HumanitiesWeb HumanitiesWeb
Sort By Author Sort By Title

Sort By Author
Sort By Title


Get Your Degree!

Find schools and get information on the program that’s right for you.

Powered by Campus Explorer

& etc

All Rights Reserved.

Site last updated
28 October, 2012
Real Time Analytics
The Education Of The Negro Prior To 1861
Educating the Urban Negro
by Woodson, Carter Godwin

Such an impetus was given Negro education during the period of better beginnings that some of the colored city schools then established have existed even until to-day. Negroes learned from their white friends to educate themselves. In the Middle and Southern States, however, much of the sentiment in favor of developing the intellect of the Negro passed away during the early part of the nineteenth century. This reform, like many others of that day, suffered when Americans forgot the struggle for the rights of man. Recovering from the social upheaval of the Revolution, caste soon began to claim its own. To discourage the education of the lowest class was natural to the aristocrats who on coming to power established governments based on the representation of interests, restriction of suffrage, and the ineligibility of the poor to office. After this period the work of enlightening the blacks in the southern and border States was largely confined to a few towns and cities where the concentration of the colored population continued.

The rise of the American city made possible the contact of the colored people with the world, affording them a chance to observe what the white man was doing, and to develop the power to care for themselves. The Negroes who had this opportunity to take over the western civilization were servants belonging to the families for which they worked; slaves hired out by their owners to wait upon persons; and watermen, embracing fishermen, boatmen, and sailors. Not a few slaves in cities were mechanics, clerks, and overseers. In most of these employments the rudiments of an education were necessary, and what the master did not seem disposed to teach the slaves so situated, they usually learned by contact with their fellowmen who were better informed. Such persons were the mulattoes resulting from miscegenation, and therefore protected from the rigors of the slave code; house servants, rewarded with unusual privileges for fidelity and for manifesting considerable interest in things contributing to the economic good of their masters; and slaves who were purchasing their freedom.[1] Before the close of the first quarter of the nineteenth century not much was said about what these classes learned or taught. It was then the difference in circumstances, employment, and opportunities for improvement that made the urban Negro more intelligent than those who had to toil in the fields. Yet, the proportion did not differ very much from that of the previous period, as the first Negroes were not chiefly field hands but to a considerable extent house servants, whom masters often taught to read and write.
[Footnote 1: Jones, "Religious Instruction", p. 117.]
Urban Negroes had another important advantage in their opportunity to attend well-regulated Sunday-schools. These were extensively organized in the towns and cities of this country during the first decades of the last century. The "Sabbath-school" constituted an important factor in Negro education. Although cloaked with the purpose of bringing the blacks to God by giving them religious instruction the institution permitted its workers to teach them reading and writing when they were not allowed to study such in other institutions.[1] Even the radical slaveholder was slow to object to a policy which was intended to facilitate the conversion of men's souls. All friends especially interested in the mental and spiritual uplift of the race hailed this movement as marking an epoch in the elevation of the colored people.
[Footnote 1: See the reports of almost any abolition society of the first quarter of the nineteenth century. "Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed"., 1871, p. 200; and Plumer, "Thoughts on the Religious Instruction of Negroes".]
In the course of time racial difficulties caused the development of the colored "Sabbath-school" to be very much like that of the American Negro Church. It began as an establishment in the white churches, then moved to the colored chapels, where white persons assisted as teachers, and finally became an organization composed entirely of Negroes. But the separation here, as in the case of the church, was productive of some good. The "Sabbath-schools," which at first depended on white teachers to direct their work, were thereafter carried on by Negroes, who studied and prepared themselves to perform the task given up by their former friends. This change was easily made in certain towns and cities where Negroes already had churches of their own. Before 1815 there was a Methodist church in Charleston, South Carolina, with a membership of eighteen hundred, more than one thousand of whom were persons of color. About this time, Williamsburg and Augusta had one each, and Savannah three colored Baptist churches. By 1822 the Negroes of Petersburg had in addition to two churches of this denomination, a flourishing African Missionary Society.[1] In Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston the free blacks had experienced such a rapid religious development that colored churches in these cities were no longer considered unusual.
[Footnote 1: Adams, "Anti-slavery", etc., pp. 73 and 74.]
The increase in the population of cities brought a larger number of these unfortunates into helpful contact with the urban element of white people who, having few Negroes, often opposed the institution of slavery. But thrown among colored people brought in their crude state into sections of culture, the antislavery men of towns and cities developed from theorists, discussing a problem of concern to persons far away, into actual workers striving by means of education to pave the way for universal freedom.[1] Large as the number of abolitionists became and bright as the future of their cause seemed, the more the antislavery men saw of the freedmen in congested districts, the more inclined the reformers were to think that instant abolition was an event which they "could not reasonably expect, and perhaps could not desire." Being in a state of deplorable ignorance, the slaves did not possess sufficient information "to render their immediate emancipation a blessing either to themselves or to society."[2]
[Footnote 1: As some masters regarded the ignorance of the slaves as an argument against their emancipation, the antislavery men's problem became the education of the master as well as that of the slave. Believing that intellectual and moral improvement is a "safe and permanent basis on which the arch of freedom could be erected," Jesse Torrey, harking back to Jefferson's proposition, recommended that it begin by instructing the slaveholders, overseers, their sons and daughters, hitherto deprived of the blessing of education. Then he thought that such enlightened masters should see to it that every slave less than thirty years of age should be taught the art of reading sufficiently for receiving moral and religious instruction from books in the English language. In presenting this scheme Torrey had the idea of most of the antislavery men of that day, who advocated the education of slaves because they believed that, whenever the slaves should become qualified by intelligence and moral cultivation for the rational enjoyment of liberty and the performance of the various social duties, enlightened legislators would listen to the voice of reason and justice and the spirit of the social organization, and permit the release of the slave without banishing him as a traitor from his native land. See Torrey's "Portraiture of Domestic Slavery", p. 21.]

[Footnote 2: Sidney, "An Oration Commemorative of the Abolition of the Slave Trade in the United States", p. 5; and Adams, "Anti-slavery", etc., pp. 40, 43, 65, and 66.]
Yet in the same proportion that antislavery men convinced masters of the wisdom of the policy of gradual emancipation, they increased their own burden of providing extra facilities of education, for liberated Negroes generally made their way from the South to urban communities of the Northern and Middle States. The friends of the colored people, however, met this exigency by establishing additional schools and repeatedly entreating these migrating freedmen to avail themselves of their opportunities. The address of the American Convention of Abolition Societies in 1819 is typical of these appeals.[1] They requested free persons of color to endeavor as much as possible to use economy in their expenses, to save something from their earnings for the education of their children ... and "let all those who by attending to this admonition have acquired means, send their children to school as soon as they are old enough, where their morals will be an object of attention as well as their improvement in school learning." Then followed some advice which would now seem strange. They said, "Encourage, also, those among you who are qualified as teachers of schools, and when you are able to pay, never send your children to free schools; for this may be considered as robbing the poor of their opportunities which are intended for them alone."[2]
[Footnote 1: "Proceedings of the American Convention", etc., 1819, p. 21.]

[Footnote 2: "Proceedings of the American Convention", etc., 1819, p. 22.]
The concentration of the colored population in cities and towns where they had better educational advantages tended to make colored city schools self-supporting. There developed a class of self-educating Negroes who were able to provide for their own enlightenment. This condition, however, did not obtain throughout the South. Being a proslavery farming section of few large towns and cities, that part of the country did not see much development of the self-sufficient class. What enlightenment most urban blacks of the South experienced resulted mainly from private teaching and religious instruction. There were some notable exceptions, however. A colored "Santo Dominican" named Julian Troumontaine taught openly in Savannah up to 1829 when such an act was prohibited by law. He taught clandestinely thereafter, however, until 1844.[1] In New Orleans, where the Creoles and freedmen counted early in the nineteenth century as a substantial element in society, persons of color had secured to themselves better facilities of education. The people of this city did not then regard it as a crime for Negroes to acquire an education, their white instructors felt that they were not condescending in teaching them, and children of Caucasian blood raised no objection to attending special and parochial schools accessible to both races. The educational privileges which the colored people there enjoyed, however, were largely paid for by the progressive freedmen themselves.[2] Some of them educated their children in France.
[Footnote 1: Wright, "Negro Education in Georgia", p. 20.]

[Footnote 2: Many of the mixed breeds of New Orleans were leading business men.]
Charleston, South Carolina, furnished a good example of a center of unusual activity and rapid strides of self-educating urban Negroes. Driven to the point of doing for themselves, the free people of color of this city organized in 1810 the "Minor Society" to secure to their orphan children the benefits of education.[1] Bishop Payne, who studied later under Thomas Bonneau, attended the school founded by this organization. Other colored schools were doing successful work. Enjoying these unusual advantages the Negroes of Charleston were early in the nineteenth century ranked by some as economically and intellectually superior to any other such persons in the United States. A large portion of the leading mechanics, fashionable tailors, shoe manufacturers, and mantua-makers were free blacks, who enjoyed "a consideration in the community far more than that enjoyed by any of the colored population in the Northern cities."[2] As such positions required considerable skill and intelligence, these laborers had of necessity acquired a large share of useful knowledge. The favorable circumstances of the Negroes in certain liberal southern cities like Charleston were the cause of their return from the North to the South, where they often had a better opportunity for mental as well as economic improvement.[3] The return of certain Negroes from Philadelphia to Petersburg, Virginia, during the first decade of the nineteenth century, is a case in evidence.[4]
[Footnote 1: Simmons, "Men of Mark", p. 1078.]

[Footnote 2: "Niles Register", vol. xlix., p. 40.]

[Footnote 3: "Notions of the Americans", p. 26.]

[Footnote 4: Wright, "Views of Society and Manners in America", p. 73.]
The successful strivings of the race in the District of Columbia furnish us with striking examples of Negroes making educational progress. When two white teachers, Henry Potter and Mrs. Haley, invited black children to study with their white pupils, the colored people gladly availed themselves of this opportunity.[1] Mrs. Maria Billings, the first to establish a real school for Negroes in Georgetown, soon discovered that she had their hearty support. She had pupils from all parts of the District of Columbia, and from as far as Bladensburg, Maryland. The tuition fee in some of these schools was a little high, but many free blacks of the District of Columbia were sufficiently well established to meet these demands. The rapid progress made by the Bell and Browning families during this period was of much encouragement to the ambitious colored people, who were laboring to educate their children.[2]
[Footnote 1: "Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed.", 1871, pp. 195 "et seq."]

[Footnote 2: "Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed.", 1871, p. 195.]
The city Negroes, however, were learning to do more than merely attend accessible elementary schools. In 1807 George Bell, Nicholas Franklin, and Moses Liverpool, former slaves, built the first colored schoolhouse in the District of Columbia. Just emerging from bondage, these men could not teach themselves, but employed a white man to take charge of the school.[1] It was not a success. Pupils of color thereafter attended the school of Anne Maria Hall, a teacher from Prince George County, Maryland, and those of teachers who instructed white children.[2] The ambitious Negroes of the District of Columbia, however, were not discouraged by the first failure to provide their own educational facilities. The Bell School which had been closed and used as a dwelling, opened again in 1818 under the auspices of an association of free people of color of the city of Washington called the "Resolute Beneficial Society." The school was declared open then "for the reception of free people of color and others that ladies and gentlemen may think proper to send to be instructed in reading, writing, arithmetic, English grammar, or other branches of education apposite to their capacities, by steady, active and experienced teachers, whose attention is wholly devoted to the purpose described." The founders presumed that free colored families would embrace the advantages thus presented to them either by subscription to the funds of the Society or by sending their children to the school. Since the improvement of the intellect and the morals of the colored youth were the objects of the institution, the patronage of benevolent ladies and gentlemen was solicited. They declared, too, that "to avoid disagreeable occurrences no writing was to be done by the teacher for a slave, neither directly nor indirectly to serve the purpose of a slave on any account whatever."[3] This school was continued until 1822 under Mr. Pierpont, of Massachusetts, a relative of the poet. He was succeeded two years later by John Adams, a shoemaker, who was known as the first Negro to teach in the District of Columbia.[4]
[Footnote 1: "Ibid.", 196.]

[Footnote 2: "Ibid.", 197.]

[Footnote 3: "Daily National Intelligencer", August 29, 1818.]

[Footnote 4: "Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed.", 1871, p. 198.]
Of equal importance was the colored seminary established by Henry Smothers, a pupil of Mrs. Billings. Like her, he taught first in Georgetown. He began his advanced work near the Treasury building, having an attendance of probably one hundred and fifty pupils, generally paying tuition. The fee, however, was not compulsory. Smothers taught for about two years, and then was succeeded by John Prout, a colored man of rare talents, who later did much in opposition to the scheme of transporting Negroes to Africa before they had the benefits of education.[1] The school was then called the "Columbian Institute." Prout was later assisted by Mrs. Anne Maria Hall.[2]
[Footnote 1: "Ibid.", 1871, p. 199.]

[Footnote 2: Other schools of importance were springing up from year to year. As early as 1824 Mrs. Mary Wall, a member of the Society of Friends, had opened a school for Negroes and received so many applications that many had to be refused. From this school came many well-prepared colored men, among whom were James Wormley and John Thomas Johnson. Another school was established by Thomas Tabbs, who received "a polished education from the distinguished Maryland family to which he belonged." Mr. Tabbs came to Washington before the War of 1812 and began teaching those who came to him when he had a schoolhouse, and when he had none he went from house to house, stopping even under the trees to teach wherever he found pupils who were interested. See "Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed.", 1871, pp. 212, 213, and 214.]
Of this self-educative work of Negroes some of the best was accomplished by colored women. With the assistance of Father Vanlomen, the benevolent priest then in charge of the Holy Trinity Church, Maria Becraft, the most capable colored woman in the District of Columbia at that time, established there the first seminary for the education of colored girls. She had begun to teach in a less desirable section, but impressed with the unusual beauty and strong character of this girl, Father Vanlomen had her school transferred to a larger building on Fayette Street where she taught until 1831. She then turned over her seminary to girls she had trained, and became a teacher in a convent at Baltimore as a Sister of Providence.[1] Other good results were obtained by Louisa Parke Costin, a member of one of the oldest colored families in the District of Columbia. Desiring to diffuse the knowledge she acquired from white teachers in the early mixed schools of the District, she decided to teach. She opened her school just about the time that Henry Smothers was making his reputation as an educator. She died in 1831, after years of successful work had crowned her efforts. Her task was then taken up by her sister, Martha, who had been trained in the Convent Seminary of Baltimore.[2]
[Footnote 1: "Ibid.", p. 204.]

[Footnote 2: "Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed.", 1871, p. 203.]
Equally helpful was the work of Arabella Jones. Educated at the St. Frances Academy at Baltimore, she was well grounded in the English branches and fluent in French. She taught on the "Island," calling her school "The St. Agnes Academy."[1] Another worker of this class was Mary Wormley, once a student in the Colored Female Seminary of Philadelphia under Sarah Douglass. This lady began teaching about 1830, getting some assistance from Mr. Calvert, an Englishman.[2] The institution passed later into the hands of Thomas Lee, during the incumbency of whom the school was closed by the "Snow Riot." This was an attempt on the part of the white people to get rid of the progressive Negroes of the District of Columbia. Their excuse for such drastic action was that Benjamin Snow, a colored man running a restaurant in the city, had made unbecoming remarks about the wives of the white mechanics.[3] John F. Cook, one of the most influential educators produced in the District of Columbia, was driven out of the city by this mob. He then taught at Lancaster, Pa.
[Footnote 1: "Ibid.", p. 211.]

[Footnote 2: "Ibid.", p. 211.]

[Footnote 3: "Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed.", p. 201.]
While the colored schools of the District of Columbia suffered as a result of this disturbance, the Negroes then in charge of them were too ambitious, too well-educated to discontinue their work. The situation, however, was in no sense encouraging. With the exception of the churches of the Catholics and Quakers who vied with each other in maintaining a benevolent attitude toward the education of the colored people,[1] the churches of the District of Columbia, in the Sabbath schools of which Negroes once sat in the same seats with white persons, were on account of this riot closed to the darker race.[2] This expulsion however, was not an unmixed evil, for the colored people themselves thereafter established and directed a larger number of institutions of learning.[3]
[Footnote 1: The Catholics admitted the colored people to their churches on equal footing with others when they were driven to the galleries of the Protestant churches. Furthermore, they continued to admit them to their parochial schools. The Sisters of Georgetown trained colored girls, and the parochial school of the Aloysius Church at one time had as many as two hundred and fifty pupils of color. Many of the first colored teachers of the District of Columbia obtained their education in these schools. See "Special Report of U.S. Com. of Ed.", 1871, p. 218 "et. seq."]

[Footnote 2: "Sp. Report", etc. 187, pp. 217, 218, 219, 220, 221.]

[Footnote 3: "Ibid.", pp. 220-222.]
The colored schools of the District of Columbia soon resumed their growth recovering most of the ground they had lost and exhibiting evidences of more systematic work. These schools ceased to be elementary classes, offering merely courses in reading and writing, but developed into institutions of higher grade supplied with competent teachers. Among other useful schools then flourishing in this vicinity were those of Alfred H. Parry, Nancy Grant, Benjamin McCoy, John Thomas Johnson, James Enoch Ambush, and Dr. John H. Fleet.[1] John F. Cook returned from Pennsylvania and reopened his seminary.[2] About this time there flourished a school established by Fannie Hampton. After her death the work was carried on by Margaret Thompson until 1846. She then married Charles Middleton and became his assistant teacher. He was a free Negro who had been educated in Savannah, Georgia, while attending school with white and colored children. He founded a successful school about the time that Fleet and Johnson[3] retired. Middleton's school, however, owes its importance to the fact that it was connected with the movement for free colored public schools started by Jesse E. Dow, an official of the city, and supported by Rev. Doctor Wayman, then pastor of the Bethel Church.[4] Other colaborers with these teachers were Alexander Cornish, Richard Stokes, and Margaret Hill.[5]
[Footnote 1: "Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed.", 1871, pp. 212, 213, and 283.]

[Footnote 2: "Ibid.", p. 200.]

[Footnote 3: Compelled to leave Washington in 1838 because of the persecution of free persons of color, Johnson stopped in Pittsburg where he entered a competitive teacher examination with two white aspirants and won the coveted position. He taught in Pittsburg several years, worked on the Mississippi a while, returned later to Washington, and in 1843 constructed a building in which he opened another school. It was attended by from 150 to 200 students, most of whom belonged to the most prominent colored families of the District of Columbia. See "Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed.", 1871, p. 214.]

[Footnote 4: "Ibid.", p. 215.]

[Footnote 5: "Ibid.", pp. 214-215.]
Then came another effort on a large scale. This was the school of Alexander Hays, an emancipated slave of the Fowler family of Maryland. Hays succeeded his wife as a teacher. He soon had the support of such prominent men as Rev. Doctor Sampson, William Winston Seaton and R.S. Coxe. Joseph T. and Thomas H. Mason and Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher were Hays's contemporaries. The last two were teachers from England. On account of the feeling then developing against white persons instructing Negroes, these philanthropists saw their schoolhouses burned, themselves expelled from the white churches, and finally driven from the city in 1858.[1] Other white men and women were teaching colored children during these years. The most prominent of these were Thomas Tabbs, an erratic philanthropist, Mr. Nutall, an Englishman; Mr. Talbot, a successful tutor stationed near the present site of the Franklin School; and Mrs. George Ford, a Virginian, conducting a school on New Jersey Avenue between K and L Streets.[2] The efforts of Miss Myrtilla Miner, their contemporary, will be mentioned elsewhere.[3]
[Footnote 1: Besides the classes taught by these workers there was the Eliza Ann Cook private school; Miss Washington's school; a select primary school; a free Catholic school maintained by the St. Vincent de Paul Society, an association of colored Catholics in connection with St. Matthew's Church. This institution was organized by the benevolent Father Walter at the Smothers School. Then there were teachers like Elizabeth Smith, Isabella Briscoe, Charlotte Beams, James Shorter, Charlotte Gordon, and David Brown. Furthermore, various churches, parochial, and Sunday-schools were then sharing the burden of educating the Negro population of the District of Columbia. See "Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed.", 1871, pp. 214, 215, 216, 217, 218 "et seq."]

[Footnote 2: "Ibid.", p. 214.]

[Footnote 3: O'Connor, Myrtilla Miner, p. 80.]
The Negroes of Baltimore were almost as self-educating as those of the District of Columbia. The coming of the refugees and French Fathers from Santo Domingo to Baltimore to escape the revolution[1] marked an epoch in the intellectual progress of the colored people of that city. Thereafter their intellectual class had access to an increasing black population, anxious to be enlightened. Given this better working basis, they secured from the ranks of the Catholics additional catechists and teachers to give a larger number of illiterates the fundamentals of education. Their untiring co-worker in furnishing these facilities, was the Most Reverend Ambrose Maréchal, Archbishop of Baltimore from 1817 to 1828.[2] These schools were such an improvement over those formerly opened to Negroes that colored youths of other towns and cities thereafter came to Baltimore for higher training.[3]
[Footnote 1: Drewery, "Slave Insurrections in Virginia", p. 121.]

[Footnote 2: "Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed.", 1871, p. 205.]

[Footnote 3: "Ibid.", p. 205.]
The coming of these refugees to Baltimore had a direct bearing on the education of colored girls. Their condition excited the sympathy of the immigrating colored women. These ladies had been educated both in the Island of Santo Domingo and in Paris. At once interested in the uplift of this sex, they soon constituted the nucleus of the society that finally formed the St. Frances Academy for girls in connection with the Oblate Sisters of Providence Convent in Baltimore, June 5, 1829.[1] This step was sanctioned by the Reverend James Whitefield, the successor of Archbishop Maréchal, and was later approved by the Holy See. The institution was located on Richmond Street in a building which on account of the rapid growth of the school soon gave way to larger quarters. The aim of the institution was to train girls, all of whom "would become mothers or household servants, in such solid virtues and religious and moral principles as modesty, honesty, and integrity."[2] To reach this end they endeavored to supply the school with cultivated and capable teachers. Students were offered courses in all the branches of "refined and useful education, including all that is regularly taught in well regulated female seminaries."[3] This school was so well maintained that it survived all reactionary attacks and became a center of enlightenment for colored women.
[Footnote 1: "Ibid.", p. 205.]

[Footnote 2: "Ibid.", p. 206.]

[Footnote 3: "Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed.", p. 206.]
At the same time there were other persons and organizations in the field. Prominent among the first of these workers was Daniel Coker, known to fame as a colored Methodist missionary, who was sent to Liberia. Prior to 1812 he had in Baltimore an academy which certain students from Washington attended when they had no good schools of their own, and when white persons began to object to the co-education of the races. Because of these conditions two daughters of George Bell, the builder of the first colored schoolhouse in the District of Columbia, went to Baltimore to study under Coker.[1] An adult Negro school in this city had 180 pupils in 1820. There were then in the Baltimore Sunday-schools about 600 Negroes. They had formed themselves into a Bible association which had been received into the connection of the Baltimore Bible Society.[2] In 1825 the Negroes there had a day and a night school, giving courses in Latin and French. Four years later there appeared an "African Free School" with an attendance of from 150 to 175 every Sunday.[3]
[Footnote 1: "Ibid.", p. 196.]

[Footnote 2: Adams, "Anti-slavery", etc., p. 14.]

[Footnote 3: Adams, "Anti-Slavery", etc., pp. 14 and 15.]
By 1830 the Negroes of Baltimore had several special schools of their own.[1] In 1835 there was behind the African Methodist Church in Sharp Street a school of seventy pupils in charge of William Watkins.[2] W. Livingston, an ordained clergyman of the Episcopal Church, had then a colored school of eighty pupils in the African Church at the corner of Saratoga and Ninth Streets.[3] A third school of this kind was kept by John Fortie at the Methodist Bethel Church in Fish Street. Five or six other schools of some consequence were maintained by free women of color, who owed their education to the Convent of the Oblate Sisters of Providence.[4] Observing these conditions, an interested person thought that much more would have been accomplished in that community, if the friends of the colored people had been able to find workers acceptable to the masters and at the same time competent to teach the slaves.[5] Yet another observer felt that the Negroes of Baltimore had more opportunities than they embraced.[6]
[Footnote 1: Buckingham, "America, Historical", etc., vol. i., p. 438.]

[Footnote 2: "Ibid.", p. 438; Andrews, "Slavery and the Domestic Slave Trade", pp. 54, 55, and 56; and Varle, "A Complete View of Baltimore", p. 33.]

[Footnote 3: Varle, "A Complete View of Baltimore", p. 33; and Andrews, "Slavery and the Domestic Slave Trade", pp. 85 and 92.]

[Footnote 4: "Ibid.", p. 33.]

[Footnote 5: "Ibid.", p. 54.]

[Footnote 6: "Ibid.", p. 37.]
These conditions, however, were so favorable in 1835 that when Professor E.A. Andrews came to Baltimore to introduce the work of the American Union for the Relief and Improvement of the Colored People,[1] he was informed that the education of the Negroes of that city was fairly well provided for. Evidently the need was that the "systematic and sustained exertions" of the workers should spring from a more nearly perfect organization "to give efficiency to their philanthropic labors."[2] He was informed that as his society was of New England, it would on account of its origin in the wrong quarter, be productive of mischief.[3] The leading people of Baltimore thought that it would be better to accomplish this task through the Colonization Society, a southern organization carrying out the very policy which the American Union proposed to pursue.[4]
[Footnote 1: On January 14, 1835, a convention of more than one hundred gentlemen from ten different States assembled in Boston and organized the "American Union for the Relief and Improvement of the Colored Race." Among these workers were William Reed, Daniel Noyes, J.W. Chickering, J.W. Putnam, Baron Stow, B.B. Edwards, E.A. Andrews, Charles Scudder, Joseph Tracy, Samuel Worcester, and Charles Tappan. The gentlemen were neither antagonistic to the antislavery nor to the colonization societies. They aimed to do that which had been neglected in giving the Negroes proper preparation for freedom. Knowing that the actual emancipation of an oppressed race cannot be effected by legislation, they hoped to provide religious and literary instruction for all colored children that they might "ameliorate their economic condition" and prepare themselves for higher usefulness. See the "Exposition of the Object and Plans of the American Union", pp. 11-14.]

[Footnote 2: Andrews, "Slavery and the Domestic Slave Trade", p. 57.]

[Footnote 3: "Ibid"., p. 188.]

[Footnote 4: Andrews, "Slavery", etc., p. 56.]
The instruction of ambitious blacks in this city was not confined to mere rudimentary training. The opportunity for advanced study was offered colored girls in the Convent of the Oblate Sisters of Providence. These Negroes, however, early learned to help themselves. In 1835 considerable assistance came from Nelson Wells, one of their own color. He left to properly appointed trustees the sum of $10,000, the income of which was to be appropriated to the education of free colored children.[1] With this benefaction the trustees concerned established in 1835 what they called the Wells School. It offered Negroes free instruction long after the Civil War.
[Footnote 2: "Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed"., 1871, p. 353.]
In seeking to show how these good results were obtained by the Negroes' coöperative power and ability to supply their own needs, we are not unmindful of the assistance which they received. To say that the colored people of Baltimore, themselves, provided all these facilities of education would do injustice to the benevolent element of that city. Among its white people were found so much toleration of opinion on slavery and so much sympathy with the efforts for its removal, that they not only permitted the establishment of Negro churches, but opened successful colored schools in which white men and women assisted personally in teaching. Great praise is due philanthropists of the type of John Breckenridge and Daniel Raymond, who contributed their time and means to the cause and enlisted the efforts of others. Still greater credit should be given to William Crane, who for forty years was known as an "ardent, liberal, and wise friend of the black man." At the cost of $20,000 he erected in the central part of the city an edifice exclusively for the benefit of the colored people. In this building was an auditorium, several large schoolrooms, and a hall for entertainments and lectures. The institution employed a pastor and two teachers[1] and it was often mentioned as a high school.
[Footnote 1: A contributor to the "Christian Chronicle" found in this institution a pastor, a principal of the school, and an assistant, all of superior qualifications. The classes which this reporter heard recite grammar and geography convinced him of the thoroughness of the work and the unusual readiness of the colored people to learn. See "The African Repository", vol. xxxii., p. 91.]
In northern cities like Philadelphia and New York, where benevolent organizations provided an adequate number of colored schools, the free blacks did not develop so much of the power to educate themselves. The Negroes of these cities, however, cannot be considered exceptions to the rule. Many of those of Philadelphia were of the most ambitious kind, men who had purchased their freedom or had developed sufficient intelligence to delude their would-be captors and conquer the institution of slavery. Settled in this community, the thrifty class accumulated wealth which they often used, not only to defray the expenses of educating their own children, but to provide educational facilities for the poor children of color.

Gradually developing the power to help themselves, the free people of color organized a society which in 1804 opened a school with John Trumbull as teacher.[1] About the same time the African Episcopalians founded a colored school at their church.[2] A colored man gave three hundred pounds of the required funds to build the first colored schoolhouse in Philadelphia.[3] In 1830 one fourth of the twelve hundred colored children in the schools of that city paid for their instruction, whereas only two hundred and fifty were attending the public schools in 1825.[4] The fact that some of the Negroes were able and willing to share the responsibility of enlightening their people caused a larger number of philanthropists to come to the rescue of those who had to depend on charity. Furthermore, of the many achievements claimed for the colored schools of Philadelphia none were considered more significant than that they produced teachers qualified to carry on this work. Eleven of the sixteen colored schools in Philadelphia in 1822 were taught by teachers of African descent. In 1830 the system was practically in the hands of Negroes.[5]
[Footnote 1: Turner, "The Negro in Pennsylvania", p. 129.]

[Footnote 2: "Ibid.", p. 130.]

[Footnote 3: "Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed.", 1871, p. 377.]

[Footnote 4: "Proceedings of the American Convention", etc., 1825, p. 13.]

[Footnote 5: "Proceedings of the Am. Convention", etc., 1830, p.8; and Wickersham, "History of Education in Pennsylvania", p. 253.]
The statistics of later years show how successful these early efforts had been. By 1849 the colored schools of Philadelphia had developed to the extent that they seemed like a system. According to the "Statistical Inquiry into the Condition of Colored People in and about Philadelphia", published that year, there were 1643 children of color attending well-regulated schools. The larger institutions were mainly supported by State and charitable organizations of which the Society of Friends and the Pennsylvania Abolition Society were the most important. Besides supporting these institutions, however, the intelligent colored men of Philadelphia had maintained smaller schools and organized a system of lyceums and debating clubs, one of which had a library of 1400 volumes. Moreover, there were then teaching in the colored families and industrial schools of Philadelphia many men and women of both races.[1] Although these instructors restricted their work to the teaching of the rudiments of education, they did much to help the more advanced schools to enlighten the Negroes who came to that city in large numbers when conditions became intolerable for the free people of color in the slave States. The statistics of the following decade show unusual progress. In the year 1859 there were in the colored public schools of Philadelphia, 1031 pupils; in the charity schools, 748; in the benevolent schools, 211; in private schools, 331; in all, 2321, whereas in 1849 there were only 1643.[2]
[Footnote 1: About the middle of the nineteenth century colored schools of various kinds arose in Philadelphia. With a view to giving Negroes industrial training their friends opened "The School for the Destitute" at the House of Industry in 1848. Three years later Sarah Luciana was teaching a school of seventy youths at this House of Industry, and the Sheppard School, another industrial institution, was in operation in 1850 in a building bearing the same name. In 1849 arose the "Corn Street Unclassified School" of forty-seven children in charge of Sarah L. Peltz. "The Holmesburg Unclassified School" was organized in 1854. Other institutions of various purposes were "The House of Refuge," "The Orphans' Shelter," and "The Home for Colored Children." See Bacon, "Statistics of the Colored People of Philadelphia", 1859.

Among those then teaching in private schools of Philadelphia were Solomon Clarkson, Robert George, John Marshall, John Ross, Jonathan Tudas, and David Ware. Ann Bishop, Virginia Blake, Amelia Bogle, Anne E. Carey, Sarah Ann Douglass, Rebecca Hailstock, Emma Hall, Emmeline Higgins, Margaret Johnson, Martha Richards, Dinah Smith, Mary Still, and one Peterson were teaching in families. See "Statistical Inquiry", etc., 1849, p. 19; and Bacon, "Statistics of the Colored People of Philadelphia", 1859.]

[Footnote 2: "Statistical Inquiry into the Condition of the Colored People of Philadelphia", in 1859.]
Situated like those of Philadelphia, the free blacks of New York City did not have to maintain their own schools. This was especially true after 1832 when the colored people had qualified themselves to take over the schools of the New York Manumission Society. They then got rid of all the white teachers, even Andrews, the principal, who had for years directed this system. Besides, the economic progress of certain Negroes there made possible the employment of the increasing number of colored teachers, who had availed themselves of the opportunities afforded by the benevolent schools. The stigma then attached to one receiving seeming charity through free schools stimulated thrifty Negroes to have their children instructed either in private institutions kept by friendly white teachers or by teachers of their own color.[1] In 1812 a society of the free people of color was organized to raise a fund, the interest of which was to sustain a free school for orphan children.[2] This society succeeded later in establishing and maintaining two schools. At this time there were in New York City three other colored schools, the teachers of which received their compensation from those who patronized them.[3]
[Footnote 1: See the Address of the American Convention, 1819.]

[Footnote 2: "Proceedings of the Am. Convention", etc., 1812, p. 7.

Certain colored women were then organized to procure and make for destitute persons of color. See Andrews, "History of the New York African Free Schools", p. 58.]

[Footnote 3: "Ibid.", p. 58.]
Whether from lack of interest in their welfare on the part of the public, or from the desire of the Negroes to share their own burdens, the colored people of Rhode Island were endeavoring to provide for the education of their children during the first decades of the last century. "The Newport Mercury" of March 26, 1808, announced that the African Benevolent Society had opened there a school kept by Newport Gardner, who was to instruct all colored people "inclined to attend." The records of the place show that this school was in operation eight years later.[1]
[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.


Terms Defined

Referenced Works