The Education Of The Negro Prior To 1861
Carter Godwin Woodson

Part 5 out of 7

abolitionists urged it as the only safe means of elevating the
freedmen. But when the blacks, converted to this doctrine, began to
enter the higher pursuits of labor during the forties and fifties,
there started a struggle which has been prolonged even into our day.
Most northern white men had ceased to oppose the enlightenment of the
free people of color but still objected to granting them economic
equality. The same investigators that discovered increased facilities
of conventional education for Negroes in 1834 reported also that there
existed among the white mechanics a formidable prejudice against
colored artisans.[1]

[Footnote 1: _Minutes of the Fourth Annual Convention for the
Improvement of the Free People of Color_, p. 26.]

In opposing the encroachment of Negroes on their field of labor the
northerners took their cue from the white mechanics in the South. At
first laborers of both races worked together in the same room and at
the same machine.[1] But in the nineteenth century, when more white
men in the South were condescending to do skilled labor and trying to
develop manufactures, they found themselves handicapped by competition
with the slave mechanics. Before 1860 most southern mechanics,
machinists, local manufacturers, contractors, and railroad men with
the exception of conductors were Negroes.[2] Against this custom
of making colored men such an economic factor the white mechanics
frequently protested.[3] The riots against Negroes occurring in
Cincinnati, Philadelphia, New York, and Washington during the thirties
and forties owed their origin mainly to an ill feeling between the
white and colored skilled laborers.[4] The white artisans prevailed
upon the legislatures of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Georgia to enact
measures hostile to their rivals.[5] In 1845 the State of Georgia made
it a misdemeanor for a colored mechanic to make a contract for the
repair or the erection of buildings.[6] The people of Georgia,
however, were not unanimously in favor of keeping the Negro artisan
down. We have already observed that at the request of the Agricultural
Convention of that State in 1852 the legislature all but passed a bill
providing for the education of slaves to increase their efficiency and
attach them to their masters.[7]

[Footnote 1: Buckingham, _Slave States of America_, vol. ii., p. 112.]

[Footnote 2: Du Bois and Dill, _The Negro American Artisan_, p. 36.]

[Footnote 3: Du Bois and Dill, _The Negro American Artisan_, pp. 31,
32, 33.]

[Footnote 4: Du Bois and Dill, _The Negro American Artisan_, p. 34,
and _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed._, 1871, p. 365.]

[Footnote 5: Du Bois and Dill, _The Negro American Artisan_, pp. 31,

[Footnote 6: Du Bois and Dill, _The Negro American Artisan_, p. 32.]

[Footnote 7: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed._, 1871, p. 339.]

It was unfortunate that the free people of color in the North had
not taken up vocational training earlier in the century before the
laboring classes realized fraternal consciousness. Once pitted against
the capitalists during the Administration of Andrew Jackson the
working classes learned to think that their interests differed
materially from those of the rich, whose privileges had multiplied at
the expense of the poor. Efforts toward effecting organizations to
secure to labor adequate protection began to be successful during
Van Buren's Administration. At this time some reformers were boldly
demanding the recognition of Negroes by all helpful groups. One of the
tests of the strength of these protagonists was whether or not they
could induce the mechanics of the North to take colored workmen to
supply the skilled laborers required by the then rapid economic
development of our free States. Would the whites permit the blacks
to continue as their competitors after labor had been elevated above
drudgery? To do this meant the continuation of the custom of taking
youths of African blood as apprentices. This the white mechanics of
the North generally refused to do.[1]

[Footnote 1: _Minutes of the Third Annual Convention of the Free
People of Color_, p. 18.]

The friends of the colored race, however, were not easily discouraged
by that "vulgar race prejudice which reigns in the breasts of working
classes."[1] Arthur Tappan, Gerrit Smith, and William Lloyd Garrison
made the appeal in behalf of the untrained laborers.[2] Although they
knew the difficulties encountered by Negroes seeking to learn trades,
and could daily observe how unwilling master mechanics were to receive
colored boys as apprentices, the abolitionists persisted in saying
that by perseverance these youths could succeed in procuring
profitable situations.[3] Garrison believed that their failure to find
employment at trades was not due so much to racial differences as to
their lack of training. Speaking to the free people of color in their
convention in Philadelphia in 1831, he could give them no better
advice than that "wherever you can, put your children to trades. A
good trade is better than a fortune, because when once obtained it
cannot be taken away." Discussing the matter further, he said: "Now,
there can be no reason why your sons should fail to make as ingenious
and industrious mechanics, as any white apprentices; and when they
once get trades, they will be able to accumulate money; money begets
influence, and influence respectability. Influence, wealth, and
character will certainly destroy those prejudices which now separate
you from society."[4]

[Footnote 1: _Minutes of the Fourth Annual Convention for the
Improvement of the Free People of Color_, p. 26.]

[Footnote 2: This statement is based on articles appearing in _The
Liberator_ from time to time.]

[Footnote 3: _Minutes of the Second Annual Convention for the
Improvement of the Free People of Color_, 1831, p. 10.]

[Footnote 4: _Minutes of the Second Annual Convention for the
Improvement of the Free People of Color_, 1831, p. II.]

To expect the cooeperation of the white working classes in thus
elevating the colored race turned out to be a delusion. They reached
the conclusion that in making their headway against capital they had a
better chance without Negroes than with them. White mechanics of the
North not only refused to accept colored boys as apprentices, but
would not even work for employers who persisted in hiring Negroes.
Generally refused by the master mechanics of Cincinnati, a colored
cabinet-maker finally found an Englishman who was willing to hire him,
but the employees of the shop objected, refusing to allow the newcomer
even to work in a room by himself.[1] A Negro who could preach in a
white church of the North would have had difficulty in securing the
contract to build a new edifice for that congregation. A colored man
could then more easily get his son into a lawyer's office to learn law
than he could "into a blacksmith shop to blow the bellows and wield
the sledge hammer."[2]

[Footnote 1: _The Liberator_, June 13, 1835.]

[Footnote 2: Douglass, _Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass_,
p. 248.]

Left then in a quandary as to what they should do, northern Negroes
hoped to use the then popular "manual labor schools" to furnish the
facilities for both practical and classical education. These schools
as operated for the whites, however, were not primarily trade schools.
Those which admitted persons of African descent paid more attention to
actual industrial training for the reason that colored students could
not then hope to acquire such knowledge as apprentices. This tendency
was well shown by the action of the free Negroes through their
delegates in the convention assembled in Philadelphia in 1830.
Conversant with the policy of so reshaping the educational system of
the country as to carry knowledge even to the hovels, these leaders
were easily won to the scheme of reconstructing their schools "on the
manual labor system." In this they saw the redemption of the free
Negroes of the North. These gentlemen were afraid that the colored
people were not paying sufficient attention to the development of the
power to use their hands skillfully.[1] One of the first acts of the
convention was to inquire as to how fast colored men were becoming
attached to mechanical pursuits,[2] and whether or not there was any
prospect that a manual labor school for the instruction of the youth
would shortly be established. The report of the committee, to which
the question was referred, was so encouraging that the convention
itself decided to establish an institution of the kind at New Haven,
Connecticut. They appealed to their fellows for help, called
the attention of philanthropists to this need of the race, and
commissioned William Lloyd Garrison to solicit funds in Great
Britain.[3] Garrison found hearty supporters among the friends of
freedom in that country. Some, who had been induced to contribute
to the Colonization Society, found it more advisable to aid the new
movement. Charles Stewart of Liverpool wrote Garrison that he could
count on his British co-workers to raise $1000 for this purpose.[4] At
the same time Americans were equally active. Arthur Tappan subscribed
$1000 on the condition that each of nineteen other persons should
contribute the same amount.[5]

[Footnote 1: _Minutes of the Fourth Annual Convention for the
Improvement of the Free People of Color_, p. 26; and _The Liberator_,
October 22, 1831; and _The Abolitionist_, November, 1833 (p. 191).]

[Footnote 2: _Minutes of the Fourth Annual Convention for the
Improvement of the Free People of Color_, p. 27.]

[Footnote 3: _Minutes of the Third Annual Convention for the
Improvement of the Free People of Color_, p. 34.]

[Footnote 4: _The Abolitionist_ (November 1833), p. 191.]

[Footnote 5: _The Liberator_, October 22, 1831.]

Before these well-laid plans could mature, however, unexpected
opposition developed in New Haven. Indignation meetings were held,
protests against this project were filed, and the free people of color
were notified that the institution was not desired in Connecticut.[1]
It was said that these memorialists feared that a colored college so
near to Yale might cause friction between the two student bodies, and
that the school might attract an unusually large number of undesirable
Negroes. At their meeting the citizens of New Haven resolved "That the
founding of colleges for educating colored people is an unwarrantable
and dangerous undertaking to the internal concerns of other states and
ought to be discouraged, and that the mayor, aldermen, common council,
and freemen will resist the movement by every lawful means."[2] In
view of such drastic action the promoters had to abandon their plan.
No such protests were made by the citizens of New Haven, however, when
the colonizationists were planning to establish there a mission school
to prepare Negroes to leave the country.

[Footnote 1: Monroe, _Cyclopaedia of Education_, vol. iv., p. 406.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid._, vol. iv., p. 406; and _The Liberator_, July 9,

The movement, however, was not then stopped by this outburst of race
prejudice in New Haven. Directing attention to another community, the
New England Antislavery Society took up this scheme and collected
funds to establish a manual labor school. When the officials had on
hand about $1000 it was discovered that they could accomplish their
aim by subsidizing the Noyes Academy of Canaan, New Hampshire, and
making such changes as were necessary to subserve the purposes
intended.[1] The plan was not to convert this into a colored school.
The promoters hoped to maintain there a model academy for the
co-education of the races "on the manual labor system." The treasurer
of the Antislavery Society was to turn over certain moneys to this
academy to provide for the needs of the colored students, who then
numbered fourteen of the fifty-two enrolled. But although it had
been reported that the people of the town were in accord with the
principal's acceptance of this proposition, there were soon evidences
to the contrary. Fearing imaginary evils, these modern Canaanites
destroyed the academy, dragging the building to a swamp with a hundred
yoke of oxen.[2] The better element of the town registered against
this outrage only a slight protest. H.H. Garnett and Alexander
Crummell were among the colored students who sought education at this

[Footnote 1: _The Liberator_, July 4, 1835.]

[Footnote 2: _Minutes and Proceedings of the Third Annual Convention
for the Improvement of the Free People of Color_, p. 34; and Monroe,
_Cyclopaedia of Education_, vol. iv., p. 406.]

This work was more successful in the State of New York. There,
too, the cause was championed by the abolitionists.[1] After the
emancipation of all Negroes in that commonwealth by 1827 the New York
Antislavery Society devoted more time to the elevation of the free
people of color. The rapid rise of the laboring classes in this
swiftly growing city made it evident to their benefactors that they
had to be speedily equipped for competition with white mechanics or be
doomed to follow menial employments. The only one of that section to
offer Negroes anything like the opportunity for industrial training,
however, was Gerrit Smith.[2] He was fortunate in having sufficient
wealth to carry out the plan. In 1834 he established in Madison
County, New York, an institution known as the Peterboro Manual Labor
School. The working at trades was provided not altogether to teach the
mechanic arts, but to enable the students to support themselves while
attending school. As a compensation for instruction, books, room,
fuel, light, and board furnished by the founder, the student was
expected to labor four hours daily at some agricultural or mechanical
employment "important to his education."[3] The faculty estimated the
four hours of labor as worth on an average of about 12-1/2 cents for
each student.

[Footnote 1: _Minutes and Proceedings of the Third Annual Convention
for the Improvement of the Free People of Color_, p. 25.]

[Footnote 2: _African Repository_, vol. x., p. 312.]

[Footnote 3: _Ibid._, vol. x., p. 312.]

Efforts were then being made for the establishment of another
institution near Philadelphia. These endeavors culminated in the
above-mentioned benefaction of Richard Humphreys, by the will of
whom $10,000 was devised to establish a school for the purpose of
instructing "descendants of the African race in school learning in
the various branches of the mechanical arts and trades and
agriculture."[1] In 1839 members of the Society of Friends organized
an association to establish a school such as Humphreys had planned.
The founders believed that "the most successful method of elevating
the moral and intellectual character of the descendants of Africa, as
well as of improving their social condition, is to extend to them the
benefits of a good education, and to instruct them in the knowledge of
some useful trade or business, whereby they may be enabled to obtain a
comfortable livelihood by their own industry; and through these means
to prepare them for fulfilling the various duties of domestic and
social life with reputation and fidelity as good citizens and pious
men."[2] Directing their attention first to things practical the
association purchased in 1839 a piece of land in Bristol township,
Philadelphia County, where they offered boys instruction in farming,
shoemaking, and other useful trades. Their endeavors, so far as
training in the mechanic arts was concerned, proved to be a failure.
In 1846, therefore, the management decided to discontinue this
literary, agricultural, and manual labor experiment. The trustees then
sold the farm and stock, apprenticed the male students to mechanical
occupations, and opened an evening school. Thinking mainly of
classical education thereafter, the trustees of the fund finally
established the Institute for Colored Youth of which we have spoken

[Footnote 1: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed._, 1871, p. 379.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid._, 1871, p. 379.]

Some of the philanthropists who promoted the practical education
of the colored people were found in the Negro settlements of the
Northwest. Their first successful attempt in that section was the
establishment of the Emlen Institute in Mercer County, Ohio. The
founding of this institution was due manly to the efforts of Augustus
Wattles who was instrumental in getting a number of emigrating
freedmen to leave Cincinnati and settle in this county about 1835.[1]
Wattles traveled in almost every colored neighborhood of the State and
laid before them the benefits of permanent homes and the education for
their children. On his first journey he organized, with the assistance
of abolitionists, twenty-five schools for colored children. Interested
thereafter in providing a head for this system he purchased for
himself ninety acres of land in Mercer County to establish a manual
labor institution. He sustained a school on it at his own expense,
till the 11th of November, 1842. Wattles then visited Philadelphia
where he became acquainted with the trustees of the late Samuel Emlen,
a Friend of New Jersey. He had left by his will $20,000 "for the
support and education in school learning and mechanic arts and
agriculture of boys of African and Indian descent whose parents
would give such youths to the Institute."[2] The means of the two
philanthropists were united. The trustees purchased a farm and
appointed Wattles as superintendent of the establishment, calling it
Emlen Institute. Located in a section where the Negroes had sufficient
interest in education to support a number of elementary schools, this
institution once had considerable influence.[3] It was removed to
Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in 1858 and then to Warminster in the same
county in 1873.

[Footnote 1: Howe, _Ohio Historical Collections_, p. 355.]

[Footnote 2: Howe, _Ohio Historical Collections_, p. 356.]

[Footnote 3: Wickersham, _History of Education in Pa._, p. 254.]

Another school of this type was founded in the Northwest. This was the
Union Literary Institute of Spartanburg, Indiana. The institution owes
its origin to a group of bold, antislavery men who "in the heat of
the abolition excitement"[1] stood firm for the Negro. They soon had
opposition from the proslavery leaders who impeded the progress of
the institution. But thanks to the indefatigable Ebenezer Tucker,
its first principal, the "Nigger School" weathered the storm. The
Institute, however, was founded to educate both races. Its charter
required that no distinction should be made on account of race, color,
rank, or religion. Accordingly, although the student body was from
the beginning of the school partly white, the board of trustees
represented denominations of both races. Accessible statistics do not
show that colored persons ever constituted more than one-third of
the students.[2] It was one of the most durable of the manual labor
schools, having continued after the Civil War, carrying out to some
extent the original designs of its founders. As the plan to continue
it as a private institution proved later to be impracticable the
establishment was changed into a public school.[3]

[Footnote 1: Boone, _The History of Education in Indiana_, p. 77.]

[Footnote 2: According to the _Report of the United States
Commissioner of Education_ in 1893 the colored students then
constituted about one-third of those then registered at this
institution. See p. 1944 of this report.]

[Footnote 3: Records of the United States Bureau of Education.]

Scarcely less popular was the British and American Manual Labor
Institute of the colored settlements in Upper Canada. This school was
projected by Rev. Hiram Wilson and Josiah Henson as early as 1838, but
its organization was not undertaken until 1842. The refugees were then
called together to decide upon the expenditure of $1500 collected in
England by James C. Fuller, a Quaker. They decided to establish at
Dawn "a manual labor school, where children could be taught those
elements of knowledge which are usually the occupations of a grammar
school, and where boys could be taught in addition the practice of
some mechanic art, and the girls could be instructed in those domestic
arts which are the proper occupation and ornament of their sex."[1] A
tract of three hundred acres of land was purchased, a few buildings
were constructed, and pupils were soon admitted. The managers
endeavored to make the school, "self-supporting by the employment of
the students for certain portions of the time on the land."[2] The
advantage of schooling of this kind attracted to Dresden and Dawn
sufficient refugees to make these prosperous settlements. Rev. Hiram
Wilson, the first principal of the institution, began with fourteen
"boarding scholars" when there were no more than fifty colored persons
in all the vicinity. In 1852 when the population of this community
had increased to five hundred there were sixty students attending
the school. Indian and white children were also admitted. Among the
students there were also adults varying later in number from
fifty-six to one hundred and sixteen.[3] This institution became very
influential among the Negroes of Canada. Travelers mentioned the
Institute in accounting for the prosperity and good morals of the
refugees.[4] Unfortunately, however, after the year 1855 when the
school reached its zenith, it began to decline on account of bad
feeling probably resulting from a divided management.

[Footnote 1: Henson, _Life of Josiah Henson_, pp. 73, 74.]

[Footnote 2: Henson, _Life of Josiah Henson_, p. 115.]

[Footnote 3: _Ibid._, p. 117.]

[Footnote 4: Drew, _A North-Side View of Slavery_, p. 309; and Coffin,
_Reminiscences_, pp. 249, 250.]

Studying these facts concerning the manual labor system of education,
the student of education sees that it was not generally successful.
This may be accounted for in various ways. One might say that colored
people were not desired in the higher pursuits of labor and that their
preparation for such vocations never received the support of the rank
and file of the Negroes of the North. They saw then, as they often
do now, the seeming impracticability of preparing themselves for
occupations which they apparently had no chance to follow. Moreover,
bright freedmen were not at first attracted to mechanical occupations.
Ambitious Negroes who triumphed over slavery and made their way to the
North for educational advantages hoped to enter the higher walks of
life. Only a few of the race had the foresight of the advocates of
industrial training. The majority of the enlightened class desired
that they be no longer considered as "persons occupying a menial
position, but as capable of the highest development of man."[1]
Furthermore, bitterly as some white men hated slavery, and deeply as
they seemingly sympathized with the oppressed, they were loath to
support a policy which they believed was fatal to their economic

[Footnote 1: _Minutes and Proceedings of the Third Annual Convention_,
etc., p. 25.]

[Footnote 2: _The Fifth Report of the American Antislavery Society_,
p. 115; Douglass, _The Life and Times of_, p. 248.]

The chief reason for the failure of the new educational policy was
that the managers of the manual labor schools made the mistakes often
committed by promoters of industrial education of our day. At first
they proceeded on the presumption that one could obtain a classical
education while learning a trade and at the same time earn sufficient
to support himself at school. Some of the managers of industrial
schools have not yet learned that students cannot produce articles for
market. The best we can expect from an industrial school to-day is a
good apprentice.

Another handicap was that at that time conditions were seldom
sufficiently favorable to enable the employer to derive profit enough
from students' work to compensate for the maintenance of the youth
at a manual labor school. Besides, such a school could not be
far-reaching in its results because it could not be so conducted as to
accommodate a large number of students. With a slight change in its
aims the manual labor schools might have been more successful in
the large urban communities, but the aim of their advocates was to
establish them in the country where sufficient land for agricultural
training could be had, and where students would not be corrupted by
the vices of the city.

It was equally unfortunate that the teachers who were chosen to carry
out this educational policy lacked the preparation adequate to
their task. They had any amount of spirit, but an evident lack of
understanding as to the meaning of this new education. They failed
to unite the qualifications for both the industrial and academic
instruction. It was the fault that we find to-day in our industrial
schools. Those who were responsible for the literary training knew
little of and cared still less for the work in mechanic arts, and
those who were employed to teach trades seldom had sufficient
education to impart what they knew. The students, too, in their
efforts to pursue these uncorrelated courses seldom succeeded in
making much advance in either. We have no evidence that many Negroes
were equipped for higher service in the manual labor schools.
Statistics of 1850 and 1860 show that there was an increase in the
number of colored mechanics, especially in Philadelphia, Cincinnati,
Columbus, the Western Reserve, and Canada.[1] But this was probably
due to the decreasing prejudice of the local white mechanics toward
the Negro artisans fleeing from the South rather than to formal
industrial training.[2]

[Footnote 1: Clarke, _Present Condition of the Free People of Color of
the United States_, 1859, pp. 9, 10, 11, 13, and 29.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid._, pp. 9, 10, and 23.]

Schools of this kind tended gradually to abandon the idea of combining
labor and learning, leaving such provisions mainly as catalogue
fictions. Many of the western colleges were founded as manual
labor schools, but the remains of these beginnings are few and
insignificant. Oberlin, which was once operated on this basis, still
retains the seal of "Learning and Labor," with a college building in
the foreground and a field of grain in the distance. A number of our
institutions have recitations now in the forenoon that students may
devote the afternoon to labor. In some schools Monday instead of
Saturday is the open day of the week because this was wash-day for the
manual labor colleges. Even after the Civil War some schools had their
long vacation in the winter instead of the summer because the latter
was the time for manual labor. The people of our day know little about
this unsuccessful system.

It is evident, therefore, that the leaders who had up to that time
dictated the policy of the social betterment of the colored people had
failed to find the key to the situation. This task fell to the lot
of Frederick Douglass, who, wiser in his generation than most of his
contemporaries, advocated actual vocational training as the greatest
leverage for the elevation of the colored people. Douglass was given
an opportunity to bring his ideas before the public on the occasion of
a visit to Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe. She was then preparing to go
to England in response to an invitation from her admirers, who were
anxious to see this famous author of _Uncle Tom's Cabin_ and to give
her a testimonial. Thinking that she would receive large sums of money
in England she desired to get Mr. Douglass's views as to how it could
be most profitably spent for the advancement of the free people of
color. She was especially interested in those who had become free by
their own exertions. Mrs. Stowe informed her guest that several had
suggested the establishment of an educational institution pure and
simple, but that she had not been able to concur with them, thinking
that it would be better to open an industrial school. Douglass was
opposed both to the establishment of such a college as was suggested,
and to that of an ordinary industrial school where pupils should
merely "earn the means of obtaining an education in books." He desired
what we now call the vocational school, "a series of workshops where
colored men could learn some of the handicrafts, learn to work in
iron, wood, and leather, while incidentally acquiring a plain English

[Footnote 1: Douglass, _The Life and Times of_, p. 248.]

Under Douglass's leadership the movement had a new goal. The learning
of trades was no longer to be subsidiary to conventional education.
Just the reverse was true. Moreover, it was not to be entrusted to
individuals operating on a small scale; it was to be a public effort
of larger scope. The aim was to make the education of Negroes so
articulate with their needs as to improve their economic condition.
Seeing that despite the successful endeavors of many freedmen to
acquire higher education that the race was still kept in penury,
Douglass believed that by reconstructing their educational policy the
friends of the race could teach the colored people to help themselves.
Pecuniary embarrassment, he thought, was the cause of all evil to
the blacks, "for poverty kept them ignorant and their lack of
enlightenment kept them degraded." The deliverance from these evils,
he contended, could be effected not by such a fancied or artificial
elevation as the mere diffusion of information by institutions beyond
the immediate needs of the poor. The awful plight of the Negroes, as
he saw it, resulted directly from not having the opportunity to learn
trades, and from "narrowing their limits to earn a livelihood."
Douglass deplored the fact that even menial employments were rapidly
passing away from the colored people. Under the caption of "Learn
Trades or Starve," he tried to drive home the truth that if the
free people of color did not soon heed his advice, foreigners then
immigrating in large numbers would elbow them from all lucrative
positions. In his own words, "every day begins with the lesson and
ends with the lesson that colored men must find new employments, new
modes of usefulness to society, or that they must decay under the
pressing wants to which their condition is bringing them."[1]

[Footnote 1: Douglass, _The Life and Times of_, p. 248.]

Douglass believed in higher education and looked forward to that stage
in the development of the Negroes when high schools and colleges could
contribute to their progress. He knew, however, that it was foolish
to think that persons accustomed to the rougher and harder modes of
living could in a single leap from their low condition reach that of
professional men. The attainment of such positions, he thought, was
contingent upon laying a foundation in things material by passing
"through the intermediate gradations of agriculture and the mechanic
arts."[1] He was sure that the higher institutions then open to the
colored people would be adequate to the task of providing for them all
the professional men they then needed, and that the facilities for
higher education so far as the schools and colleges in the free States
were concerned would increase quite in proportion to the future needs
of the race.

[Footnote 1: _Ibid._, p. 249.]

Douglass deplored the fact that education and emigration had gone
together. As soon as a colored man of genius like Russworm, Garnett,
Ward, or Crummell appeared, the so-called friends of the race reached
the conclusion that he could better serve his race elsewhere. Seeing
themselves pitted against odds, such bright men had had to seek
more congenial countries. The training of Negroes merely to aid the
colonization scheme would have little bearing on the situation at home
unless its promoters could transplant the majority of the free people
of color. The aim then should be not to transplant the race but to
adopt a policy such as he had proposed to elevate it in the United

[Footnote 1: Douglass, _The Life and Times_, p. 250.]

Vocational education, Douglass thought, would disprove the so-called
mental inferiority of the Negroes. He believed that the blacks should
show by action that they were equal to the whites rather than depend
on the defense of friends who based their arguments not on facts but
on certain admitted principles. Believing in the mechanical genius of
the Negroes he hoped that in the establishment of this institution
they would have an opportunity for development. In it he saw a benefit
not only to the free colored people of the North, but also to the
slaves. The strongest argument used by the slaveholder in defense of
his precious institution was the low condition of the free people of
color of the North. Remove this excuse by elevating them and you
will hasten the liberation of the slaves. The best refutation of
the proslavery argument is the "presentation of an industrious,
enterprising, thrifty, and intelligent free black population."[1] An
element of this kind, he believed, would rise under the fostering care
of vocational teachers.

[Footnote 1: Douglass, _The Life and Times of_, p. 251.]

With Douglass this proposition did not descend to the plane of mere
suggestion. Audiences which he addressed from time to time were
informed as to the necessity of providing for the colored people
facilities of practical education.[1] The columns of his paper
rendered the cause noble service. He entered upon the advocacy of it
with all the zeal of an educational reformer, endeavoring to show how
this policy would please all concerned. Anxious fathers whose minds
had been exercised by the inquiry as to what to do with their sons
would welcome the opportunity to have them taught trades. It would be
in line with the "eminently practical philanthropy of the Negroes'
trans-Atlantic friends." America would scarcely object to it as an
attempt to agitate the mind on slavery or to destroy the Union. "It
could not be tortured into a cause for hard words by the American
people," but the noble and good of all classes would see in the effort
"an excellent motive, a benevolent object, temperately, wisely, and
practically manifested."[2] The leading free people of color heeded
this message. Appealing to them through their delegates assembled in
Rochester in 1853, Douglass secured a warm endorsement of his plan in
eloquent speeches and resolutions passed by the convention.

[Footnote 1: _African Repository_, vol. xxix., p. 136.]

[Footnote 2: Douglass, _Life and Times of_, p. 252.]

This great enterprise, like all others, was soon to encounter
opposition. Mrs. Stowe was attacked as soliciting money abroad for her
own private use. So bitter were these proslavery diatribes that Henry
Ward Beecher and Frederick Douglass had some difficulty in convincing
the world that her maligners had no grounds for this vicious
accusation. Furthermore, on taking up the matter with Mrs. Stowe after
her return to the United States, Douglass was disappointed to learn
that she had abandoned her plan to found a vocational institution.
He was never able to see any force in the reasons for the change of
policy; but believed that Mrs. Stowe acted conscientiously, although
her action was decidedly embarrassing to him both at home and

[Footnote 1: _Ibid_., p. 252.]



The persistent struggle of the colored people to have their children
educated at public expense shows how resolved they were to be
enlightened. In the beginning Negroes had no aspiration to secure such
assistance. Because the free public schools were first regarded as a
system to educate the poor, the friends of the free blacks turned
them away from these institutions lest men might reproach them with
becoming a public charge. Moreover, philanthropists deemed it wise to
provide separate schools for Negroes to bring them into contact with
sympathetic persons, who knew their peculiar needs. In the course of
time, however, when the stigma of charity was removed as a result
of the development of the free schools at public expense, Negroes
concluded that it was not dishonorable to share the benefits of
institutions which they were taxed to support.[1] Unable then to cope
with systems thus maintained for the education of the white youth, the
directors of colored schools requested that something be appropriated
for the education of Negroes. Complying with these petitions boards
of education provided for colored schools which were to be partly or
wholly supported at public expense. But it was not long before the
abolitionists saw that they had made a mistake in carrying out this
policy. The amount appropriated to the support of the special schools
was generally inadequate to supply them with the necessary equipment
and competent teachers, and in most communities the white people
had begun to regard the co-education of the races as undesirable.
Confronted then with this caste prejudice, one of the hardest
struggles of the Negroes and their sympathizers was that for
democratic education.

[Footnote 1: The Negroes of Baltimore were just prior to the Civil War
paying $500 in taxes annually to support public schools which their
children could not attend.]

The friends of the colored people in Pennsylvania were among the first
to direct the attention of the State to the duty of enlightening the
blacks as well as the whites. In 1802, 1804, and 1809, respectively,
the State passed, in the interest of the poor, acts which although
interpreted to exclude Negroes from the benefits therein provided,
were construed, nevertheless, by friends of the race as authorizing
their education at public expense. Convinced of the truth of this
contention, officials in different parts of the State began to yield
in the next decade. At Columbia, Pennsylvania, the names of such
colored children as were entitled to the benefits of the law for the
education of the poor were taken in 1818 to enable them to attend the
free public schools. Following the same policy, the Abolition Society
of Philadelphia, seeing that the city had established public schools
for white children in 1818, applied two years later for the share of
the fund to which the children of African descent were entitled by
law. The request was granted. The Comptroller opened in Lombard Street
in 1822 a school for children of color, maintained at the expense of
the State. This furnished a precedent for other such schools which
were established in 1833, and 1841.[1] Harrisburg had a colored school
early in the century, but upon the establishment of the Lancastrian
school in that city in the thirties, the colored as well as the
white children were required to attend it or pay for their education

[Footnote 1: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed_., 1871, p. 379.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., p. 379.]

In 1834 the legislature of Pennsylvania established a system of public
schools, but the claims of the Negroes to public education were
neither guaranteed nor denied.[1] The school law of 1854, however,
seems to imply that the benefits of the system had always been
understood to extend to colored children.[2] This measure provided
that the comptrollers and directors of the several school districts of
the State could establish within their respective districts separate
schools for Negro and mulatto children wherever they could be so
located as to accommodate twenty or more pupils. Another provision was
that wherever such schools should "be established and kept open four
months in the year" the directors and comptrollers should not be
compelled to admit colored pupils to any other schools of that
district. The law was interpreted to mean that wherever such
accommodations were not provided the children of Negroes could attend
the other schools. Such was the case in the rural districts where a
few colored children often found it pleasant and profitable to attend
school with their white friends.[3] The children of Robert B. Purvis,
however, were turned away from the public schools of Philadelphia
on the ground that special educational facilities for them had been
provided.[4] It was not until 1881 that Pennsylvania finally swept
away all the distinctions of caste from her public school system.

[Footnote 1: _Purdon's Digest of the Laws of Pa_., p. 291, sections

[Footnote 2: Stroud and Brightly, _Purdon's Digest_, p. 1064, section

[Footnote 3: Wickersham, _History of Education in Pa_., p. 253.]

[Footnote 4: Wigham, _The Antislavery Cause in America_, p. 103.]

As the colored population of New Jersey was never large, there was not
sufficient concentration of such persons in that State to give rise
to the problems which at times confronted the benevolent people of
Pennsylvania. Great as had been the reaction, the Negroes of New
Jersey never entirely lost the privilege of attending school with
white students. The New Jersey Constitution of 1844 provided that the
funds for the support of the public schools should be applied for the
equal benefit of all the people of that State.[1] Considered then
entitled to the benefits of this fund, colored pupils were early
admitted into the public schools without any social distinction.[2]
This does not mean that there were no colored schools in that
commonwealth. Negroes in a few settlements like that of Springtown had
their own schools.[3] Separate schools were declared illegal by an act
of the General Assembly in 1881.

[Footnote 1: Thorpe, _Federal and State Constitutions_, vol. v., p.

[Footnote 2: _Southern Workman_, vol. xxxvii., p. 390.]

[Footnote 3: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed_., 1871, p. 400.]

Certain communities of New York provided separate schools for colored
pupils rather than admit them to those open to white children. On
recommendation of the superintendent of schools in 1823 the State
adopted the policy of organizing schools exclusively for colored
people.[1] In places where they already existed, the State could aid
the establishment as did the New York Common Council in 1824, when it
appropriated a portion of its fund to the support of the African Free
Schools.[2] In 1841 the New York legislature authorized any district,
with the approbation of the school commissioners, to establish a
separate school for the colored children in their locality. The
superintendent's report for 1847 shows that schools for Negroes had
been established in fifteen counties in the State, reporting an
enrollment of 5000 pupils. For the maintenance of these schools
the sum of $17,000 had been annually expended. Colored pupils were
enumerated by the trustees in their annual reports, drew public money
for the district in which they resided, and were equally entitled
with white children to the benefit of the school fund. In the rural
districts colored children were generally admitted to the common
schools. Wherever race prejudice, however, was sufficiently violent to
exclude them from the village school, the trustees were empowered
to use the Negroes' share of the public money to provide for their
education elsewhere. At the same time indigent Negroes were to be
exempted from the payment of the "rate bill" which fell as a charge
upon the other citizens of the district.[3]

[Footnote 1: Randall, _Hist. of Common School System of New York_, p.

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., p. 48.]

[Footnote 3: Randall, _Hist. of Common School System of New York_, p.

Some trouble had arisen from making special appropriations for
incorporated villages. Such appropriations, the superintendent had
observed, excited prejudice and parsimony; for the trustees of some
villages had learned to expend only the special appropriations for
the education of the colored pupils, and to use the public money
in establishing and maintaining schools for the white children. He
believed that it was wrong to argue that Negroes were any more a
burden to incorporated villages than to cities or rural districts, and
that they were, therefore, entitled to every allowance of money to
educate them.[1]

[Footnote 1: Randall, _Hist. of Common School System of New York_, p.

In New York City much had already been done to enlighten the Negroes
through the schools of the Manumission Society. But as the increasing
population of color necessitated additional facilities, the
Manumission Society obtained from the fund of the Public School
Society partial support of its system. The next step was to unite the
African Free Schools with those of the Public School Society to reduce
the number of organizations participating in the support of Negro
education. Despite the argument of some that the two systems should
be kept separate, the property and schools of the Manumission Society
were transferred to the New York Public School Society in 1834.[2]
Thereafter the schools did not do as well as they had done before. The
administrative part of the work almost ceased, the schools lost in
efficiency, and the former attendance of 1400 startlingly dropped. An
investigation made in 1835 showed that many Negroes, intimidated by
frequent race riots incident to the reactionary movement, had left the
city, while others kept their children at home for safety. It seemed,
too, that they looked upon the new system as an innovation, did not
like the action of the Public School Society in reducing their schools
of advanced grade to that of the primary, and bore it grievously that
so many of the old teachers in whom they had confidence, had been
dropped. To bring order out of chaos the investigating committee
advised the assimilation of the separate schools to the white.
Thereupon the society undertook to remake the colored schools,
organizing them into a system which offered instruction in primary,
intermediate, and grammar departments. The task of reconstruction,
however, was not completed until 1853, when the property of the
colored schools was transferred to the Board of Education of New

[Footnote 1: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed_., 1871, p. 366.]

[Footnote 2: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed_., 1871, p. 366.]

The second transfer marked an epoch in the development of Negro
education in New York. The Board of Education proceeded immediately
to perfect the system begun at the time of the first change. The new
directors reclassified the lower grades, opened other grammar schools,
and established a normal school according to the recommendation of
the investigating committee of 1835. Supervision being more rigid
thereafter, the schools made some progress, but failed to accomplish
what was expected of them. They were carelessly intrusted for
supervision to the care of ward officers, some of whom partly
neglected this duty, while others gave the work no attention whatever.
It was unfortunate, too, that some of these schools were situated in
parts of the city where the people were not interested in the uplift
of the despised race, and in a few cases in wards which were almost
proslavery. Better results followed after the colored schools were
brought under the direct supervision of the Board of Education.

Before the close of the Civil War the sentiment of the people of the
State of New York had changed sufficiently to permit colored children
to attend the regular public schools in several communities. This,
however, was not general. It was, therefore, provided in the revised
code of that State in 1864 that the board of education of any city or
incorporated village might establish separate schools for children and
youth of African descent provided such schools be supported in the
same manner as those maintained for white children. The last vestige
of caste in the public schools of New York was not exterminated until
1900, in the administration of Theodore Roosevelt as Governor of New
York. The legislature then passed an act providing that no one should
be denied admittance to any public school on account of race, color,
or previous condition of servitude.[1]

[Footnote 1: _Laws of New York_, 1900, ch. 492.]

In Rhode Island, where the black population was proportionately larger
than in some other New England States, special schools for persons of
color continued. These efforts met with success at Newport. In the
year 1828 a separate school for colored children was established at
Providence and placed in charge of a teacher receiving a salary of
$400 per annum.[1] A decade later another such school was opened on
Pond Street in the same city. About this time the school law of Rhode
Island was modified so as to make it a little more favorable to the
people of color. The State temporarily adopted a rule by which the
school fund was thereafter not distributed, as formerly, according
to the number of inhabitants below the age of sixteen. It was to be
apportioned, thereafter, according to the number of white persons
under the age of ten years, "together with five-fourteenths of the
said [colored] population between the ages of ten and twenty-four
years." This law remained in force between the years 1832 and 1845.
Under the new system these schools seemingly made progress. In 1841
they were no longer giving the mere essentials of reading and writing,
but combined the instruction of both the grammar and the primary

[Footnote 1: Stockwell, _Hist. of Education in R.I_., p. 169.]

[Footnote 2: Stockwell, _Hist. of Education in R.I_., p. 51.]

Thereafter Rhode Island had to pass through the intense antislavery
struggle which had for its ultimate aim both the freedom of the Negro
and the democratization of the public schools. Petitions were sent to
the legislature, and appeals were made to representatives asking for
a repeal of those laws which permitted the segregation of the colored
children in the public schools. But intense as this agitation became,
and urgently as it was put before the public, it failed to gain
sufficient momentum to break down the barriers prior to 1866 when the
legislature of Rhode Island passed an act abolishing separate schools
for Negroes.[1]

[Footnote 1: _Public Laws of the State of Rhode Island_, 1865-66, p.

Prior to the reactionary movement the schools of Connecticut were,
like most others in New England at that time, open alike to black and
white. It seems, too, that colored children were well received and
instructed as thoroughly as their white friends. But in 1830, whether
on account of the increasing race prejudice or the desire to do for
themselves, the colored people of Hartford presented to the School
Society of that city a petition that a separate school for persons of
color be established with a part of the public school fund which might
be apportioned to them according to their number. Finding this request
reasonable, the School Society decided to take the necessary steps to
comply with it. As such an agreement would have no standing at law
the matter was recommended to the legislature of the State, which
authorized the establishment in that commonwealth of several separate
schools for persons of color.[1] This arrangement, however, soon
proved unsatisfactory. Because of the small number of Negroes in
Connecticut towns, they found their pro rata inadequate to the
maintenance of separate schools. No buildings were provided for them,
such schools as they had were not properly supervised, the teachers
were poorly paid, and with the exception of a little help from a few
philanthropists, the white citizens failed to aid the cause. In 1846,
therefore, the pastor of the colored Congregational Church sent to the
School Society of Hartford a memorial calling attention to the fact
that for lack of means the colored schools had been unable to secure
suitable quarters and competent teachers. Consequently the education
of their children had been exceedingly irregular, deficient, and
onerous. The School Society had done nothing for these institutions
but to turn over to them every year their small share of the public
fund. These gentlemen then decided to raise by taxation an amount
adequate to the support of two better equipped schools and proceeded
at once to provide for its collection and expenditure.[2]

[Footnote 1: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed_., 1871, p. 334.]

[Footnote 2: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed_., 1871, p. 334.]

The results gave general satisfaction for a while. But as it was a
time when much was being done to develop the public schools of New
England, the colored people of Hartford could not remain contented.
They saw the white pupils housed in comfortable buildings and
attending properly graded classes, while their own children continued
to be crowded into small insanitary rooms and taught as unclassified
students. The Negroes, therefore, petitioned for a more suitable
building and a better organization of their schools. As this request
came at the time when the abolitionists were working hard to
exterminate caste from the schools of New England, the School
Committee called a meeting of the memorialists to decide whether they
desired to send their children to the white or separate schools.[1]
They decided in favor of the latter, provided that the colored people
should have a building adequate to their needs and instruction of the
best kind.[2] Complying with this decision the School Society erected
the much-needed building in 1852. To provide for the maintenance of
the separate schools the property of the citizens was taxed at such a
rate as to secure to the colored pupils of the city benefits similar
to those enjoyed by the white pupils.[3]

[Footnote 1: _Minority Report_, etc., p. 21.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., p. 22.]

[Footnote 3: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed_., 1871, p. 334.]

Ardent antislavery men believed that this segregation in the schools
was undemocratic. They asserted that the colored people would never
have made such a request had the teachers of the public schools taken
the proper interest in them. The Negroes, too, had long since been
convinced that the white people would not maintain separate schools
with the same equipment which they gave their own. This arrangement,
however, continued until 1868. The legislature then passed an act
declaring that the schools of the State should be open to all persons
alike between the ages of four and sixteen, and that no person should
be denied instruction in any public school in his school district on
account of race or color.[1]

[Footnote 1: _Public Acts of the General Assembly of Conn_., 1868, p.

In the State of Massachusetts the contest was most ardent. Boston
opened its first primary school for colored children in 1820. In other
towns like Salem and Nantucket, New Bedford and Lowell, where the
colored population was also considerable, the same policy was carried
out.[1] Some years later, however, both the Negroes and their friends
saw the error of their early advocacy of the establishment of special
schools to escape the stigma of receiving charity. After the change
in the attitude toward the public free schools and the further
development of caste in American education, there arose in
Massachusetts a struggle between leaders determined to restrict the
Negroes' privileges to the use of poorly equipped separate schools and
those contending for equality in education.

[Footnote 1: _Minority Report_, etc., p. 35.]

Basing their action on the equality of men before the law, the
advocates of democratic education held meetings from which went
frequent and urgent petitions to school committees until Negroes were
accepted in the public schools in all towns in Massachusetts except
Boston.[1] Children of African blood were successfully admitted to the
New Bedford schools on equality with the white youth in 1838.[2] In
1846 the school committee of that town reported that the colored
pupils were regular in their attendance, and as successful in their
work as the whites. There were then ninety in all in that system; four
in the high school, forty in grammar schools, and the remainder in the
primary department, all being scattered in such a way as to have one
to four in twenty-one to twenty-eight schools. At Lowell the children
of a colored family were not only among the best in the schools but
the greatest favorites in the system.[3]

[Footnote 1: _Ibid_., p. 20, and _Niles Register_, vol. lxvi., p.

[Footnote 2: _Minority Report_, etc., p. 23.]

[Footnote 3: _Minority Report_, etc., p. 25.]

The consolidation of the colored school of Salem with the others of
that city led to no disturbance. Speaking of the democracy of these
schools in 1846 Mr. Richard Fletcher said: "The principle of perfect
equality is the vital principle of the system. Here all classes of
the community mingle together. The rich and the poor meet on terms of
equality and are prepared by the same instruction to discharge the
duties of life. It is the principle of equality cherished in the free
schools on which our government and free institutions rest. Destroy
this principle in the schools and the people would soon cease to be
free." At Nantucket, however, some trouble was experienced because of
the admission of pupils of color in 1843. Certain patrons criticized
the action adversely and withdrew fourteen of their children from the
South Grammar School. The system, however, prospered thereafter rather
than declined.[1] Many had no trouble in making the change.[2]

[Footnote 1: _Ibid_., p. 6.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., p. 23.]

These victories having been won in other towns of the State by 1846,
it soon became evident that Boston would have to yield. Not only were
abolitionists pointing to the ease with which this gain had been made
in other towns, but were directing attention to the fact that in these
smaller communities Negroes were both learning the fundamentals and
advancing through the lower grades into the high school. Boston, which
had a larger black population than all other towns in Massachusetts
combined, had never seen a colored pupil prepared for a secondary
institution in one of its public schools. It was, therefore, evident
to fair-minded persons that in cities of separate systems Negroes
would derive practically no benefit from the school tax which they

This agitation for the abolition of caste in the public schools
assumed its most violent form in Boston during the forties. The
abolitionists then organized a more strenuous opposition to the caste
system. Why Sarah Redmond and the other children of a family paying
tax to support the schools of Boston should be turned away from a
public school simply because they were persons of color was a problem
too difficult for a fair-minded man.[1] The war of words came,
however, when in response to a petition of Edmund Jackson, H.J.
Bowditch, and other citizens for the admission of colored people to
the public schools in 1844, the majority of the school committee
refused the request. Following the opinion of Chandler, their
solicitor, they based their action of making distinction in the
public schools on the natural distinction of the races, which "no
legislature, no social customs, can efface," and which "renders a
promiscuous intermingling in the public schools disadvantageous both
to them and to the whites."[2] Questioned as to any positive law
providing for such discrimination, Chandler gave his opinion that the
School Committee of Boston, under the authority perhaps of the City
Council, had a legal right to establish and maintain special primary
schools for the blacks. He believed, too, that in the exercise of
their lawful discretionary power they could exclude white pupils from
certain schools and colored pupils from certain other schools when,
in their judgment, the best interests of all would thereby be

[Footnote 1: Wigham, _The Antislavery Cause in America_, p. 103.]

[Footnote 2: _Minority Report_, etc., p. 31.]

[Footnote 3: _Ibid_., p. 30.]

Encouraged by the fact that colored children were indiscriminately
admitted to the schools of Salem, Nantucket, New Bedford, and Lowell,
in fact, of every city in Massachusetts but Boston, the friends of
the colored people fearlessly attacked the false legal theories of
Solicitor Chandler. The minority of the School Committee argued that
schools are the common property of all, and that each and all are
legally entitled without "let or hindrance" to the equal benefits of
all advantages they might confer.[1] Any action, therefore, which
tended to restrict to any individual or class the advantages and
benefits designed for all, was an illegal use of authority, and an
arbitrary act used for pernicious purposes.[2] Their republican
system, the minority believed, conferred civil equality and legal
rights upon every citizen, knew neither privileged nor degraded
classes, made no distinctions, and created no differences between rich
and poor, learned and ignorant, or white and black, but extended to
all alike its protection and benefits.[3] The minority considered it a
merit of the school system that it produced the fusion of all classes,
promoted the feeling of brotherhood, and the habits of equality. The
power of the School Committee, therefore, was limited and constrained
by the general spirit of the civil policy and by the letter and spirit
of the laws which regulated the system.[4] It was further maintained
that to debar the colored youth from these advantages, even if they
were assured the same external results, would be a sore injustice and
would serve as the surest means of perpetuating a prejudice which
should be deprecated and discountenanced by all intelligent and
Christian men.[5]

[Footnote 1: _Ibid_., p. 3.]

[Footnote 2: _Minority Report_, etc. pp. 4 and 5.]

[Footnote 3: _Ibid_., pp. 3 _et. seq_.]

[Footnote 4: _Ibid_., p. 4.]

[Footnote 5: _Ibid_., p. 5.]

To the sophistry of Chandler, Wendell Phillips also made a logical
reply. He asserted that as members of a legal body, the School
Committee should have eyes only for such distinctions among their
fellow-citizens as the law recognized and pointed out. Phillips
believed that they had precedents for the difference of age and sex,
for regulation of health, etc., but that when they opened their eyes
to the varied complexion, to difference of race, to diversity of
creed, to distinctions of caste, they would seek in vain through the
laws and institutions of Massachusetts for any recognition of their
prejudice. He deplored the fact that they had attempted to foist into
the legal arrangements of the land a principle utterly repugnant
to the State constitution, and that what the sovereignty of the
constitution dared not attempt a school committee accomplished. To
Phillips it seemed crassly inconsistent to say that races permitted to
intermarry should be debarred by Mr. Chandler's "sapient committee"
from educational contact.[1]

[Footnote 1: _Minority Report_, etc., p. 27.]

This agitation continued until 1855 when the opposition had grown too
strong to be longer resisted. The legislature of Massachusetts then
enacted a law providing that in determining the qualifications of a
scholar to be admitted to any public school no distinction should
be made on account of the race, color, or religious opinion of the
applicant. It was further provided that a child excluded from school
for any of these reasons might bring suit for damages against the
offending town.[1]

[Footnote 1: _Acts and Resolves of the General Court of Mass_., 1855,
ch. 256.]

In other towns of New England, where the black population was
considerable, separate schools were established. There was one even in
Portland, Maine.[1] Efforts in this direction were made in Vermont and
New Hampshire, but because of the scarcity of the colored people these
States did not have to resort to such segregation. The Constitution of
Vermont was interpreted as extending to Negroes the benefits of the
Bill of Rights, making all men free and equal. Persons of color,
therefore, were regarded as men entitled to all the privileges of
freemen, among which was that of education at the expense of the
State.[2] The framers of the Constitution of New Hampshire were
equally liberal in securing this right to the dark race.[3] But when
the principal of an academy at Canaan admitted some Negroes to his
private institution, a mob, as we have observed above, broke up the
institution by moving the building to a swamp, while the officials of
the town offered no resistance. Such a spirit as this accounts for the
rise of separate schools in places where the free blacks had the right
to attend any institution of learning supported by the State.

[Footnote 1: Adams, _Anti-slavery_, etc., p. 142.]

[Footnote 2: Thorpe, _Federal and State Constitutions_, vol. vi., p.

[Footnote 3: _Ibid_., vol. iv., p. 2471.]

The problem of educating the Negroes at public expense was perplexing
also to the minds of the people of the West. The question became
more and more important in Ohio as the black population in that
commonwealth increased. The law of 1825 provided that moneys raised
from taxation of half a mill on the dollar should be appropriated to
the support of common schools in the respective counties and that
these schools should be "open to the youth of every class and grade
without distinction."[1] Some interpreted this law to include Negroes.
To overcome the objection to the partiality shown by school officials
the State passed another law in 1829. It excluded colored people from
the benefits of the new system, and returned them the amount accruing
from the school tax on their property.[2] Thereafter benevolent
societies and private associations maintained colored schools in
Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, and the southern counties of Ohio.[3]
But no help came from the cities and the State before 1849 when the
legislature passed a law authorizing the establishment of schools for
children of color at public expense.[4]

[Footnote 1: _Laws of Ohio_, vol. xxiii., pp. 37 _et seq_.]

[Footnote 2: Hickok, _The Negro in Ohio_, p. 85.]

[Footnote 3: Simmons, _Men of Mark_, p. 374.]

[Footnote 4: _Laws of Ohio_, vol. liii., pp. 117-118.]

The Negroes of Cincinnati soon discovered that they had not won a
great victory. They proceeded at once to elect trustees, organized a
system, and employed teachers, relying on the money allotted them
by the law on the basis of a per capita division of the school fund
received by the Board of Education of Cincinnati. So great was the
prejudice that the school officials refused to turn over the required
funds on the grounds that the colored trustees were not electors,
and therefore could not be office holders qualified to receive and
disburse public funds.[1] Under the leadership of John I. Gaines the
trustees called indignation meetings, and raised sufficient money to
employ Flamen Ball, an attorney, to secure a writ of mandamus. The
case was contested by the city officials even in the Supreme Court of
the State which decided against the officious whites.[2]

[Footnote 1: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed_., 1871, pp. 371,

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., 1871, p. 372.]

Unfortunately it turned out that this decision did not mean very much
to the Negroes. There were not many of them in certain settlements and
the per capita division of the fund did not secure to them sufficient
means to support schools. Even if the funds had been adequate to pay
teachers, they had no schoolhouses. Lawyers of that day contended that
the Act of 1849 had nothing to do with the construction of buildings.
After a short period of accomplishing practically nothing material,
the law was amended so as to transfer the control of such colored
schools to the managers of the white system.[1] This was taken as a
reflection on the standing of the blacks of the city and tended to
make them refuse to cooeperate with the white board. On account of the
failure of this body to act effectively prior to 1856, the people of
color were again given power to elect their own trustees.[2]

[Footnote 1: _Laws of the State of Ohio_, vol. liii., p. 118.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., p. 118.]

During the contest for the control of the colored schools certain
Negroes of Cincinnati were endeavoring to make good their claim that
their children had a right to attend any school maintained by the
city. Acting upon this contention a colored patron sent his son to a
public school, which on account of his presence became the center of
unusual excitement.[1] Miss Isabella Newhall, the teacher to whom he
went, immediately complained to the Board of Education, requesting
that he be expelled on account of his race. After "due deliberation"
the Board of Education decided by a vote of fifteen to ten that he
would have to withdraw from that school. Thereupon two members of that
body, residing in the district of the timorous teacher, resigned.[2]

[Footnote 1: New York _Tribune_, Feb. 19, 1855.]

[Footnote 2: New York _Tribune_, Feb. 19, 1855; and Carlier,
_L'Esclavage_, etc., p. 339.]

Thereafter some progress in the development of separate schools in
Cincinnati was noted. By 1855 the Board of Education of that city had
established four public schools for the instruction of Negro youths.
The colored pupils were showing their appreciation by regular
attendance, manly deportment, and rapid progress in the acquisition of
knowledge. Speaking of these Negroes in 1855, John P. Foote said that
they shared with the white citizens that respect for education,
and the diffusion of knowledge, which has ever been one of their
"characteristics," and that they had, therefore, been more generally
intelligent than free persons of color not only in other States but in
all other parts of the world.[1] It was in appreciation of the worth
of this class of progressive Negroes that in 1858 Nicholas Longworth
built a comfortable school-house for them in Cincinnati, leasing it
with the privilege of purchasing it in fourteen years.[2] They met
these requirements within the stipulated time, and in 1859 secured
through other agencies the construction of another building in the
western portion of the city.[3]

[Footnote 1: Foote, _The Schools of Cincinnati_, p. 92.]

[Footnote 2: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed_., 1871, p. 372.]

[Footnote 3: _Ibid_., p. 372.]

The agitation for the admission of colored children to the public
schools was not confined to Cincinnati alone, but came up throughout
the section north of the Ohio River.[1] Where the black population was
large enough to form a social center of its own, Negroes and their
friends could more easily provide for the education of colored
children. In settlements, however, in which just a few of them were
found, some liberal-minded man usually asked the question why persons
taxed to support a system of free schools should not share its
benefits. To strengthen their position these benevolent men referred
to the rapid progress of the belated people, many of whom within
less than a generation from their emergence from slavery had become
intelligent, virtuous, and respectable persons, and in not a few
cases had accumulated considerable wealth.[2] Those who insisted that
children of African blood should be debarred from the regular public
schools had for their defense the so-called inequality of the races.
Some went so far as to concede the claims made for the progressive
blacks, and even to praise those of their respective communities.[3]
But great as their progress had been, the advocates of the restriction
of their educational privileges considered it wrong to claim for them
equality with the Caucasian race. They believed that society would
suffer from an intermingling of the children of the two races.

[Footnote 1: Hickok, _The Negro in Ohio_, ch. iii.; and Boone,
_History of Education in Indiana_, p. 237.]

[Footnote 2: Foote, _The Schools of Cincinnati_, p. 93.]

[Footnote 3: _Ibid_., p. 92.]

In Indiana the problem of educating Negroes was more difficult. R.G.
Boone says that, "nominally for the first few years of the educational
experience of the State, black and white children had equal privileges
in the few schools that existed."[1] But this could not continue long.
Abolitionists were moving the country, and freedmen soon found enemies
as well as friends in the Ohio valley. Indiana, which was in 1824 so
very "solicitous for a system of education which would guard against
caste distinction," provided in 1837 that the white inhabitants alone
of each congressional township should constitute the local school
corporation.[2] In 1841 a petition was sent to the legislature
requesting that a reasonable share of the school fund be appropriated
to the education of Negroes, but the committee to which it was
referred reported that legislation on that subject was inexpedient.[3]
With the exception of prohibiting the immigration of such persons into
that State not much account of them was taken until 1853. Then the
legislature amended the law authorizing the establishment of schools
in townships so as to provide that in all enumerations the children
of color should not be taken, that the property of the blacks and
mulattoes should not be taxed for school purposes, and that their
children should not derive any benefit from the common schools of that
State.[4] This provision had really been incorporated into the former
law, but was omitted by oversight on the part of the engrossing

[Footnote 1: Boone, _History of Ed. in Indiana_, p. 237.]

[Footnote 2: _Laws of a General Nature of the State of Indiana_, 1837,
p. 15.]

[Footnote 3: Boone, _History of Education in Indiana_, p. 237.]

[Footnote 4: _Laws of a General Nature of the State of Indiana_, 1855,
p. 161.]

[Footnote 5: Boone, _History of Education in Indiana_, p. 237.]

A resolution of the House instructing the educational committee to
report a bill for the establishment of schools for the education of
the colored children of the State was overwhelmingly defeated in 1853.
Explaining their position the opponents said that it was held "to be
better for the weaker party that no privilege be extended to them,"
as the tendency to such "might be to induce the vain belief that the
prejudice of the dominant race could ever be so mollified as to break
down the rugged barriers that must forever exist between their social
relations." The friends of the blacks believed that by elevating them
the sense of their degradation would be keener, and so the greater
would be their anxiety to seek another country, where with the spirit
of men they "might breathe fresh air of social as well as political
liberty."[1] This argument, however, availed little. Before the Civil
War the Negroes of Indiana received help in acquiring knowledge from
no source but private and mission schools.

[Footnote 1: Boone, _History of Education in Indiana_, p. 237.]

In Illinois the situation was better than in Indiana, but far from
encouraging. The constitution of 1847 restricted the benefits of the
school law to white children, stipulating the word white throughout
the act so as to make clear the intention of the legislators.[1] It
seemed to some that, in excluding the colored children from the public
schools, the law contemplated the establishment of separate schools
in that it provided that the amount of school taxes collected from
Negroes should be returned. Exactly what should be done with such
money, however, was not stated in the act. But even if that were the
object in view, the provision was of little help to the people of
color for the reason that the clause providing for the return of
school taxes was seldom executed. In the few cases in which it was
carried out the fund thus raised was not adequate to the support of
a special school, and generally there were not sufficient colored
children in a community to justify such an outlay. In districts having
control of their local affairs, however, the children of Negroes were
often given a chance to attend school.

[Footnote 1: The Constitution of Illinois, in the _Journal of the
Constitution of the State of Illinois_, 1847, p. 344.]

As this scant consideration given Negroes of Illinois left one-half
of the six thousand of their children out of the pale of education,
earnest appeals were made that the restrictive word white be stricken
from the school law. The friends of the colored people sought to show
how inconsistent this system was with the spirit of the constitution
of the State, which, interpreted as they saw it, guaranteed all
persons equality.[1] They held meetings from which came renewed
petitions to their representatives, entreating them to repeal or amend
the old school law. It was not so much a question as to whether or not
there should be separate schools as it was whether or not the people
of color should be educated. The dispersed condition of their children
made it impossible for the State to provide for them in special
schools the same educational facilities as those furnished the youth
of Caucasian blood. Chicago tried the experiment in 1864, but failing
to get the desired result, incorporated the colored children into
the white schools the following year.[2] The State Legislature had
sufficient moral courage to do away with these caste distinctions in

[Footnote 1: Thorpe, _Federal and State Constitutions_, Const. of

[Footnote 2: _Special Report of U.S. Com. of Ed._, 1871, p. 343.]

[Footnote 3: Starr and Curtis, _Annotated Statutes of Illinois_, ch.
105, p. 2261.]

In other States of the West and the North where few colored people
were found, the solution of the problem was easier. After 1848 Negroes
were legal voters in the school meetings of Michigan. Colored
children were enumerated with others to determine the basis for the
apportionment of the school funds, and were allowed to attend the
public schools. Wisconsin granted Negroes equal school privileges.[1]
After the adoption of a free constitution in 1857, Iowa "determined no
man's rights by the color of his skin." Wherever the word white had
served to restrict the privileges of persons of color it was stricken
out to make it possible for them not only to bear arms and to vote but
to attend public schools.[2]

[Footnote 1: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed._, 1871, p. 400.]

[Footnote 2: _Journal of the Constitutional Convention of the State of
Iowa_, 1857, p. 3 of the Constitution.]



The following resolutions on the subject treated in this part
(the instruction of Negroes) are from the works of Dr. Cotton
Mather.--Bishop William Meade.

1st. I would always remember, that my servants are in some sense my
children, and by taking care that they want nothing which may be good
for them, I would make them as my children; and so far as the methods
of instituting piety into the mind which I use with my children,
may be properly and prudently used with my servants, they shall be
partakers in them--Nor will I leave them ignorant of anything, wherein
I may instruct them to be useful to their generation.

2d. I will see that my servants be furnished with bibles and be able
and careful to read the lively oracles. I will put bibles and other
good and proper books into their hands; will allow them time to read
and assure myself that they do not misspend this time--If I can
discern any wicked books in their hands, I will take away those
pestilential instruments of wickedness.

3d. I will have my servants present at the religious exercises of my
family; and will drop, either in the exhortations, in the prayers or
daily sacrifices of the family such pages as may have a tendency to
quicken a sense of religion in them.

4th. The article of catechising, as far as the age or state of the
servants will permit it to be done with decency, shall extend to them
also,--And they shall be concerned in the conferences in which I may
be engaged with my family, in the repetition of the public sermons. If
any of them when they come to me shall not have learned the catechism,
I will take care that they do it, and will give them a reward when
they have accomplished it.

5th. I will be very inquisitive and solicitous about the company
chosen by my servants; and with all possible earnestness will rescue
them from the snares of evil company, and forbid their being the
companions of fools.

6th. Such of my servants as may be capable of the task, I will employ
to teach lessons of piety to my children, and will recompense them for
so doing. But I would, by a particular artifice, contrive them to be
such lessons, as may be for their own edification too.

7th. I will sometimes call my servants alone; talk to them about the
state of their souls; tell them to close with their only servant,
charge them to do well and "lay hold on eternal life," and show them
very particularly how they may render all they do for me a service to
the glorious Lord; how they may do all from a principle of obedience
to him, and become entitled to the "reward of the heavenly

To those resolutions did I add the following pages as an appendix:

Age is nearly sufficient, with some masters to obliterate every letter
and action in the history of a meritorious life, and old services are
generally buried under the ruins of an old carcase. It is a barbarous
inhumanity in men towards their servants, to account their small
failings as crimes, without allowing their past services to have been
virtues; gracious God, keep thy servants from such base ingratitude!

But then O servants, if you would obtain "the reward of inheritance,"
each of you should set yourself to enquire "how shall I approve myself
such a servant, that the Lord may bless the house of my master, the
more for my being in it?" Certainly there are many ways by which
servants may become blessings. Let your studies with your continual
prayers for the welfare of the family to which you belong: and the
example of your sober carriage render you such. If you will but
remember four words and attempt all that is comprised in them,
Obedience, Honesty, Industry, and Piety, you will be the blessings and
Josephs of the families in which you live. Let these four words be
distinctly and frequently recollected; and cheerfully perform all your
business from this consideration--that it is obedience to heaven, and
from thence will leave a recompense. It was the observation even of a
pagan, "That a master may receive a benefit from a servant"; and "what
is done with the affection of a friend, ceases to be the act of a mere
servant." Even the maid-servants of a house may render a great service
to it, by instructing the infants and instilling into their minds the
lessons of goodness.--In the Appendix of Rev. Thomas Bacon's _Sermons
Addressed to Masters and Servants_.


Concernant les Esclaves Negres des Colonies, qui seront amenes, ou
envoyes en France. Donne a Paris au mois d'Octobre 1716.

I. Nous avons connu la necessite qu'il y a d'y soutenir l'execution
de l'edit du mars 1685, qui en maintenant la discipline de l'Eglise
Catholique, Apostolique et Romaine, pourvoit a ce qui concerne l'etat
et la qualite des Esclaves Negres, qu'on entretient dans lesdites
colonies pour la culture des terres; et comme nous avons ete informes
que plusieurs habitans de nos Isles de l'Amerique desirent envoyer
en France quelques-uns de leur Esclaves pour les confirmer dans les
Instructions et dans les Exercices de notre Religion, et pour leur
faire apprendre en meme tems quelque Art et Metier dont les colonies
recevroient beaucoup d'utilite par le retour de ces Esclaves; mais que
les habitans craignaient que les Esclaves ne pretendent etre libres en
arrivant en France, ce qui pourroit causer auxdits habitans une perte
considerable, et les detourner d'un objet aussi pieux et aussi utile.

* * * * *

II. Si quelques-uns des habitans de nos colonies, ou officiers
employes sur l'Etat desdites colonies, veulent amener en France avec
eux des Esclaves Negres, de l'un & de l'autre sexe, en qualite de
domestique ou autrement pour les fortifier davantage dans notre
Religion, tant par les instructions qu'ils recevront, que par
l'exemple de nos autre sujets, et pour leur faire apprendre en meme
tems quelque Art et Metier, dont les colonies puissent retirer de
l'utilite, par le retour de ces Esclaves, lesdits proprietaires
seront tenus d'en obtenir la permission des Gouverneurs Generaux, ou
Commandans dans chaque Isle, laquelle permission contiendra le nom du
proprietaire, celui des Esclaves, leur age & leur signalement.--Code
Noir ou Recueil d'edits, declarations, et arrets concernant des
Esclaves Negres Discipline el le commerce des Esclaves Negres des
isles francaises de l'Amerique (in Recueil de reglemens, edits,
declarations, et arrets concernant le commerce, l'administration de
la justice et la police des colonies francaises de l'Amerique et les
Engages avec le Code Noir et l'addition audit Code) (Jefferson's
copy). A Paris chez les Libraires Associes, 1745.


"It being a duty of Christianity very much neglected by masters and
mistresses of this country (America) to endeavor the good instruction
and education of their heathen slaves in the Christian faith,--the
said duty being likewise earnestly recommended by his Majesty's
instructions,--for the facilitating thereof among the young slaves
that are born among us; it is, therefore, humbly proposed that every
Indian, Negro, or mulatto child that shall be baptized and afterward
brought to church and publicly catechized by the minister in church,
and shall, before the fourteenth year of his or her age, give a
distinct account of the Creed, the Lord's Prayer and Ten Commandments,
and whose master or mistress shall receive a certificate from the
minister that he or she hath so done, such Indian, Negro or mulatto
child shall be exempted from paying all levies till the age of
eighteen years."--Bishop William Meade's _Old Churches, Ministers, and
Families of Virginia_, vol. i., p. 265.


To the Masters and Mistresses of Families in the English Plantations
abroad; exhorting them to encourage and promote the instruction of
their Negroes in the Christian Faith. (About 1727.)

The care of the Plantations abroad being committed to the Bishop of
London as to Religious Affairs; I have thought it my duty to make
particular Inquiries into the State of Religion in those Parts, and to
learn among other Things, what numbers of slaves are employed within
the several Governments, and what Means are used for their Instruction
in the Christian Faith: I find the Numbers are prodigiously great; and
am not a little troubled to observe how small a Progress has been made
in a Christian country, towards the delivering those poor Creatures
from the Pagan Darkness and Superstition in which they were bred,
and the making them Partakers in the Light of the Gospel, and the
Blessings and Benefits belonging to it. And what is yet more to be
lamented, I find there has not only been very little Progress made
in the work but that all Attempts toward it have been by too many
industriously discouraged and hindered; partly by magnifying the
Difficulties of the Work beyond what they really are; and partly by
mistaken Suggestions of the Change which Baptism would make in the
Condition of the Negroes, to the Loss and Disadvantage of their

As to the Difficulties; it may be pleaded, That the Negroes are grown
Persons when they come over, and that having been accustomed to the
Pagan Rites and Idolatries of their own Country, they are prejudiced
against all other Religions, and more particularly against the
Christian, as forbidding all that Licentiousness which is usually
practiced among the Heathens.... But a farther Difficulty is that they
are utter Strangers to our Language, and we to theirs; and the Gift of
Tongues being now ceased, there is no Means left of instructing them
in the Doctrines of the Christian Religion. And this, I own is a real
Difficulty, as long as it continues, and as far as it reaches. But, if
I am rightly informed, many of the Negroes, who are grown Persons when
they come over, do of themselves obtain so much of our Language, as
enables them to understand, and to be understood, in Things which
concern the ordinary Business of Life, and they who can go so far of
their own Accord, might doubtless be carried much farther, if proper
Methods and Endeavors were used to bring them to a competent Knowledge
of our Language, with a pious view to instructing them in the
Doctrines of our Religion. At least, some of them, who are more
capable and more serious than the rest, might be easily instructed
both in our Language and Religion, and then be made use of to convey
Instruction to the rest in their own Language. And this, one would
hope, may be done with great Ease, wherever there is a hearty and
sincere Zeal of the Work.

But what Difficulties there may be in instructing those who are
grown-up before they are brought over; there are not the like
Difficulties in the Case of their Children, who are born and bred in
our Plantations, who have never been accustomed to Pagan Rites and
Superstitions, and who may easily be trained up, like all other
Children, to any Language whatsoever, and particularly to our own; if
the making them good Christians be sincerely the Desire and
Intention of those, who have Property in them, and Government over
them.--Dalcho's _An Historical Account of the Protestant Episcopal
Church in South Carolina_, pp. 104-106.


To the Missionaries in the English Plantations (about 1727).


Having understood by many Letters from the Plantations, and by the
Accounts of Persons who have come from thence, that very little
progress hath hitherto been made in the conversion of the Negroes to
the Christian Faith; I have thought it proper for me to lay before
Masters and Mistresses the Obligations they are under, and to promote
and encourage that pious and necessary Work....

As to those Ministers who have Negroes of their own; I cannot but
esteem it their indispensable Duty to use their best Endeavors to
instruct them in the Christian Religion, in order to their being
baptised; both because such Negroes are their proper and immediate
Care, and because it is in vain to hope that other Masters and
Mistresses will exert themselves in this Work, if they see it wholly
neglected, or but coldly pursued, in the Families of the Clergy ...

I would also hope that the Schoolmasters in the several Parishes,
part of whose Business it is to instruct Youth in the Principles of
Christianity, might contribute somewhat towards the carrying on of
this Work; by being ready to bestow upon it some of their Leisure
Time, and especially on the Lord's Day, when both they and the Negroes
are most at liberty and the Clergy are taken up with the public Duties
of their Function.--Dalcho's _An Historical Account of the Protestant
Episcopal Account of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South
Carolina_, pages 112-114.


"The next Object of the Society's Concern, were the poor Negroes.
These unhappy Wretches learn in their Native Country, the grossest
Idolatry, and the most savage Dispositions: and then are sold to the
best Purchaser: sometimes by their Enemies, who would else put them
to Death; sometimes by the nearest Friends, who are either unable or
unwilling to maintain them. Their Condition in our Colonies, though it
cannot well be worse than it would have been at Home, is yet nearly as
hard as possible: their Servitude most laborious, their Punishments
most severe. And thus many thousands of them spend their whole
Days, one Generation after another, undergoing with reluctant Minds
continual Toil in this World, and comforted with no Hopes of Reward
in a better. For it is not to be expected that Masters, too commonly
negligent of Christianity themselves, will take much Pains to teach it
their slaves; whom even the better Part of them are in a great Measure
habituated to consider, as they do their Cattle, merely with a view
to the Profit arising from them. Not a few, therefore, have openly
opposed their Instruction, from an Imagination now indeed proved and
acknowledged to be groundless, that Baptism would entitle them to
Freedom. Others by obliging them to work on Sundays to provide
themselves Necessaries, leave them neither Time to learn Religion, nor
any Prospect of being able to subsist, if once the Duty of resting on
that Day become Part of their Belief. And some, it may be feared,
have been averse to their becoming Christians because after that,
no Pretence will remain for not treating them like Men. When these
Obstacles are added to the fondness they have for their old Heathenish
Rites, and the strong Prejudices they must have against Teachers from
among those, whom they serve so unwillingly; it cannot be wondered,
if the Progress made in their Conversion prove slow. After some
Experience of this kind, Catechists were appointed in two Places, by
Way of Trial for Their Instruction alone: whose Success, where it
was least, hath been considerable; and so great in the Plantation
belonging to the Society that out of two hundred and thirty, at
least seventy are now Believers in Christ. And there is lately an
Improvement to this Scheme begun to be executed, by qualifying and
employing young Negroes, prudently chosen, to teach their Countrymen:
from which in the Opinion of the best Judges, we may reasonably
promise ourselves, that this miserable People, the Generality of whom
have hitherto sat in Darkness, will see great Light."--Seeker's _A
Sermon Preached before the Incorporated Society for the Propagation of
the Gospel in Foreign Parts_, 1741.


"Next to our children and brethren by blood, our servants, and
especially our slaves, are certainly in the nearest relation to us.
They are an immediate and necessary part of our households, by whose
labors and assistance we are enabled to enjoy the gifts of Providence
in ease and plenty; and surely we owe them a return of what is just
and equal for the drudgery and hardships they go through in our

"It is objected, They are such stubborn creatures, there is no dealing
with them.

"_Answer_. Supposing this to be true of most of them (which I believe
will scarcely be insisted on:) may it not fairly be asked, whence doth
this stubbornness proceed?--Is it from nature?--That cannot be:--for I
think it is generally acknowledged that _new Negroes_, or those born
in and imported from the coast of _Guinea_, prove the best and most
tractable servants. Is it then from education?--for one or the other
it must proceed from.--But pray who had the care of bringing up those
that were born here?--Was it not ourselves?--And might not an early
care, of instilling good principles into them when young, have
prevented much of that stubbornness and untractableness you complain
of in country-born negroes?--These, you cry out, are wickeder than the
others:--and, pray, where did they learn that wickedness?--Was it
not among ourselves?--for those who come immediately from their own
country, you say, have more simplicity and honesty. A sad reproach
to a Christian people indeed! that such poor ignorant heathens shall
bring better morals and dispositions from home with them, that they
can learn or actually do contract amongst us!

* * * * *

"It is objected,--they are so ignorant and unteachable, they cannot be
brought to any knowledge in these matters.

"_Answer_. This objection seems to have little or no truth in it, with
respect to the bulk of them.--Their ignorance, indeed, about matters
of religion, is not to be disputed;--they are sunk in it to a sad and
lamentable degree, which has been shown to be chiefly owing to
the negligence of their owners.--But that they are so stupid and
unteachable, as that they cannot be brought to any competent knowledge
in these matters, is false, and contrary to fact and experience. In
regard to their work, they learn it, and grow dexterous enough in a
short time. Many of them have learned trades and manufactures, which
they perform well, and with sufficient ingenuity:--whence it is
plain they are not unteachable; do not want natural parts and
capacities.--Most masters and mistresses will complain of their art
and cunning in contriving to deceive them.--Is it reasonable to deny
then they can learn what is good, when it is owned at the same time
they can be so artful in what is bad?--Their ignorance, therefore,
if born in the country, must absolutely be the fault of their
owners:--and such as are brought here from Africa may, surely, be
taught something of advantage to their own future state, as well as to
work for their masters' present gain.--The difference plainly consists
in this;--that a good deal of pains is taken to shew them how to
labour, and they are punished if they neglect it.--This sort of
instruction their owners take care to give them every day, and look
well to it that it be duly followed.--But no such pains are taken in
the other case.--They are generally left to themselves, whether they
will serve God, or worship Devils--whether they become christians, or
remain heathens as long as they live: as if either their souls were
not worth the saving, or as if we were under no obligation of giving
them any instruction:--which is the true reason why so many of them
who are grown up, and lived many years among us, are as entirely
ignorant of the principles of religion, as if they had never come into
a christian country:--at least, as to any good or practical purposes.

* * * * *

"I have dwelt the longer upon this head, because it is of the utmost
importance, and seems to be but little considered among us.--For there
is too much reason to fear, that the many vices and immoralities so
common among white people;--the lewdness, drunkenness, quarrelling,
abusiveness, swearing, lying, pride, backbiting, overreaching,
idleness, and sabbath-breaking, everywhere to be seen among us, are a
great encouragement to our Negroes to do the like, and help strongly
to confirm them in the habits of wickedness and impiety.

"We ought not only to avoid giving them bad examples, and abstain from
all appearance of evil, but also strive to set a daily good example
before their eyes, that seeing us lead the way in our own person, they
may more readily be persuaded to follow us in the wholesome paths of
religion and virtue.

* * * * *

"We ought to make this reading and studying the holy scriptures, and
the reading and explaining them to our children and slaves, and the
catechizing or instructing them in the principles of the Christian
religion, a stated duty.

* * * * *

"We ought in a particular manner to take care of the children, and
instil early principles of piety and religion into their minds.

"If the grown up slaves, from confirmed habits of vice, are hard to be
reclaimed, the children surely are in our power, and may be trained up
in the way they should go, with rational hopes that when they are old,
they will not depart from it.--We ought, therefore, to take charge
of their education principally upon ourselves, and not leave them
entirely to the care of their wicked parents.--If the present
generation be bad, we may hope by this means that the succeeding ones
will be much better. One child well instructed, will take care when
grown up to instruct his children; and they again will teach their
posterity good things.--And I am fully of opinion, that the common
notion of _wickedness running in the blood_, is not so general in fact
as to be admitted for an axiom. And that the vices we see descending
from parents to their children are chiefly owing to the malignant
influence of bad example and conversation.--And though some persons
may be, and undoubtedly are, born with stronger passions and
appetites, or with a greater propensity to some particular
gratifications or pursuits than others, yet we do not want convincing
instances how effectually they may be restrained, or at least
corrected and turned to proper and laudable ends, by the force of an
early care, and a suitable education.

"To you of the female sex, (whom I have had occasion more than once to
take notice of with honor in this congregation) I would address a few
words on this head.--You, who by your stations are more confined at
home, and have the care of the younger sort more particularly under
your management, may do a great deal of good in this way.--I know not
when I have been more affected, or my heart touched with stronger and
more pleasing emotions, than at the sight and conversation of a little
negro boy, not above seven years old, who read to me in the new
testament, and perfectly repeated his catechism throughout, and all
from the instruction of his careful, pious mistress, now I hope with
God, enjoying the blessed fruits of her labours while on earth.--This
example I would recommend to your serious imitation, and to enforce it
shall only remark, that a shining part of the character of Solomon's
excellent daughter is, that she looketh well to the ways of her
household."--Rev. Thomas Bacon's _Sermons Addressed to Masters and
Servants_, pp. 4, 48, 49, 51, 64, 65, 69, 70, 73, 74.


"Rejoice and be exceeding glad, that you are delivered either from the
Frauds of Mohamet, or Pagan Darkness, and Worship of Daemons; and are
not now taught to place your Dependence upon those other dead Men,
whom the Papists impiously worship, to the Neglect and Dishonor of
Jesus Christ, the one only Mediator between God and Men. Christ, tho'
he was dead, is alive again, and liveth forever-more. It is Christ,
who is able also to save them to the uttermost, that come unto God by
him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. Bless God,
with all your Heart, that the Holy Scriptures are put into your Hands,
which are able to make you wise unto Salvation, thro' Faith which is
in Christ Jesus. Read and study the Bible for yourselves; and consider
how Papists do all they can to hide it from their Followers, for Fear
such divine Light should discover the gross Darkness of their false
Doctrines and Worship. Be particularly thankful to the Ministers of
Christ around you, who are faithfully labouring to teach you the Truth
as it is in Jesus....

"Contrary to these evident Truths and precious Comforts of the Word
of God, you may perhaps be tempted very unjustly to renounce your
Fidelity and Obedience to your Old Masters, in Hope of finding new
ones, with whom you may live more happily. At one time or other it
will probably be suggested to you, that the French will make better
Masters than the English. But I beseech you to consider, that your
Happiness as Men and Christians exceedingly depends upon your doing
all in your Power to support the British Government, and that kind of
Christianity which is called the Protestant Religion; and likewise in
opposing, with all your Might, the Power of the French, the Delusions
of Popish Priests, and all the Rage and Malice of such Indians, as are
in the French Interest. If the Power of France was to prevail in the
Country where you now live, you have Nothing to expect but the most
terrible Increase of your Sufferings. Your Slavery would then, not
merely extend to Body, but also to the Soul; not merely run thro' your
Days of Labour, but even thro' your Lord's Days. Your Bibles would
then become like a sealed Book, and your Consciences would be fettered
with worse than Iron-Chains. Therefore be patient, be submissive and
obedient, be faithful and true, even when some of your Masters are
most unkind. This is the only way for you to have Consciences void
of Offense towards God and Man. This will really be taking the most
effectual Measures, to secure for yourselves a Share in the invaluable
Blessings and Privileges of the glorious Gospel of the Blessed God,
which you have already received thro' the Channel of the British
Government, and which no other Government upon the Face of the Earth
is so calculated to support and preserve.

"The Lord Jesus Christ is now saying to you, as he did to Peter, when
thou art converted strengthen thy Brethren....

"Therefore let me entreat you to look upon your Country-men around
you, and pity them, not so much for their being Fellow-Captives with
you in a strange Land; as for this, that they are not yet, like you,
delivered from the Power of Darkness....

"Invite them to learn to read, and direct them where they may apply
for Assistance, especially to those faithful Ministers, who have been
your Instructors and Fathers in Christ...."--Fawcett's _Address to the
Negroes in Virginia_, etc., pp. 8, 17, 18, 24, 25.


"The first Account, I ever met with, of any considerable Number of
Negroes embracing the Gospel, is in a letter written by Mr. Davies,
Minister at Hanover in Virginia, to Mr. Bellamy of Bethlehem in New
England, dated June 28, 1751. It appears that the Letter was designed
for Publication; and I suppose, was accordingly printed at Boston
in New England. It is to be seen in vol. ii., pages 330-338, of the
_Historical Collections_ relating to remarkable Periods of the Success
of the Gospel, and eminent Instruments employed in promoting it;
Compiled by Mr. John Gillies, one of the Ministers of Glasgow: Printed
by Foulis in 1754. Mr. Davies fills the greatest part of his Letter,
with an Account of the declining State of Religion in Virginia, and
the remarkable Means used by Providence to revive it, for a few Years
before his Settlement there, which was in 1747; not in the character
of a Missionary, but that of a dissenting Minister, invited by a
particular People, and fixed with them. Such, he observes, was the
scattered State of his Congregation, that he soon found it necessary
to license seven Meeting-Houses, the nearest of which are twelve or
fifteen Miles distant from each other, and the extremes about Forty;
yet some of his People live twenty, thirty, and a few forty Miles from
the nearest Meeting-House. He computes his Communicants at about three
Hundred. He then says, 'There is also a Number of Negroes. Some times
I see a Hundred and more among my Hearers. I have baptized about Forty
of them within the last three Years, upon such a Profession of Faith
as I then judged credible. Some of them, I fear, have apostatized; but
others, I trust, will persevere to the End. I have had as satisfying
Evidences of the sincere Piety of several of them, as ever I had from
any Person in my Life; and their artless Simplicity, their passionate
Aspirations after Christ, their incessant Endeavors to know and do
the Will of God, have charmed me. But, alas! while my Charge is
so extensive, I cannot take sufficient Pains with them for their
Instruction, which often oppresses my Heart....'"

At the Close of the above Letter, in the _Historical Collections_
(vol. ii., page 338), there is added the following Marginal
Note.--"May 22, 1754. Mr. G. Tennent and Mr. Davies being at
Edinburgh, as Agents for the Trustees of the College of New Jersey,
Mr. Davies informs,--that when he left Virginia in August last, there
was a hopeful Appearance of a greater Spread of a religious Concern
amongst the Negroes;--And a few weeks before he left Home, he baptized
in one Day fifteen Negroes, after they had been catechized for some
Months, and given credible Evidences of their sincerely embracing the

After these Gentlemen had finished the Business of their late Mission
in this part of the World, Mr. Davies gave the following Particulars
to his Correspondent in London, in a letter which he wrote in the
Spring of the previous Year, six Weeks after his safe return to his
Family and Friends.--"The Inhabitants of Virginia are computed to be
about 300,000 Men, the one-half of which Number are supposed to be
Negroes. The Number of those who attend my Ministry at particular
Times is uncertain, but generally about three Hundred who give a
stated Attendance. And never have I been so much struck with the
Appearance of an Assembly, as when I have glanced my Eye to that Part
of the Meeting-House, where they usually sit; adorned, for so it had
appeared to me, with so many black Countenances, eagerly attentive to
every Word they hear, and frequently bathed in Tears. A considerable
Number of them, about a Hundred, have been baptized, after the proper
Time for Instruction, and having given credible Evidences, not only
of their Acquaintance with the important Doctrines of the Christian
Religion, but also a deep Sense of them upon their Minds, attested
by a Life of the strictest Piety and Holiness. As they are not
sufficiently polished to dissemble with a good Grace, they express the
sentiments of their Souls so much in the Language of simple Nature,
and with such genuine Indications of Sincerity, that it is impossible
to suspect their Professions, especially when attended with a truly
Christian Life and exemplary Conduct.--My worthy Friend, Mr. Tod,
Minister of the next Congregation, has near the same Number under his
Instructions, who, he tells me, discover the same serious Turn of
Mind. In short, Sir, there are Multitudes of them in different Places,
who are willing, and eagerly desirous to be instructed, and embrace
every Opportunity of acquainting themselves with the Doctrines of the
Gospel; and tho' they have generally very little Help to learn to
read, yet, to my agreeable Surprise, many of them, by the Dint of
Application in their Leisure-Hours, have made such a Progress, that
they can intelligibly read a plain Author, and especially their
Bibles; and Pity it is that many of them should be without them.
Before I had the Pleasure of being admitted a Member of your Society
[Mr. Davies here means the Society for promoting religious Knowledge
among the Poor, which was first begun in London in August, 1750] the
Negroes were wont frequently to come to me, with such moving Accounts
of their Necessities in this Respect, that I could not help supplying
them with Books to the utmost of my small Ability; and when I
distributed those among them, which my Friends with you sent over, I
had Reason to think that I never did an Action in all my Life,
that met with so much Gratitude from the Receivers. I have already
distributed all the Books I brought over, which were proper for them.
Yet still, on Saturday Evenings, the only Time they can spare [they
are allowed some short Time, viz., Saturday afternoon, and Sunday,
says Dr. Douglass in his Summary. See the _Monthly Review_ for
October, 1755, page 274] my House is crowded with Numbers of them,
whose very Countenances still carry the air of importunate Petitioners
for the same Favors with those who came before them. But, alas!
my Stock is exhausted, and I must send them away grieved and


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