of Pennsylvania thereafter had the right to attend the schools provided for white children, and exercised it when persons interested in the blacks directed their attention to the importance of mental improvement.[2] But as neither they nor their defenders were numerous outside of Philadelphia and Columbia, not many pupils of color in other parts of the State attended school during this period. Whatever special effort was made to arouse them to embrace their opportunities came chiefly from the Quakers.
[Footnote 1: "A.M.E. Church Review", vol. xv., p. 625.]

[Footnote 2: Wickersham, "History of Education in Pa"., p. 253.]
Not content with the schools which were already opened to Negroes, the friends of the race continued to agitate and raise funds to extend their philanthropic operations. With the donation of Anthony Benezet the Quakers were able to enlarge their building and increase the scope of the work. They added a female department in which Sarah Dwight[1] was teaching the girls spelling, reading, and sewing in 1784. The work done in Philadelphia was so successful that the place became the rallying center for the Quakers throughout the country,[2] and was of so much concern to certain members of this sect in London that in 1787 they contributed five hundred pounds toward the support of this school.[3] In 1789 the Quakers organized "The Society for the Free Instruction of the Orderly Blacks and People of Color." Taking into consideration the "many disadvantages which many well-disposed blacks and people of color labored under from not being able to read, write, or cast accounts, which would qualify them to act for themselves or provide for their families," this society in connection with other organizations established evening schools for the education of adults of African blood.[4] It is evident then that with the exception of the school of the Abolition Society organized in 1774, and the efforts of a few other persons generally co÷perating like the anti-slavery leaders with the Quakers, practically all of the useful education of the colored people of this State was accomplished in their schools. Philadelphia had seven colored schools in 1797.[5]
[Footnote 1: "Ibid"., p. 251.]

[Footnote 2: Quaker Pamphlet, p. 42.]

[Footnote 3: Wickersham, "History of Ed. in Pa"., p. 252.]

[Footnote 4: "Ibid"., p. 251.]

[Footnote 5: Turner, "The Negro in Pa"., p. 128.]
The next decade was of larger undertakings.[1] The report of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society of 1801 shows that there had been an increasing interest in Negro education. For this purpose the society had raised funds to the amount of $530.50 per annum for three years.[2] In 1803 certain other friends of the cause left for this purpose two liberal benefactions, one amounting to one thousand dollars, and the other to one thousand pounds.[3] With these contributions the Quakers and Abolitionists erected in 1809 a handsome building valued at four thousand dollars. They named it Clarkson Hall in honor of the great friend of the Negro race.[4] In 1807 the Quakers met the needs of the increasing population of the city by founding an additional institution of learning known as the Adelphi School.[5]
[Footnote 1: Parish, "Remarks on the Slavery", etc., p. 43.]

[Footnote 2: "Proceedings of the American Conv"., 1802, p. 18.]

[Footnote 3: "Ibid"., 1803, p. 13.]

[Footnote 4: "Statistical Inquiry into the Condition of the Colored People of Philadelphia", p. 19.]

[Footnote 5: "Ibid"., p. 20.]
After the first decade of the nineteenth century the movement for the uplift of the Negroes around Philadelphia was checked a little by the migration to that city of many freedmen who had been lately liberated. The majority of them did not "exhibit that industry, economy, and temperance" which were "expected by many and wished by all."[1] Not deterred, however, by this seemingly discouraging development, the friends of the race toiled on as before. In 1810 certain Quaker women who had attempted to establish a school for colored girls in 1795 apparently succeeded.[2] The institution, however, did not last many years. But the Clarkson Hall schools maintained by the Abolition Society were then making such progress that the management was satisfied that they furnished a decided refutation of the charge that the "mental endowments of the descendants of the African race are inferior to those possessed by their white brethren."[3] They asserted without fear of contradiction that the pupils of that seminary would sustain a fair comparison with those of any other institution in which the same elementary branches were taught. In 1815 these schools were offering free instruction to three hundred boys and girls, and to a number of adults attending evening schools. These victories had been achieved despite the fact that in regard to some of the objects of the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade "a tide of prejudice, popular and legislative, set strongly against them."[4] After 1818, however, help was obtained from the State to educate the colored children of Columbia and Philadelphia.
[Footnote 1: "Proceedings of the American Conv"., 1809, p. 16, and 1812, p. 16.]

[Footnote 2: Wickersham, "History of Ed. in Pa"., p. 252.]

[Footnote 3: "Proceedings of the American Convention", etc., 1812, Report from Philadelphia.]

[Footnote 4: "Ibid"., 1815, Report from Phila.]
The assistance obtained from the State, however, was not taken as a pretext for the cessation of the labors on the part of those who had borne the burden for more than a century. The faithful friends of the colored race remained as active as ever. In 1822 the Quakers in the Northern Liberties organized the Female Association which maintained one or more schools.[1] That same year the Union Society founded in 1810 for the support of schools and domestic manufactures for the benefit of the "African race and people of color" was conducting three schools for adults.[2] The Infant School Society of Philadelphia was also doing good work in looking after the education of small colored children.[3] In the course of time crowded conditions in the colored schools necessitated the opening of additional evening classes and the erection of larger buildings.
[Footnote 1: Wickersham, "History of Education in Pa.", p. 252.]

[Footnote 2: One of these was at the Sessions House of the Third Presbyterian Church; one at Clarkston Schoolhouse, Cherry Street; one in the Academy on Locust Street. See "Statistical Inquiry into the Condition of the Colored People of Philadelphia", p. 19; and Wickersham, "Education in Pa.", p. 253.]

[Footnote 3: "Statistical Inquiry", etc., p. 19.]
At this time Maryland was not raising any serious objection to the instruction of slaves, and public sentiment there did not seem to interfere with the education of free persons of color. Maryland was long noted for her favorable attitude toward her Negroes. We have already observed how Banneker, though living in a small place, was permitted to attend school, and how Ellicott became interested in this man of genius and furnished him with books. Other Negroes of that State were enjoying the same privilege. The abolition delegates from Maryland reported in 1797 that several children of the Africans and other people of color were under a course of instruction, and that an academy and qualified teachers for them would be provided.[1] These Negroes were then getting light from another source. Having more freedom in this State than in some others, the Quakers were allowed to teach colored people.
[Footnote 1: "Proceedings of the American Convention", etc., 1797, p. 16.]
Most interest in the cause in Maryland was manifested near the cities of Georgetown and Baltimore.[1] Long active in the cause of elevating the colored people, the influence of the revolutionary movement was hardly necessary to arouse the Catholics to discharge their duty of enlightening the blacks. Wherever they had the opportunity to give slaves religious instruction, they generally taught the unfortunates everything that would broaden their horizon and help them to understand life. The abolitionists and Protestant churches were also in the field, but the work of the early fathers in these cities was more effective. These forces at work in Georgetown made it, by the time of its incorporation into the District of Columbia, a center sending out teachers to carry on the instruction of Negroes. So liberal were the white people of this town that colored children were sent to school there with white boys and girls who seemed to raise no objection.[2] Later in the nineteenth century the efforts made to educate the Negroes of the rural districts of Maryland were eclipsed by the better work accomplished by the free blacks in Baltimore and the District of Columbia.
[Footnote 1: "Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed"., pp. 195 "et seq"., and pp. 352-353.]

[Footnote 2: "Ibid"., p. 353.]
Having a number of antislavery men among the various sects buoyant with religious freedom, Virginia easily continued to look with favor upon the uplift of the colored people. The records of the Quakers of that day show special effort in this direction there about 1764, 1773, and 1785. In 1797 the abolitionists of Alexandria, some of whom were Quakers, had been doing effective work among the Negroes of that section. They had established a school with one Benjamin Davis as a teacher. He reported an attendance of one hundred and eight pupils, four of whom "could write a very legible hand," "read the Scriptures with tolerable facility," and had commenced arithmetic. Eight others had learned to read, but had made very little progress in writing. Among his less progressive pupils fifteen could spell words of three or four syllables and read easy lessons, some had begun to write, while the others were chiefly engaged in learning the alphabet and spelling monosyllables.[1] It is significant that colored children of Alexandria, just as in the case of Georgetown, attended schools established for the whites.[2] Their coeducation extended not only to Sabbath schools but to other institutions of learning, which some Negroes attended during the week.[3] Mrs. Maria Hall, one of the early teachers of the District of Columbia, obtained her education in a mixed school of Alexandria.[4] Controlled then by aristocratic people who did not neglect the people of color, Alexandria also became a sort of center for the uplift of the blacks in Northern Virginia.
[Footnote 1: "Proceedings of the Am. Conv"., etc., 1797, p. 35.]

[Footnote 2: "Ibid"., 1797, p. 36.]

[Footnote 3: "Proceedings of the Am. Conv.", p. 17; "ibid.", 1827, p. 53.]

[Footnote 4: "Special Report of U.S. Com. of Ed.", 1871, p. 198.]
Schools for the education of Negroes were established in Richmond, Petersburg, and Norfolk. An extensive miscegenation of the races in these cities had given rise to a very intelligent class of slaves and a considerable number of thrifty free persons of color, in whom the best people early learned to show much interest.[1] Of the schools organized for them in the central part of the commonwealth, those about Richmond seemed to be less prosperous. The abolitionists of Virginia, reporting for that city in 1798, said that considerable progress had been made in the education of the blacks, and that they contemplated the establishment of a school for the instruction of Negroes and other persons. They were apprehensive, however, that their funds would be scarcely sufficient for this purpose.[2] In 1801, one year after Gabriel's Insurrection, the abolitionists of Richmond reported that the cause had been hindered by the "rapacious disposition which emboldened many tyrants" among them "to trample upon the rights of colored people even in the violation of the laws of the State." For this reason the complainants felt that, although they could not but unite in the opinion with the American Convention of Abolition Societies as to the importance of educating the slaves for living as freedmen, they were compelled on account of a "domineering spirit of power and usurpation"[3] to direct attention to the Negroes' bodily comfort.
[Footnote 1: "Ibid.", p. 393.]

[Footnote 2: "Proceedings of the Am. Conv.", etc., 1798, p. 16.]

[Footnote 3: "Proceedings of the Am. Conv"., 1801, p. 15.]
This situation, however, was not sufficiently alarming to deter all the promoters of Negro education in Virginia. It is remarkable how Robert Pleasants, a Quaker of that State who emancipated his slaves at his death in 1801, had united with other members of his sect to establish a school for colored people. In 1782 they circulated a pamphlet entitled "Proposals for Establishing a Free School for the Instruction of Children of Blacks and People of Color."[1] They recommended to the humane and benevolent of all denominations cheerfully to contribute to an institution "calculated to promote the spiritual and temporal interests of that unfortunate part of our fellow creatures in forming their minds in the principles of virtue and religion, and in common or useful literature, writing, ciphering, and mechanic arts, as the most likely means to render so numerous a people fit for freedom, and to become useful citizens." Pleasants proposed to establish a school on a three-hundred-and-fifty-acre tract of his own land at Gravelly Hills near Four-Mile Creek, Henrico County. The whole revenue of the land was to go toward the support of the institution, or, in the event the school should be established elsewhere, he would give it one hundred pounds. Ebenezer Maule, another friend, subscribed fifty pounds for the same purpose.[2] Exactly what the outcome was, no one knows; but the memorial on the life of Pleasants shows that he appropriated the rent of the three-hundred-and-fifty-acre tract and ten pounds per annum to the establishment of a free school for Negroes, and that a few years after his death such an institution was in operation under a Friend at Gravelly Run.[3]
[Footnote 1: Weeks, "Southern Quakers", p. 215.]

[Footnote 2: Weeks, "Southern Quakers", p. 216.]

[Footnote 3: "Ibid"., p. 216.]
Such philanthropy, however, did not become general in Virginia. The progress of Negro education there was decidedly checked by the rapid development of discontent among Negroes ambitious to emulate the example of Toussaint L'Ouverture. During the first quarter of the nineteenth century that commonwealth tolerated much less enlightenment of the colored people than the benevolent element allowed them in the other border States. The custom of teaching colored pauper children apprenticed by church-wardens was prohibited by statute immediately after Gabriel's Insurrection in 1800.[1] Negroes eager to learn were thereafter largely restricted to private tutoring and instruction offered in Sabbath-schools. Furthermore, as Virginia developed few urban communities there were not sufficient persons of color in any one place to co÷perate in enlightening themselves even as much as public sentiment allowed. After 1838 Virginia Negroes had practically no chance to educate themselves.
[Footnote 1: Hening, "Statutes at Large", vol. xvi., p. 124.]
North Carolina, not unlike the border States in their good treatment of free persons of color, placed such little restriction on the improvement of the colored people that they early attained rank among the most enlightened ante-bellum Negroes. This interest, largely on account of the zeal of the antislavery leaders and Quakers,[1] continued unabated from 1780, the time of their greatest activity, to the period of the intense abolition agitation and the servile insurrections. In 1815 the Quakers were still exhorting their members to establish schools for the literary and religious instruction of Negroes.[2] The following year a school for Negroes was opened for two days in a week.[3] So successful was the work done by the Quakers during this period that they could report in 1817 that most colored minors in the Western Quarter had been "put in a way to get a portion of school learning."[4] In 1819 some of them could spell and a few could write. The plan of these workers was to extend the instruction until males could "read, write, and cipher," and until the females could "read and write."[5]
[Footnote 1: Weeks, "Southern Quakers", p. 231; Levi Coffin, "Reminiscences", pp. 69-71; Bassett, "Slavery in North Carolina", p. 66.]

[Footnote 2: Weeks, "Southern Quakers", p. 232.]

[Footnote 3: Thwaites, "Early Travels", vol. ii., p. 66.]

[Footnote 4: Weeks, "Southern Quakers", p. 232.]

[Footnote 5: "Ibid"., 232.]
In the course of time, however, these philanthropists met with some discouragement. In 1821 certain masters were sending their slaves to a Sunday-school opened by Levi Coffin and his son Vestal. Before the slaves had learned more than to spell words of two or three syllables other masters became unduly alarmed, thinking that such instruction would make the slaves discontented.[1] The timorous element threatened the teachers with the terrors of the law, induced the benevolent slaveholders to prohibit the attendance of their Negroes, and had the school closed.[2] Moreover, it became more difficult to obtain aid for this cause. Between 1815 and 1825 the North Carolina Manumission Societies were redoubling their efforts to raise funds for this purpose. By 1819 they had collected $47.00 but had not increased this amount more than $2.62 two years later.[3]
[Footnote 1: Coffin, "Reminiscences", p. 69.]

[Footnote 2: "Ibid"., p. 70.]

[Footnote 3: Weeks, "Southern Quakers", p. 241.]
The work done by the various workers in North Carolina did not affect the general improvement of the slaves, but thanks to the humanitarian movement, they were not entirely neglected. In 1830 the General Association of the Manumission Societies of that commonwealth complained that the laws made no provision for the moral improvement of the slaves.[1] Though learning was in a very small degree diffused among the colored people of a few sections, it was almost unknown to the slaves. They pointed out, too, that the little instruction some of the slaves had received, and by which a few had been taught to spell, or perhaps to read in "easy places," was not due to any legal provision, but solely to the charity "which endureth all things" and is willing to suffer reproach for the sake of being instrumental in "delivering the poor that cry" and "directing the wanderer in the right way."[2] To ameliorate these conditions the association recommended among other things the enactment of a law providing for the instruction of slaves in the elementary principles of language at least so far as to enable them to read the Holy Scriptures.[3] The reaction culminated, however, before this plan could be properly presented to the people of that commonwealth.
[Footnote 1: An Address to the People of North Carolina on the Evils of Slavery by the Friends of Liberty and Equality, "passim".]

[Footnote 2: "Ibid."]

[Footnote 3: "Ibid."]
During these years an exceptionally bright Negro was serving as a teacher not of his own race but of the most aristocratic white people of North Carolina. This educator was a freeman named John Chavis. He was born probably near Oxford, Granville County, about 1763. Chavis was a full-blooded Negro of dark brown color. Early attracting the attention of his white neighbors, he was sent to Princeton "to see if a Negro would take a collegiate education." His rapid advancement under Dr. Witherspoon "soon convinced his friends that the experiment would issue favorable."[1] There he took rank as a good Latin and a fair Greek scholar.
[Footnote 1: Bassett, "Slavery in North Carolina", p. 73.]
From Princeton he went to Virginia to preach to his own people. In 1801 he served at the Hanover Presbytery as a "riding missionary under the direction of the General Assembly."[1] He was then reported also as a regularly commissioned preacher to his people in Lexington. In 1805 he returned to North Carolina where he often preached to various congregations.[2] His career as a clergyman was brought to a close in 1831 by the law enacted to prevent Negroes from preaching.[3] Thereafter he confined himself to teaching, which was by far his most important work. He opened a classical school for white persons, "teaching in Granville, Wake, and Chatham Counties."[4] The best people of the community patronized this school. Chavis counted among his students W.P. Mangum, afterwards United States Senator, P.H. Mangum, his brother, Archibald and John Henderson, sons of Chief Justice Henderson, Charles Manly, afterwards Governor of that commonwealth, and Dr. James L. Wortham of Oxford, North Carolina.[5]
[Footnote 1: "Ibid"., p. 74; and Baird, "A Collection", etc., pp. 816-817.]

[Footnote 2: Paul C. Cameron, a son of Judge Duncan of North Carolina, said: "In my boyhood life at my father's home I often saw John Chavis, a venerable old negro man, recognized as a freeman and as a preacher or clergyman of the Presbyterian Church. As such he was received by my father and treated with kindness and consideration, and respected as a man of education, good sense and most estimable character." Mr. George Wortham, a lawyer of Granville County, said: "I have heard him read and explain the Scriptures to my father's family repeatedly. His English was remarkably pure, containing no 'negroisms'; his manner was impressive, his explanations clear and concise, and his views, as I then thought and still think, entirely orthodox. He was said to have been an acceptable preacher, his sermons abounding in strong common sense views and happy illustrations, without any effort at oratory or sensational appeals to the passions of his hearers." See Bassett, "Slavery in N.C"., pp. 74-75.]

[Footnote 3: See Chapter VII.]

[Footnote 4: Bassett, "Slavery in North Carolina", p. 74.]

[Footnote 5: John S. Bassett, Professor of History at Trinity College, North Carolina, learned from a source of great respectability that Chavis not only taught the children of these distinguished families, but "was received as an equal socially and asked to table by the most respectable people of the neighborhood." See Bassett, "Slavery in North Carolina", p. 75.]
We have no evidence of any such favorable conditions in South Carolina. There was not much public education of the Negroes of that State even during the revolutionary epoch. Regarding education as a matter of concern to persons immediately interested South Carolinians had long since learned to depend on private instruction for the training of their youth. Colored schools were not thought of outside of Charleston. Yet although South Carolina prohibited the education of the slaves in 1740[1] and seemingly that of other Negroes in 1800,[2] these measures were not considered a direct attack on the instruction of free persons of color. Furthermore, the law in regard to the teaching of the blacks was ignored by sympathetic masters. Colored persons serving in families and attending traveling men shared with white children the advantage of being taught at home. Free persons of color remaining accessible to teachers and missionaries interested in the propagation of the gospel among the poor still had the opportunity to make intellectual advancement.[3]
[Footnote 1: Brevard, "Digest of the Public Statute Law of South Carolina", vol. ii., p. 243.]

[Footnote 2: "Ibid"., p. 243.]

[Footnote 3: Laws of 1740 and 1800, and Simmons, "Men of Mark", p. 1078.]
Although not as reactionary as South Carolina, little could be expected of Georgia where slavery had such a firm hold. Unfavorable as conditions in that State were, however, they were not intolerable. It was still lawful for a slave to learn to read, and free persons of color had the privilege of acquiring any knowledge whatsoever.[1] The chief incentive to the education of Negroes in that State came from the rising Methodists and Baptists who, bringing a simple message to plain people, instilled into their minds as never before the idea that the Bible being the revelation of God, all men should be taught to read that book.[2]
[Footnote 1: Marbury and Crawford, "Digest of the Laws of the State of Georgia", p. 438.]

[Footnote 2: Orr, "Education in the South".]
In the territory known as Louisiana the good treatment of the mixed breeds and the slaves by the French assured for years the privilege to attend school. Rev. James Flint, of Salem, Massachusetts, received letters from a friend in Louisiana, who, in pointing out conditions around him, said: "In the regions where I live masters allow entire liberty to the slaves to attend public worship, and as far as my knowledge extends, it is generally the case in Louisiana. We have," said he, "regular meetings of the blacks in the building where I attend public worship. I have in the past years devoted myself assiduously, every Sabbath morning, to the labor of learning them to read. I found them quick of apprehension, and capable of grasping the rudiments of learning more rapidly than the whites."[1]
[Footnote 1: Flint, "Recollections of the Last Ten Years", p. 345.]
Later the problem of educating Negroes in this section became more difficult. The trouble was that contrary to the stipulation in the treaty of purchase that the inhabitants of the territory of Louisiana should be admitted to all the rights and immunities of citizens of the United States, the State legislation, subsequent to the transfer of jurisdiction, denied the right of education to a large class of mixed breeds.[1] Many of these, thanks to the liberality of the French, had been freed, and constituted an important element of society. Not a few of them had educated themselves, accumulated wealth, and ranked with white men of refinement and culture.[2]
[Footnote 1: Laws of Louisiana.]

[Footnote 2: Alliot, "Collections Historiques", p. 85; and Thwaites, "Early Western Travels", vol. iv., pp. 320 and 321; vol. xii., p. 69; and vol. xix., p. 126.]
Considering the few Negroes found in the West, the interest shown there in their mental uplift was considerable. Because of the scarcity of slaves in that section they came into helpful contact with their masters. Besides, the Kentucky and Tennessee abolitionists, being much longer active than those in most slave States, continued to emphasize the education of the blacks as a correlative to emancipation. Furthermore, the Western Baptists, Methodists, and Scotch-Irish Presbyterians early took a stand against slavery, and urged the masters to give their servants all the proper advantages for acquiring the knowledge of their duty both to man and God. In the large towns of Tennessee Negroes were permitted to attend private schools, and in Louisville and Lexington there were several well-regulated colored schools.

Two institutions for the education of slaves in the West are mentioned during these years. In October, 1825, there appeared an advertisement for eight or ten Negro slaves with their families to form a community of this kind under the direction of an "Emancipating Labor Society" of the State of Kentucky. In the same year Frances Wright suggested a school on a similar basis. She advertised in the "Genius of Universal Emancipation" an establishment to educate freed blacks and mulattoes in West Tennessee. This was supported by a goodly number of persons, including George Fowler and, it was said, Lafayette. A letter from a Presbyterian clergyman in South Carolina says that the first slave for this institution went from York District of that State. The enterprise, however, was not well supported, and little was heard of it in later years. Some asserted it was a money-making scheme for the proprietor, and that the Negroes taught there were in reality slaves; others went to the press to defend it as a benevolent effort. Both sides so muddled the affair that it is difficult to determine exactly what the intentions of the founders were.[1]
[Footnote 1: Adams, "Anti-slavery", p. 152.]


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