The Education Of The Negro Prior To 1861
Carter Godwin Woodson

Part 2 out of 7

gradual emancipation for States having a large slave population, that
those designated for freedom might first be instructed in the value
and meaning of liberty to render them comfortable in the use of it.[2]
The number of slaves in the States adopting the policy of immediate
emancipation was not considered a menace to society, for the schools
already open to colored people could exert a restraining influence
on those lately given the boon of freedom. For these reasons the
antislavery societies had in their constitutions a provision for
a committee of education to influence Negroes to attend school,
superintend their instruction, and emphasize the cultivation of the
mind as the necessary preparation for "that state in society upon
which depends our political happiness."[3] Much stress was laid upon
this point by the American Convention of Abolition Societies in 1794
and 1795 when the organization expressed the hope that freedmen might
participate in civil rights as fast as they qualified by education.[4]

[Footnote 1: Washington, _Works of Jefferson_, vol. vi., p. 456;
vol. viii., p. 379; Madison, _Works of_, vol. iii., p. 496; Monroe,
_Writings of_, vol. iii., pp. 321, 336, 349, 378; Adams, _Works of
John Adams_, vol. ix., p. 92 and vol. x., p. 380.]

[Footnote 2: _Proceedings of the American Convention_, etc., 1797,

[Footnote 3: The constitution of almost any antislavery society of
that time provided for this work. See _Proc. of Am. Conv._, etc.,
1795, address.]

[Footnote 4: _Proceedings of the American Convention of Abolition
Societies_, 1794, p. 21; and 1795, p. 17; and _Rise and Progress of
the Testimony of Friends_, etc., p. 27.]

This work was organized by the abolitionists but was generally
maintained by members of the various sects which did more for
the enlightenment of the people of color through the antislavery
organizations than through their own.[1] The support of the clergy,
however, did not mean that the education of the Negroes would continue
incidental to the teaching of religion. The blacks were to be accepted
as brethren and trained to be useful citizens. For better education
the colored people could then look to the more liberal sects, the
Quakers, Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians, who prior to
the Revolution had been restrained by intolerance from extensive
proselyting. Upon the attainment of religious liberty they were free
to win over the slaveholders who came into the Methodist and Baptist
churches in large numbers, bringing their slaves with them.[2] The
freedom of these "regenerated" churches made possible the rise of
Negro exhorters and preachers, who to exercise their gifts managed in
some way to learn to read and write. Schools for the training of such
leaders were not to be found, but to encourage ambitious blacks to
qualify themselves white ministers often employed such candidates
as attendants, allowing them time to observe, to study, and even to
address their audiences.[3]

[Footnote 1: The antislavery societies were at first the uniting
influence among all persons interested in the uplift of the Negroes.
The agitation had not then become violent, for men considered the
institution not a sin but merely an evil.]

[Footnote 2: Coke, _Journal_, etc., p. 114; Lambert, _Travels_,
p. 175; Baird, _A Collection_, etc., pp. 381, 387 and 816; James,
_Documentary_, etc., p. 35; Foote, _Sketches of Virginia_, p. 31;
Matlack, _History of American Slavery and Methodism_, p. 31; Semple,
_History of the Rise and Progress of the Baptists in Virginia_, p.

[Footnote 3: _Ibid._, and Coke, _Journal_, etc., pp. 16-18.]

It must be observed, however, that the interest of these benevolent
men was no longer manifested in the mere traditional teaching of
individual slaves. The movement ceased to be the concern of separate
philanthropists. Men really interested in the uplift of the colored
people organized to raise funds, open schools, and supervise their
education.[1] In the course of time their efforts became more
systematic and consequently more successful. These educators adopted
the threefold policy of instructing Negroes in the principles of
the Christian religion, giving them the fundamentals of the common
branches, and teaching them the most useful handicrafts.[2] The
indoctrination of the colored people, to be sure, was still an
important concern to their teachers, but the accession to their ranks
of a militant secular element caused the emphasis to shift to other
phases of education. Seeing the Negroes' need of mental development,
the Presbyterian Synod of New York and Pennsylvania urged the members
of that denomination in 1787 to give their slaves "such good education
as to prepare them for a better enjoyment of freedom."[3] In reply to
the inquiry as to what could be done to teach the poor black and white
children to read, the Methodist Conference of 1790 recommended the
establishment of Sunday schools and the appointment of persons to
teach gratis "all that will attend and have a capacity to learn."[4]
The Conference recommended that the Church publish a special text-book
to teach these children learning as well as piety.[5] Men in the
political world were also active. In 1788 the State of New Jersey
passed an act preliminary to emancipation, making the teaching of
slaves to read compulsory under a penalty of five pounds.[6]

[Footnote 1: _Proceedings of the American Convention of Abolition
Societies_, 1797.]

[Footnote 2: _Proceedings of the American Convention of Abolition
Societies_, 1797.]

[Footnote 3: Locke, _Anti-slavery_, etc., p. 44.]

[Footnote 4: Washington, _Story of the Negro_, vol. ii, p. 121.]

[Footnote 5: _Ibid._, p. 121.]

[Footnote 6: Laws of New Jersey, 1788.]

With such influence brought to bear on persons in the various walks of
life, the movement for the effective education of the colored people
became more extensive. Voicing the sentiment of the different local
organizations, the American Convention of Abolition Societies of 1794
urged the branches to have the children of free Negroes and slaves
instructed in "common literature."[1] Two years later the Abolition
Society of the State of Maryland proposed to establish an academy to
offer this kind of instruction. To execute this scheme the American
Convention thought that it was expedient to employ regular tutors,
to form private associations of their members or other well-disposed
persons for the purpose of instructing the people of color in the most
simple branches of education.[2]

[Footnote 1: _Proceedings of the American Convention of Abolition
Societies_, 1796, p. 18.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid._, 1797, p. 41.]

The regular tutors referred to above were largely indentured servants
who then constituted probably the majority of the teachers of the
colonies.[1] In 1773 Jonathan Boucher said that two thirds of the
teachers of Maryland belonged to this class.[2] The contact of Negroes
with these servants is significant. In the absence of rigid caste
distinctions they associated with the slaves and the barrier between
them was so inconsiderable that laws had to be passed to prevent the
miscegenation of the races. The blacks acquired much useful knowledge
from servant teachers and sometimes assisted them.

[Footnote 1: See the descriptions of indentured servants in the
advertisements of colonial newspapers referred to on pages 82-84; and
Boucher, _A View of the Causes_, etc., p. 39.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid._, pp. 39 and 40.]

Attention was directed also to the fact that neither literary nor
religious education prepared the Negroes for a life of usefulness.
Heeding the advice of Kosciuszko, Madison and Jefferson, the advocates
of the education of the Negroes endeavored to give them such practical
training as their peculiar needs demanded. In the agricultural
sections the first duty of the teacher of the blacks was to show them
how to get their living from the soil. This was the final test of
their preparation for emancipation. Accordingly, on large plantations
where much supervision was necessary, trustworthy Negroes were trained
as managers. Many of those who showed aptitude were liberated and
encouraged to produce for themselves. Slaves designated for freedom
were often given small parcels of land for the cultivation of which
they were allowed some of their time. An important result of this
agricultural training was that many of the slaves thus favored amassed
considerable wealth by using their spare time in cultivating crops of
their own.[1]

[Footnote 1: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed._, 1871, p. 196.]

The advocates of useful education for the degraded race had more to
say about training in the mechanic arts. Such instruction, however,
was not then a new thing to the blacks of the South, for they had from
time immemorial been the trustworthy artisans of that section. The aim
then was to give them such education as would make them intelligent
workmen and develop in them the power to plan for themselves. In the
North, where the Negroes had been largely menial servants, adequate
industrial education was deemed necessary for those who were to be
liberated.[1] Almost every Northern colored school of any consequence
then offered courses in the handicrafts. In 1784 the Quakers of
Philadelphia employed Sarah Dwight to teach the colored girls
sewing.[2] Anthony Benezet provided in his will that in the school
to be established by his benefaction the girls should be taught
needlework.[3] The teachers who took upon themselves the improvement
of the free people of color of New York City regarded industrial
training as one of their important tasks.[4]

[Footnote 1: See the _Address of the Am. Conv. of Abolition
Societies_, 1794; _ibid._, 1795; _ibid._, 1797 _et passim._]

[Footnote 2: Wickersham, _History of Ed. in Pa._, p. 249.]

[Footnote 3: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed._, 1869, p. 375.]

[Footnote 4: Andrews, _History of the New York African Free Schools_,
p. 20.]

None urged this duty upon the directors of these schools more
persistently than the antislavery organizations. In 1794 the American
Convention of Abolition Societies recommended that Negroes be
instructed in "those mechanic arts which will keep them most
constantly employed and, of course, which will less subject them to
idleness and debauchery, and thus prepare them for becoming good
citizens of the United States."[1] Speaking repeatedly on this wise
the Convention requested the colored people to let it be their special
care to have their children not only to work at useful trades but also
to till the soil.[2] The early abolitionists believed that this was
the only way the freedmen could learn to support themselves.[3]
In connection with their schools the antislavery leaders had an
Indenturing Committee to find positions for colored students who had
the advantages of industrial education.[4] In some communities slaves
were prepared for emancipation by binding them out as apprentices to
machinists and artisans until they learned a trade.

[Footnote 1: _Proceedings of the American Convention_, 1794, p. 14.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid._, 1795, p. 29; _ibid._, 1797, pp. 12, 13, and 31.]

[Footnote 3: _Ibid._, 1797, p. 31.]

[Footnote 4: _Ibid._, 1818, p. 9.]

Two early efforts to carry out this policy are worthy of notice here.
These were the endeavors of Anthony Benezet and Thaddeus Kosciuszko.
Benezet was typical of those men, who, having the courage of their
conviction, not only taught colored people, but gladly appropriated
property to their education. Benezet died in 1784, leaving
considerable wealth to be devoted to the purpose of educating Indians
and Negroes. His will provided that as the estate on the death of
his wife would not be sufficient entirely to support a school, the
Overseers of the Public Schools of Philadelphia should join with a
committee appointed by the Society of Friends, and other benevolent
persons, in the care and maintenance of an institution such as he
had planned. Finally in 1787 the efforts of Benezet reached their
culmination in the construction of a schoolhouse, with additional
funds obtained from David Barclay of London and Thomas Sidney, a
colored man of Philadelphia. The pupils of this school were to study
reading, writing, arithmetic, plain accounts, and sewing.[1]

[Footnote 1: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed._, 1871, p. 375.]

With respect to conceding the Negroes' claim to a better education,
Thaddeus Kosciuszko, the Polish general, was not unlike Benezet. None
of the revolutionary leaders were more moved with compassion for the
colored people than this warrior. He saw in education the powerful
leverage which would place them in position to enjoy the newly won
rights of man. While assisting us in gaining our independence,
Kosciuszko acquired here valuable property which he endeavored to
devote to the enlightenment of the slaves. He authorized Thomas
Jefferson, his executor, to employ the whole thereof in purchasing
Negroes and liberating them in the name of Kosciuszko, "in giving them
an education in trades or otherwise, and in having them instructed for
their new condition in the duties of morality." The instructors were
to provide for them such training as would make them "good neighbors,
good mothers or fathers, good husbands or wives, teaching them the
duties of citizenship, teaching them to be defenders of their liberty
and country, and of the good order of society, and whatsoever might
make them useful and happy."[1] Clearly as this was set forth the
executor failed to discharge this duty enjoined upon him. The heirs of
the donor instituted proceedings to obtain possession of the estate,
which, so far as the author knows, was never used for the purpose for
which it was intended.

[Footnote 1: _African Repository_, vol. xi., pp. 294-295.]

In view of these numerous strivings we are compelled to inquire
exactly what these educators accomplished. Although it is impossible
to measure the results of their early efforts, various records of the
eighteenth century prove that there was lessening objection to the
instruction of slaves and practically none to the enlightenment of
freedmen. Negroes in considerable numbers were becoming well grounded
in the rudiments of education. They had reached the point of
constituting the majority of the mechanics in slaveholding
communities; they were qualified to be tradesmen, trustworthy helpers,
and attendants of distinguished men, and a few were serving as clerks,
overseers, and managers.[1] Many who were favorably circumstanced
learned more than mere reading and writing. In exceptional cases, some
were employed not only as teachers and preachers to their people, but
as instructors of the white race.[2]

[Footnote 1: Georgia and South Carolina had to pass laws to prevent
Negroes from following these occupations for fear that they might
thereby become too well informed. See Brevard, _Digest of Public
Statute Laws of S.C._, vol. ii., p. 243; and Marbury and Crawford,
_Digest of the Laws of the State of Georgia_, p. 438.]

[Footnote 2: Bassett, _Slavery in North Carolina_, p. 74; manuscripts
relating to the condition of the colored people of North Carolina,
Ohio, and Tennessee now in the hands of Dr. J.E. Moorland.]

A more accurate estimate of how far the enlightenment of the Negroes
had progressed before the close of the eighteenth century, is better
obtained from the reports of teachers and missionaries who were
working among them. Appealing to the Negroes of Virginia about 1755,
Benjamin Fawcett addressed them as intelligent people, commanding
them to read and study the Bible for themselves and consider "how
the Papists do all they can to hide it from their fellowmen." "Be
particularly thankful," said he, "for the Ministers of Christ around
you, who are faithfully laboring to teach the truth as it is in
Jesus."[1] Rev. Mr. Davies, then a member of the Society for Promoting
the Gospel among the Poor, reported that there were multitudes of
Negroes in different parts of Virginia who were "willingly, eagerly
desirous to be instructed and embraced every opportunity of
acquainting themselves with the Doctrine of the Gospel," and though
they had generally very little help to learn to read, yet to his
surprise many of them by dint of application had made such progress
that they could "intelligently read a plain author and especially
their Bible." Pity it was, he thought, that any of them should be
without necessary books. Negroes were wont to come to him with such
moving accounts of their needs in this respect that he could not help
supplying them.[2] On Saturday evenings and Sundays his home was
crowded with numbers of those "whose very Countenances still carry the
air of importunate Petitioners" for the same favors with those who
came before them. Complaining that his stock was exhausted, and that
he had to turn away many disappointed, he urged his friends to send
him other suitable books, for nothing else, thought he, could be a
greater inducement to their industry to learn to read.

[Footnote 1: Fawcett, _Compassionate Address_, etc., p. 33.]

[Footnote 2: Fawcett, _Compassionate Address_, etc., p. 33.]

Still more reliable testimony may be obtained, not from persons
particularly interested in the uplift of the blacks, but from
slaveholders. Their advertisements in the colonial newspapers furnish
unconscious evidence of the intellectual progress of the Negroes
during the eighteenth century. "He's an 'artful,'"[1] "plausible,"[2]
"smart,"[3] or "sensible fellow,"[4] "delights much in traffic,"[5]
and "plays on the fife extremely well,"[6] are some of the statements
found in the descriptions of fugitive slaves. Other fugitives were
speaking "plainly,"[7] "talking indifferent English,"[8] "remarkably
good English,"[9] and "exceedingly good English."[10] In some
advertisements we observe such expressions as "he speaks a little
French,"[11] "Creole French,"[12] "a few words of High-Dutch,"[13] and
"tolerable German."[14] Writing about a fugitive a master would often
state that "he can read print,"[15] "can read writing,"[16] "can read
and also write a little,"[17] "can read and write,"[18] "can write
a pretty hand and has probably forged a pass."[19] These conditions
obtained especially in Charleston, South Carolina, where were
advertised various fugitives, one of whom spoke French and English
fluently, and passed for a doctor among his people,[20] another who
spoke Spanish and French intelligibly,[21] and a third who could read,
write, and speak both French and Spanish very well.[22]

[Footnote 1: _Virginia Herald_ (Fredericksburg), Jan. 21, 1800; _The
Maryland Gazette_, Feb. 27, 1755; _Dunlop's Maryland Gazette and
Baltimore Advertiser_, July 23, 1776; _The State Gazette of South
Carolina_, May 18, 1786; _The State Gazette of North Carolina_, July
2, 1789.]

[Footnote 2: _The City Gazette and Daily Advertiser_ (Charleston,
S.C.), Sept. 26, 1797, and _The Carolina Gazette_, June 3, 1802.]

[Footnote 3: _The Charleston Courier_, June 1, 1804; _The State
Gazette of South Carolina_, Feb. 20, and 27, 1786; and _The Maryland
Journal and Baltimore Advertiser_, Feb. 19, 1793.]

[Footnote 4: _South Carolina Weekly Advertiser_, Feb. 19 and April 2,
1783; _State Gazette of South Carolina_, Feb. 20 and May 18, 1786.]

[Footnote 5: _The Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advocate_, Oct. 17,

[Footnote 6: _The Virginia Herald_ (Fredericksburg), Jan. 21, 1800;
and _The Norfolk and Portsmouth Chronicle_, April 24, 1790.]

[Footnote 7: _The City Gazette and Daily Advertiser_, Jan. 20 and
March 1, 1800; and _The South Carolina Weekly Gazette_, Oct. 24 to 31,

[Footnote 8: _The City Gaz. and Daily Adv._, Jan. 20 and March 1,
1800; and _S.C. Weekly Gaz._, Oct. 24 to 31, 1759.]

[Footnote 9: _The Newbern Gazette_, May 23 and Aug. 15, 1800; _The
Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser_, Feb. 19, 1793; _The City
Gazette and Daily Advertiser_ (Charleston, S.C.), Sept. 26, 1797; Oct.
5, 1798; Aug. 23 and Sept. 9, 1799; Aug. 18 and Oct. 3, 1800; and
March 7, 1801; and _Maryland Gazette_, Dec. 30, 1746; and April 4,
1754; _South Carolina Weekly Advertiser_, Oct. 24 to 31, 1759; and
Feb. 19, 1783; _The Gazette of the State of South Carolina_, Sept. 13
and Nov. 1, 1784; and _The Carolina Gazette_, Aug. 12, 1802.]

[Footnote 10: _The City Gazette and Daily Advertiser_, Sept. 26, 1797;
May 15, 1799; and Oct. 3, 1800; _The State Gazette of South Carolina_,
Aug. 21, 1786; _The Gazette of the State of South Carolina_, Aug. 26,
1784; _The Maryland Gazette_, Aug. 1, 1754; Oct. 28, 1773; and Aug.
19, 1784; and _The Columbian Herald_, April 30, 1789.]

[Footnote 11: _The City Gazette and Daily Advertiser_, Oct. 5, 1798;
Aug. 18 and Sept. 18, 1800; _The Gazette of the State of South
Carolina_, Aug. 16, 1784.]

[Footnote 12: _The City Gazette and Daily Advertiser_, Oct. 5, 1798.]

[Footnote 13: _The Maryland Gazette_, Aug. 19, 1784.]

[Footnote 14: _The State Gazette of South Carolina_, Feb. 20 and 27,

[Footnote 15: _The Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser_, Oct.
17, 1780. _Dunlop's Maryland Gazette and Baltimore Advertiser_, July
23, 1776.]

[Footnote 16: _The Maryland Gazette_, May 21, 1795.]

[Footnote 17: _The Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser_, Oct.
17, 1780; and Sept. 20, 1785; and _The Maryland Gazette_, May 21,
1795; and January 4, 1798; _The Carolina Gazette_, June 3, 1802; and
_The Charleston Courier_, June 29, 1803. _The Norfolk and Portsmouth
Chronicle_, March 19, 1791.]

[Footnote 18: _The Maryland Gazette_, Feb. 27, 1755; and Oct. 27,
1768; _The Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser_, Oct. 1, 1793;
_The Virginia Herald_ (Fredericksburg), Jan. 21, 1800.]

[Footnote 19: _The Maryland Gazette_, Feb. 1, 1755 and Feb. 1, 1798;
_The State Gazette of North Carolina_, April 30, 1789; _The Norfolk
and Portsmouth Chronicle_, April 24, 1790; _The City Gazette and Daily
Advertiser_ (Charleston, South Carolina), Jan. 5, 1799; and March 7,
1801; _The Carolina Gazette_, Feb. 4, 1802; and _The Virginia Herald_
(Fredericksburg), Jan. 21, 1800.]

[Footnote 20: _The City Gazette and Daily Advertiser_, Jan. 5, 1799;
and March 5, 1800; _The Gazette of the State of South Carolina_, Aug.
16, 1784; and _The Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser_, Sept.
20, 1793.]

[Footnote 21: _The City Gazette of South Carolina_, Jan. 5, 1799.]

[Footnote 22: The City Gazette and Daily Advertiser (Charleston, South
Carolina), June 22 and Aug. 8, 1797; April 1 and May 15, 1799.]

Equally convincing as to the educational progress of the colored race
were the high attainments of those Negroes who, despite the fact that
they had little opportunity, surpassed in intellect a large number of
white men of their time. Negroes were serving as salesmen, keeping
accounts, managing plantations, teaching and preaching, and had
intellectually advanced to the extent that fifteen or twenty per cent.
of their adults could then at least read. Most of this talented class
became preachers, as this was the only calling even conditionally
open to persons of African blood. Among these clergymen was George
Leile,[1] who won distinction as a preacher in Georgia in 1782, and
then went to Jamaica where he founded the first Baptist church of that
colony. The competent and indefatigable Andrew Bryan[2] proved to be a
worthy successor of George Leile in Georgia. From 1770 to 1790 Negro
preachers were in charge of congregations in Charles City, Petersburg,
and Allen's Creek in Lunenburg County, Virginia.[3] In 1801 Gowan
Pamphlet of that State was the pastor of a progressive Baptist church,
some members of which could read, write, and keep accounts.[4] Lemuel
Haynes was then widely known as a well-educated minister of the
Protestant Episcopal Church. John Gloucester, who had been trained
under Gideon Blackburn of Tennessee, distinguished himself in
Philadelphia where he founded the African Presbyterian Church.[5] One
of the most interesting of these preachers was Josiah Bishop. By 1791
he had made such a record in his profession that he was called to
the pastorate of the First Baptist Church (white) of Portsmouth,
Virginia.[6] After serving his white brethren a number of years he
preached some time in Baltimore and then went to New York to take
charge of the Abyssinian Baptist Church.[7] This favorable condition
of affairs could not long exist after the aristocratic element in the
country began to recover some of the ground it had lost during the
social upheaval of the revolutionary era. It was the objection to
treating Negroes as members on a plane of equality with all, that led
to the establishment of colored Baptist churches and to the secession
of the Negro Methodists under the leadership of Richard Allen in 1794.
The importance of this movement to the student of education lies in
the fact that a larger number of Negroes had to be educated to carry
on the work of the new churches.

[Footnote 1: He was sometimes called George Sharp. See Benedict,
_History of the Baptists_, etc., p. 189.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid._, p. 189.]

[Footnote 3: Semple, _History of the Baptists_, etc., p. 112.]

[Footnote 4: _Ibid._, p. 114.]

[Footnote 5: Baird, _A Collection_, etc., p. 817.]

[Footnote 6: Semple, _History of the Baptists_, etc., p. 355.]

[Footnote 7: _Ibid._, p. 356.]

The intellectual progress of the colored people of that day, however,
was not restricted to their clergymen. Other Negroes were learning to
excel in various walks of life. Two such persons were found in North
Carolina. One of these was known as Caesar, the author of a collection
of poems, which, when published in that State, attained a popularity
equal to that of Bloomfield's.[1] Those who had the pleasure of
reading the poems stated that they were characterized by "simplicity,
purity, and natural grace."[2] The other noted Negro of North Carolina
was mentioned in 1799 by Buchan in his _Domestic Medicine_ as the
discoverer of a remedy for the bite of the rattlesnake. Buchan learned
from Dr. Brooks that, in view of the benefits resulting from the
discovery of this slave, the General Assembly of North Carolina
purchased his freedom and settled upon him a hundred pounds per

[Footnote 1: Baldwin, _Observations_, etc., p. 20.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid._, p. 21.]

[Footnote 3: Smyth, _A Tour in the U.S._, p. 109; and Baldwin,
_Observations_, p. 20.]

To this class of bright Negroes belonged Thomas Fuller, a native
African, who resided near Alexandria, Virginia, where he startled
the students of his time by his unusual attainments in mathematics,
despite the fact that he could neither read nor write. Once acquainted
with the power of numbers, he commenced his education by counting the
hairs of the tail of the horse with which he worked the fields. He
soon devised processes for shortening his modes of calculation,
attaining such skill and accuracy as to solve the most difficult
problems. Depending upon his own system of mental arithmetic he
learned to obtain accurate results just as quickly as Mr. Zerah
Colburn, a noted calculator of that day, who tested the Negro
mathematician.[1] The most abstruse questions in relation to time,
distance, and space were no task for his miraculous memory, which,
when the mathematician was interrupted in the midst of a long and
tedious calculation, enabled him to take up some other work and later
resume his calculation where he left off.[2] One of the questions
propounded him, was how many seconds of time had elapsed since the
birth of an individual who had lived seventy years, seven months, and
as many days. Fuller was able to answer the question in a minute and a

[Footnote 1: Baldwin, _Observations_, p. 21.]

[Footnote 2: Needles, _An Historical Memoir_, etc., p. 32.]

Another Negro of this type was James Durham, a native slave of the
city of Philadelphia. Durham was purchased by Dr. Dove, a physician
in New Orleans, who, seeing the divine spark in the slave, gave him
a chance for mental development. It was fortunate that he was thrown
upon his own resources in this environment, where the miscegenation
of the races since the early French settlement, had given rise to a
thrifty and progressive class of mixed breeds, many of whom at that
time had the privileges and immunities of freemen. Durham was not long
in acquiring a rudimentary education, and soon learned several modern
languages, speaking English, French, and Spanish fluently. Beginning
his medical education early in his career, he finished his course,
and by the time he was twenty-one years of age became one of the most
distinguished physicians[1] of New Orleans. Dr. Benjamin Rush, the
noted physician of Philadelphia, who was educated at the Edinburgh
Medical College, once deigned to converse professionally with Dr.
Durham. "I learned more from him than he could expect from me," was
the comment of the Philadelphian upon a conversation in which he had
thought to appear as instructor of the younger physician.[2]

[Footnote 1: Brissot de Warville, _New Travels_, vol. i., p. 223.]

[Footnote 2: Baldwin, _Observations_, etc., p. 17.]

Most prominent among these brainy persons of color were Phyllis
Wheatley and Benjamin Banneker. The former was a slave girl brought
from Africa in 1761 and put to service in the household of John
Wheatley of Boston. There, without any training but that which she
obtained from her master's family, she learned in sixteen months to
speak the English language fluently, and to read the most difficult
parts of sacred writings. She had a great inclination for Latin and
made some progress in the study of that language. Led to writing by
curiosity, she was by 1765 possessed of a style which enabled her to
count among her correspondents some of the most influential men of her
time. Phyllis Wheatley's title to fame, however, rested not on her
general attainments as a scholar but rather on her ability to write
poetry. Her poems seemed to have such rare merit that men marveled
that a slave could possess such a productive imagination, enlightened
mind, and poetical genius. The publishers were so much surprised that
they sought reassurance as to the authenticity of the poems from such
persons as James Bowdoin, Harrison Gray, and John Hancock.[1] Glancing
at her works, the modern critic would readily say that she was not a
poetess, just as the student of political economy would dub Adam Smith
a failure as an economist. A bright college freshman who has studied
introductory economics can write a treatise as scientific as the
_Wealth of Nations_. The student of history, however, must not
"despise the day of small things." Judged according to the standards
of her time, Phyllis Wheatley was an exceptionally intellectual

[Footnote 1: Baldwin, _Observations_, etc., p. 18; Wright, _Poems of
Phyllis Wheatley_, Introduction.]

The other distinguished Negro, Benjamin Banneker, was born in
Baltimore County, Maryland, November 9, 1731, near the village of
Ellicott Mills. Banneker was sent to school in the neighborhood, where
he learned reading, writing, and arithmetic. Determined to acquire
knowledge while toiling, he applied his mind to things intellectual,
cultivated the power of observation, and developed a retentive memory.
These acquirements finally made him tower above all other American
scientists of his time with the possible exception of Benjamin
Franklin. In conformity with his desire to do and create, his tendency
was toward mathematics. Although he had never seen a clock, watches
being the only timepieces in the vicinity, he made in 1770 the first
clock manufactured in the United States,[1] thereby attracting the
attention of the scientific world. Learning these things, the owner of
Ellicott Mills became very much interested in this man of inventive
genius, lent him books, and encouraged him in his chosen field.
Among these volumes were treatises on astronomy, which Banneker soon
mastered without any instruction.[2] Soon he could calculate eclipses
of sun and moon and the rising of each star with an accuracy almost
unknown to Americans. Despite his limited means, he secured through
Goddard and Angell of Baltimore the publication of the first almanac
produced in this country. Jefferson received from Banneker a copy,
for which he wrote the author a letter of thanks. It appears that
Jefferson had some doubts about the man's genius, but the fact that
the philosopher invited Banneker to visit him at Monticello in 1803,
indicates that the increasing reputation of the Negro must have
caused Jefferson to change his opinion as to the extent of Banneker's
attainments and the value of his contributions to mathematics and

[Footnote 1: Washington, _Jefferson's Works_, vol. v., p. 429.]

[Footnote 2: Baldwin, _Observations_, etc., p. 16.]

[Footnote 3: Washington, _Jefferson's Works_, vol. v., p. 429.]

So favorable did the aspect of things become as a result of this
movement to elevate the Negroes, that persons observing the conditions
then obtaining in this country thought that the victory for the
despised race had been won. Traveling in 1783 in the colony of
Virginia, where the slave trade had been abolished and schools for
the education of freedmen established, Johann Schoepf felt that the
institution was doomed.[1] After touring Pennsylvania five years
later, Brissot de Warville reported that there existed then a country
where the blacks were allowed to have souls, and to be endowed with an
understanding capable of being formed to virtue and useful knowledge,
and where they were not regarded as beasts of burden in order that
their masters might have the privilege of treating them as such. He
was pleased that the colored people by their virtue and understanding
belied the calumnies which their tyrants elsewhere lavished against
them, and that in that community one perceived no difference between
"the memory of a black head whose hair is craped by nature, and that
of the white one craped by art."[2]

[Footnote 1: Schoepf, _Travels in the Confederation_, p. 149.]

[Footnote 2: Brissot de Warville, _New Travels_, vol. I., p. 220.]



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

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

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

[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

[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

[Footnote 1: _Proceedings of the American Convention_, etc., 1801, p.

[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

[Footnote 1: _Ibid._, p. 20.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid._, 1802, p. 17.]

[Footnote 3: _Proceedings of the American Convention_, etc., 1809, p.

[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 cooeperating 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.

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.

[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 cooeperate 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.

[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.

[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.

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

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.]



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.

[Footnote 2: _Proceedings of the American Convention_, etc., 1819, p.

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.

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.

[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 Marechal, 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

[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 Marechal, 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


Back to Full Books