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The Education Of The Negro Prior To 1861 by Carter Godwin Woodson

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The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861

A History of the Education of the Colored People of the United States
from the Beginning of Slavery to the Civil War


C.G. Woodson.



About two years ago the author decided to set forth in a small volume
the leading facts of the development of Negro education, thinking that
he would have to deal largely with the movement since the Civil War.
In looking over documents for material to furnish a background for
recent achievements in this field, he discovered that he would write
a much more interesting book should he confine himself to the
ante-bellum period. In fact, the accounts of the successful strivings
of Negroes for enlightenment under most adverse circumstances read
like beautiful romances of a people in an heroic age.

Interesting as is this phase of the history of the American Negro, it
has as a field of profitable research attracted only M.B. Goodwin, who
published in the Special Report of the United States Commissioner
of Education of 1871 an exhaustive _History of the Schools for the
Colored Population in the District of Columbia_. In that same document
was included a survey of the _Legal Status of the Colored Population
in Respect to Schools and Education in the Different States_. But
although the author of the latter collected a mass of valuable
material, his report is neither comprehensive nor thorough. Other
publications touching this subject have dealt either with certain
localities or special phases.

Yet evident as may be the failure of scholars to treat this neglected
aspect of our history, the author of this dissertation is far from
presuming that he has exhausted the subject. With the hope of vitally
interesting some young master mind in this large task, the undersigned
has endeavored to narrate in brief how benevolent teachers of both
races strove to give the ante-bellum Negroes the education through
which many of them gained freedom in its highest and best sense.

The author desires to acknowledge his indebtedness to Dr. J.E.
Moorland, International Secretary of the Young Men's Christian
Association, for valuable information concerning the Negroes of Ohio.

C.G. Woodson.

Washington, D.C. _June 11, 1919._




II.--Religion with Letters

III.--Education as a Right of Man

IV.--Actual Education

V.--Better Beginnings

VI.--Educating the Urban Negro

VII.--The Reaction

VIII.--Religion without Letters

IX.--Learning in Spite of Opposition

X.--Educating Negroes Transplanted to Free Soil

XI.--Higher Education

XII.--Vocational Training

XIII.--Education at Public Expense

Appendix: Documents



The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861

* * * * *



Brought from the African wilds to constitute the laboring class of
a pioneering society in the new world, the heathen slaves had to be
trained to meet the needs of their environment. It required little
argument to convince intelligent masters that slaves who had some
conception of modern civilization and understood the language of their
owners would be more valuable than rude men with whom one could not
communicate. The questions, however, as to exactly what kind of
training these Negroes should have, and how far it should go, were to
the white race then as much a matter of perplexity as they are now.
Yet, believing that slaves could not be enlightened without developing
in them a longing for liberty, not a few masters maintained that the
more brutish the bondmen the more pliant they become for purposes of
exploitation. It was this class of slaveholders that finally won the
majority of southerners to their way of thinking and determined that
Negroes should not be educated.

The history of the education of the ante-bellum Negroes, therefore,
falls into two periods. The first extends from the time of the
introduction of slavery to the climax of the insurrectionary movement
about 1835, when the majority of the people in this country answered
in the affirmative the question whether or not it was prudent to
educate their slaves. Then followed the second period, when the
industrial revolution changed slavery from a patriarchal to an
economic institution, and when intelligent Negroes, encouraged by
abolitionists, made so many attempts to organize servile insurrections
that the pendulum began to swing the other way. By this time most
southern white people reached the conclusion that it was impossible
to cultivate the minds of Negroes without arousing overmuch

The early advocates of the education of Negroes were of three classes:
first, masters who desired to increase the economic efficiency of
their labor supply; second, sympathetic persons who wished to help the
oppressed; and third, zealous missionaries who, believing that the
message of divine love came equally to all, taught slaves the English
language that they might learn the principles of the Christian
religion. Through the kindness of the first class, slaves had their
best chance for mental improvement. Each slaveholder dealt with the
situation to suit himself, regardless of public opinion. Later,
when measures were passed to prohibit the education of slaves, some
masters, always a law unto themselves, continued to teach their
Negroes in defiance of the hostile legislation. Sympathetic persons
were not able to accomplish much because they were usually reformers,
who not only did not own slaves, but dwelt in practically free
settlements far from the plantations on which the bondmen lived.

The Spanish and French missionaries, the first to face this problem,
set an example which influenced the education of the Negroes
throughout America. Some of these early heralds of Catholicism
manifested more interest in the Indians than in the Negroes, and
advocated the enslavement of the Africans rather than that of the Red
Men. But being anxious to see the Negroes enlightened and brought into
the Church, they courageously directed their attention to the teaching
of their slaves, provided for the instruction of the numerous
mixed-breed offspring, and granted freedmen the educational privileges
of the highest classes. Put to shame by this noble example of the
Catholics, the English colonists had to find a way to overcome the
objections of those who, granting that the enlightenment of the slaves
might not lead to servile insurrection, nevertheless feared that their
conversion might work manumission. To meet this exigency the
colonists secured, through legislation by their assemblies and formal
declarations of the Bishop of London, the abrogation of the law that
a Christian could not be held as a slave. Then allowed access to the
bondmen, the missionaries of the Church of England, sent out by the
Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Heathen in Foreign
Parts, undertook to educate the slaves for the purpose of extensive

Contemporaneous with these early workers of the Established Church of
England were the liberal Puritans, who directed their attention to the
conversion of the slaves long before this sect advocated abolition.
Many of this connection justified slavery as established by the
precedent of the Hebrews, but they felt that persons held to service
should be instructed as were the servants of the household of Abraham.
The progress of the cause was impeded, however, by the bigoted class
of Puritans, who did not think well of the policy of incorporating
undesirable persons into the Church so closely connected then with the
state. The first settlers of the American colonies to offer Negroes
the same educational and religious privileges they provided for
persons of their own race, were the Quakers. Believing in the
brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God, they taught the colored
people to read their own "instruction in the book of the law that they
might be wise unto salvation."

Encouraging as was the aspect of things after these early efforts, the
contemporary complaints about the neglect to instruct the slaves show
that the cause lacked something to make the movement general. Then
came the days when the struggle for the rights of man was arousing the
civilized world. After 1760 the nascent social doctrine found response
among the American colonists. They looked with opened eyes at the
Negroes. A new day then dawned for the dark-skinned race. Men like
Patrick Henry and James Otis, who demanded liberty for themselves,
could not but concede that slaves were entitled at least to freedom of
body. The frequent acts of manumission and emancipation which followed
upon this change in attitude toward persons of color, turned loose
upon society a large number of men whose chief needs were education
and training in the duties of citizenship. To enlighten these freedmen
schools, missions, and churches were established by benevolent and
religious workers. These colaborers included at this time the Baptists
and Methodists who, thanks to the spirit of toleration incident to the
Revolution, were allowed access to Negroes bond and free.

With all of these new opportunities Negroes exhibited a rapid
mental development. Intelligent colored men proved to be useful and
trustworthy servants; they became much better laborers and artisans,
and many of them showed administrative ability adequate to the
management of business establishments and large plantations. Moreover,
better rudimentary education served many ambitious persons of color as
a stepping-stone to higher attainments. Negroes learned to appreciate
and write poetry and contributed something to mathematics, science,
and philosophy. Furthermore, having disproved the theories of
their mental inferiority, some of the race, in conformity with the
suggestion of Cotton Mather, were employed to teach white children.

Observing these evidences of a general uplift of the Negroes, certain
educators advocated the establishment of special colored schools. The
founding of these institutions, however, must not be understood as a
movement to separate the children of the races on account of caste
prejudice. The dual system resulted from an effort to meet the needs
peculiar to a people just emerging from bondage. It was easily seen
that their education should no longer be dominated by religion.
Keeping the past of the Negroes in mind, their friends tried to unite
the benefits of practical and cultural education. The teachers of
colored schools offered courses in the industries along with advanced
work in literature, mathematics, and science. Girls who specialized in
sewing took lessons in French.

So startling were the rapid strides made by the colored people in
their mental development after the revolutionary era that certain
southerners who had not seriously objected to the enlightenment of the
Negroes began to favor the half reactionary policy of educating them
only on the condition that they should be colonized. The colonization
movement, however, was supported also by some white men who, seeing
the educational progress of the colored people during the period of
better beginnings, felt that they should be given an opportunity to
be transplanted to a free country where they might develop without

Timorous southerners, however, soon had other reasons for their
uncharitable attitude. During the first quarter of the nineteenth
century two effective forces were rapidly increasing the number of
reactionaries who by public opinion gradually prohibited the education
of the colored people in all places except certain urban communities
where progressive Negroes had been sufficiently enlightened to provide
their own school facilities. The first of these forces was the
worldwide industrial movement. It so revolutionized spinning and
weaving that the resulting increased demand for cotton fiber gave rise
to the plantation system of the South, which required a larger number
of slaves. Becoming too numerous to be considered as included in the
body politic as conceived by Locke, Montesquieu, and Blackstone,
the slaves were generally doomed to live without any enlightenment
whatever. Thereafter rich planters not only thought it unwise to
educate men thus destined to live on a plane with beasts, but
considered it more profitable to work a slave to death during seven
years and buy another in his stead than to teach and humanize him with
a view to increasing his efficiency.

The other force conducive to reaction was the circulation through
intelligent Negroes of antislavery accounts of the wrongs to colored
people and the well portrayed exploits of Toussaint L'Ouverture.
Furthermore, refugees from Haiti settled in Baltimore, Norfolk,
Charleston, and New Orleans, where they gave Negroes a first-hand
story of how black men of the West Indies had righted their wrongs. At
the same time certain abolitionists and not a few slaveholders were
praising, in the presence of slaves, the bloody methods of the
French Revolution. When this enlightenment became productive of
such disorders that slaveholders lived in eternal dread of servile
insurrection, Southern States adopted the thoroughly reactionary
policy of making the education of Negroes impossible.

The prohibitive legislation extended over a period of more than a
century, beginning with the act of South Carolina in 1740. But with
the exception of the action of this State and that of Georgia the
important measures which actually proscribed the teaching of Negroes
were enacted during the first four decades of the nineteenth century.
The States attacked the problem in various ways. Colored people beyond
a certain number were not allowed to assemble for social or religious
purposes, unless in the presence of certain "discreet" white men;
slaves were deprived of the helpful contact of free persons of color
by driving them out of some Southern States; masters who had employed
their favorite blacks in positions which required a knowledge of
bookkeeping, printing, and the like, were commanded by law to
discontinue that custom; and private and public teachers were
prohibited from assisting Negroes to acquire knowledge in any manner

The majority of the people of the South had by this time come to the
conclusion that, as intellectual elevation unfits men for servitude
and renders it impossible to retain them in this condition, it should
be interdicted. In other words, the more you cultivate the minds of
slaves, the more unserviceable you make them; you give them a higher
relish for those privileges which they cannot attain and turn what you
intend for a blessing into a curse. If they are to remain in slavery
they should be kept in the lowest state of ignorance and degradation,
and the nearer you bring them to the condition of brutes the better
chance they have to retain their apathy. It had thus been brought to
pass that the measures enacted to prevent the education of Negroes had
not only forbidden association with their fellows for mutual help and
closed up most colored schools in the South, but had in several States
made it a crime for a Negro to teach his own children.

The contrast of conditions at the close of this period with those
of former days is striking. Most slaves who were once counted as
valuable, on account of their ability to read and write the English
language, were thereafter considered unfit for service in the
South and branded as objects of suspicion. Moreover, when within a
generation or so the Negroes began to retrograde because they had been
deprived of every elevating influence, the white people of the South
resorted to their old habit of answering their critics with the bold
assertion that the effort to enlighten the blacks would prove futile
on account of their mental inferiority. The apathy which these
bondmen, inured to hardships, consequently developed was referred to
as adequate evidence that they were content with their lot, and
that any effort to teach them to know their real condition would be
productive of mischief both to the slaves and their masters.

The reactionary movement, however, was not confined to the South. The
increased migration of fugitives and free Negroes to the asylum of
Northern States, caused certain communities of that section to feel
that they were about to be overrun by undesirable persons who could
not be easily assimilated. The subsequent anti-abolition riots in the
North made it difficult for friends of the Negroes to raise funds to
educate them. Free persons of color were not allowed to open schools
in some places, teachers of Negroes were driven from their stations,
and colored schoolhouses were burned.

Ashamed to play the role of a Christian clergy guarding silence on the
indispensable duty of saving the souls of the colored people, certain
of the most influential southern ministers hit upon the scheme of
teaching illiterate Negroes the principles of Christianity by memory
training or the teaching of religion without letters. This the clergy
were wont to call religious instruction. The word instruction,
however, as used in various documents, is rather confusing. Before the
reactionary period all instruction of the colored people included the
teaching of the rudiments of education as a means to convey Christian
thought. But with the exception of a few Christians the southerners
thereafter used the word instruction to signify the mere memorizing of
principles from the most simplified books. The sections of the South
in which the word instruction was not used in this restricted sense
were mainly the settlements of Quakers and Catholics who, in defiance
of the law, persisted in teaching Negroes to read and write. Yet it
was not uncommon to find others who, after having unsuccessfully used
their influence against the enactment of these reactionary laws,
boldly defied them by instructing the Negroes of their communities.
Often opponents to this custom winked at it as an indulgence to the
clerical profession. Many Scotch-Irish of the Appalachian Mountains
and liberal Methodists and Baptists of the Western slave States did
not materially change their attitude toward the enlightenment of the
colored people during the reactionary period. The Negroes among
these people continued to study books and hear religious instruction
conveyed to maturing minds.

Yet little as seemed this enlightenment by means of verbal
instruction, some slaveholders became sufficiently inhuman to object
to it on the grounds that the teaching of religion would lead to the
teaching of letters. In fact, by 1835 certain parts of the South
reached the third stage in the development of the education of the
Negroes. At first they were taught the common branches to enable them
to understand the principles of Christianity; next the colored people
as an enlightened class became such a menace to southern institutions
that it was deemed unwise to allow them any instruction beyond that
of memory training; and finally, when it was discovered that many
ambitious blacks were still learning to stir up their fellows, it was
decreed that they should not receive any instruction at all. Reduced
thus to the plane of beasts, where they remained for generations,
Negroes developed bad traits which since their emancipation have been
removed only with great difficulty.

Dark as the future of the Negro students seemed, all hope was not yet
gone. Certain white men in every southern community made it possible
for many of them to learn in spite of opposition. Slaveholders were
not long in discovering that a thorough execution of the law was
impossible when Negroes were following practically all the higher
pursuits of labor in the South. Masters who had children known to be
teaching slaves protected their benevolent sons and daughters from the
rigors of the law. Preachers, on finding out that the effort at verbal
education could not convey Christian truths to an undeveloped mind,
overcame the opposition in their localities and taught the colored
people as before. Negroes themselves, regarding learning as forbidden
fruit, stole away to secret places at night to study under the
direction of friends. Some learned by intuition without having had the
guidance of an instructor. The fact is that these drastic laws were
not passed to restrain "discreet" southerners from doing whatever they
desired for the betterment of their Negroes. The aim was to cut off
their communication with northern teachers and abolitionists, whose
activity had caused the South to believe that if such precaution were
not taken these agents would teach their slaves principles subversive
of southern institutions. Thereafter the documents which mention the
teaching of Negroes to read and write seldom even state that the
southern white teacher was so much as censured for his benevolence.
In the rare cases of arrest of such instructors they were usually
acquitted after receiving a reprimand.

With this winking at the teaching of Negroes in defiance of the law a
better day for their education brightened certain parts of the
South about the middle of the nineteenth century. Believing that an
enlightened laboring class might stop the decline of that section,
some slaveholders changed their attitude toward the elevation of
the colored people. Certain others came to think that the policy of
keeping Negroes in ignorance to prevent servile insurrections was
unwise. It was observed that the most loyal and subordinate slaves
were those who could read the Bible and learn the truth for
themselves. Private teachers of colored persons, therefore, were often
left undisturbed, little effort was made to break up the Negroes'
secret schools in different parts, and many influential white men took
it upon themselves to instruct the blacks who were anxious to learn.

Other Negroes who had no such opportunities were then finding a way of
escape through the philanthropy of those abolitionists who colonized
some freedmen and fugitives in the Northwest Territory and promoted
the migration of others to the East. These Negroes were often
fortunate. Many of them settled where they could take up land and had
access to schools and churches conducted by the best white people
of the country. This migration, however, made matters worse for the
Negroes who were left in the South. As only the most enlightened
blacks left the slave States, the bondmen and the indigent free
persons of color were thereby deprived of helpful contact. The
preponderance of intelligent Negroes, therefore, was by 1840 on the
side of the North. Thereafter the actual education of the colored
people was largely confined to eastern cities and northern communities
of transplanted freedmen. The pioneers of these groups organized
churches and established and maintained a number of successful
elementary schools.

In addition to providing for rudimentary instruction, the free Negroes
of the North helped their friends to make possible what we now call
higher education. During the second quarter of the nineteenth century
the advanced training of the colored people was almost prohibited by
the refusals of academies and colleges to admit persons of African
blood. In consequence of these conditions, the long-put-forth efforts
to found Negro colleges began to be crowned with success before the
Civil War. Institutions of the North admitted Negroes later for
various reasons. Some colleges endeavored to prepare them for service
in Liberia, while others, proclaiming their conversion to the doctrine
of democratic education, opened their doors to all.

The advocates of higher education, however, met with no little
opposition. The concentration in northern communities of the crude
fugitives driven from the South necessitated a readjustment of things.
The training of Negroes in any manner whatever was then very unpopular
in many parts of the North. When prejudice, however, lost some of its
sting, the friends of the colored people did more than ever for
their education. But in view of the changed conditions most of these
philanthropists concluded that the Negroes were very much in need
of practical education. Educators first attempted to provide such
training by offering classical and vocational courses in what they
called the "manual labor schools." When these failed to meet the
emergency they advocated actual vocational training. To make this new
system extensive the Negroes freely cooeperated with their benefactors,
sharing no small part of the real burden. They were at the same time
paying taxes to support public schools which they could not attend.

This very condition was what enabled the abolitionists to see that
they had erred in advocating the establishment of separate schools for
Negroes. At first the segregation of pupils of African blood was, as
stated above, intended as a special provision to bring the colored
youth into contact with sympathetic teachers, who knew the needs of
their students. When the public schools, however, developed at the
expense of the state into a desirable system better equipped than
private institutions, the antislavery organizations in many Northern
States began to demand that the Negroes be admitted to the public
schools. After extensive discussion certain States of New England
finally decided the question in the affirmative, experiencing no great
inconvenience from the change. In most other States of the North,
however, separate schools for Negroes did not cease to exist until
after the Civil War. It was the liberated Negroes themselves who,
during the Reconstruction, gave the Southern States their first
effective system of free public schools.



The first real educators to take up the work of enlightening American
Negroes were clergymen interested in the propagation of the gospel
among the heathen of the new world. Addressing themselves to this
task, the missionaries easily discovered that their first duty was to
educate these crude elements to enable them not only to read the truth
for themselves, but to appreciate the supremacy of the Christian
religion. After some opposition slaves were given the opportunity to
take over the Christian civilization largely because of the adverse
criticism[1] which the apostles to the lowly heaped upon the planters
who neglected the improvement of their Negroes. Made then a device for
bringing the blacks into the Church, their education was at first too
much dominated by the teaching of religion.

[Footnote 1: Bourne, _Spain in America_, p. 241; and _The Penn. Mag.
of History_, xii., 265.]

Many early advocates of slavery favored the enlightenment of the
Africans. That it was an advantage to the Negroes to be brought within
the light of the gospel was a common argument in favor of the slave
trade.[1] When the German Protestants from Salsburg had scruples about
enslaving men, they were assured by a message from home stating that
if they took slaves in faith and with the intention of conducting
them to Christ, the action would not be a sin, but might prove a
benediction.[2] This was about the attitude of Spain. The missionary
movement seemed so important to the king of that country that he at
first allowed only Christian slaves to be brought to America, hoping
that such persons might serve as apostles to the Indians.[3] The
Spaniards adopted a different policy, however, when they ceased their
wild search for an "El Dorado" and became permanently attached to the
community. They soon made settlements and opened mines which
they thought required the introduction of slavery. Thus becoming
commercialized, these colonists experienced a greed which,
disregarding the consequences of the future, urged the importation
of all classes of slaves to meet the demand for cheap labor.[4] This
request was granted by the King of Spain, but the masters of such
bondmen were expressly ordered to have them indoctrinated in the
principles of Christianity. It was the failure of certain Spaniards to
live up to these regulations that caused the liberal-minded Jesuit,
Alphonso Sandoval, to register the first protest against slavery in
America.[5] In later years the change in the attitude of the Spaniards
toward this problem was noted. In Mexico the ayuntamientos were under
the most rigid responsibility to see that free children born of slaves
received the best education that could be given them. They had to
place them "for that purpose at the public schools and other places of
instruction wherein they" might "become useful to society."[6]

[Footnote 1: Proslavery Argument; and Lecky, _History of England_,
vol. ii., p. 17.]

[Footnote 2: Faust, _German Element in United States_, vol. i., pp.

[Footnote 3: Bancroft, _History of United States_, vol. i., p. 124.]

[Footnote 4: Herrera, _Historia General_, dec. iv., libro ii.; dec.
v., libro ii.; dec. vii., libro iv.]

[Footnote 5: Bourne, _Spain in America_, p. 241.]

[Footnote 6: _Special Report U.S. Com. of Ed._, 1871, p. 389.]

In the French settlements of America the instruction of the Negroes
did not early become a difficult problem. There were not many Negroes
among the French. Their methods of colonization did not require many
slaves. Nevertheless, whenever the French missionary came into contact
with Negroes he considered it his duty to enlighten the unfortunates
and lead them to God. As early as 1634 Paul Le Jeune, a Jesuit
missionary in Canada, rejoiced that he had again become a real
preceptor in that he was teaching a little Negro the alphabet. Le
Jeune hoped to baptize his pupil as soon as he learned sufficient to
understand the Christian doctrine.[1] Moreover, evidence of a general
interest in the improvement of Negroes appeared in the Code Noir which
made it incumbent upon masters to enlighten their slaves that they
might grasp the principles of the Christian religion.[2] To carry
out this mandate slaves were sometimes called together with white
settlers. The meeting was usually opened with prayer and the reading
of some pious book, after which the French children were turned over
to one catechist, and the slaves and Indians to another. If a large
number of slaves were found in the community their special instruction
was provided for in meetings of their own.[3]

[Footnote 1: _Jesuit Relations_, vol. v., p. 63.]

[Footnote 2: Code Noir, p. 107.]

[Footnote 3: _Jesuit Relations_, vol. v., p. 62.]

After 1716, when Jesuits were taking over slaves in larger numbers,
and especially after 1726, when Law's Company was importing many to
meet the demand for laborers in Louisiana, we read of more instances
of the instruction of Negroes by French Catholics.[1] Writing about
this task in 1730, Le Petit spoke of being "settled to the instruction
of the boarders, the girls who live without, and the Negro women."[2]
In 1738 he said, "I instruct in Christian morals the slaves of our
residence, who are Negroes, and as many others as I can get from their
masters."[3] Years later Francois Philibert Watrum, seeing that some
Jesuits had on their estates one hundred and thirty slaves, inquired
why the instruction of the Indian and Negro serfs of the French did
not give these missionaries sufficient to do.[4] Hoping to enable
the slaves to elevate themselves, certain inhabitants of the French
colonies requested of their king a decree protecting their title to
property in such bondmen as they might send to France to be confirmed
in their instruction and in the exercise of their religion, and to
have them learn some art or trade from which the colonies might
receive some benefit by their return from the mother country.

[Footnote 1: _Ibid_., vol. lxvii., pp. 259 and 343.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., vol. lxviii., p. 201.]

[Footnote 3: _Ibid_., vol. lxix., p. 31.]

[Footnote 4: _Ibid_., vol. lxx., p. 245.]

The education of Negroes was facilitated among the French and Spanish
by their liberal attitude toward their slaves. Many of them were
respected for their worth and given some of the privileges of
freemen. Estevanecito, an enlightened slave sent by Niza, the Spanish
adventurer, to explore Arizona, was a favored servant of this
class.[1] The Latin custom of miscegenation proved to be a still more
important factor in the education of Negroes in the colonies. As the
French and Spanish came to America for the purpose of exploitation,
leaving their wives behind, many of them, by cohabiting with and
marrying colored women, gave rise to an element of mixed breeds. This
was especially true of the Spanish settlements. They had more persons
of this class than any other colonies in America. The Latins, in
contradistinction to the English, generally liberated their mulatto
offspring and sometimes recognized them as their equals. Such Negroes
constituted a class of persons who, although they could not aspire to
the best in the colony, had a decided advantage over other inhabitants
of color. They often lived in luxury, and, of course, had a few
social privileges. The Code Noir granted freedmen the same rights,
privileges, and immunities as those enjoyed by persons born free, with
the view that the accomplishment of acquired liberty should have on
the former the same effect that the happiness of natural liberty
caused in other subjects.[2] As these mixed breeds were later lost, so
to speak, among the Latins, it is almost impossible to determine what
their circumstances were, and what advantages of education they had.

[Footnote 1: Bancroft, _Arizona and New Mexico_, pp. 27-32.]

[Footnote 2: The Code Noir obliged every planter to have his Negroes
instructed and baptized. It allowed the slave for instruction,
worship, and rest not only every Sunday, but every festival usually
observed by the Roman Catholic Church. It did not permit any market to
be held on Sundays or holidays. It prohibited, under severe penalties,
all masters and managers from corrupting their female slaves. It did
not allow the Negro husband, wife, or infant children to be sold
separately. It forbade them the use of torture, or immoderate and
inhuman punishments. It obliged the owners to maintain their old and
decrepit slaves. If the Negroes were not fed and clothed as the law
prescribed, or if they were in any way cruelly treated, they might
apply to the Procureur, who was obliged by his office to protect them.
See Code Noir, pp. 99-100.]

The Spanish and French were doing so much more than the English to
enlighten their slaves that certain teachers and missionaries in the
British colonies endeavored more than ever to arouse their countrymen
to discharge their duty to those they held in bondage. These reformers
hoped to do this by holding up to the members of the Anglican Church
the praiseworthy example of the Catholics whom the British had for
years denounced as enemies of Christ. The criticism had its effect.
But to prosecute this work extensively the English had to overcome
the difficulty found in the observance of the unwritten law that
no Christian could be held a slave. Now, if the teaching of slaves
enabled them to be converted and their Christianization led to
manumission, the colonists had either to let the institution gradually
pass away or close all avenues of information to the minds of their
Negroes. The necessity of choosing either of these alternatives
was obviated by the enactment of provincial statutes and formal
declarations by the Bishop of London to the effect that conversion did
not work manumission.[1] After the solution of this problem English
missionaries urged more vigorously upon the colonies the duty of
instructing the slaves. Among the active churchmen working for this
cause were Rev. Morgan Goodwyn and Bishops Fleetwood, Lowth, and

[Footnote 1: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed._, 1871, p. 352.]

[Footnote 2: On observing that laws had been passed in Virginia to
prevent slaves from attending the meetings of Quakers for purposes of
being instructed, Morgan Goodwyn registered a most earnest protest. He
felt that prompt attention should be given to the instruction of the
slaves to prevent the Church from falling into discredit, and to
obviate the causes for blasphemy on the part of the enemies of the
Church who would not fail to point out that ministers sent to the
remotest parts had failed to convert the heathen. Therefore, he
preached in Westminster Abbey in 1685 a sermon "to stir up and
provoke" his "Majesty's subjects abroad, and even at home, to use
endeavors for the propagation of Christianity among their domestic
slaves and vassals." He referred to the spreading of mammonism and
irreligion by which efforts to instruct and Christianize the heathen
were paralyzed. He deplored the fact that the slaves who were the
subjects of such instruction became the victims of still greater
cruelty, while the missionaries who endeavored to enlighten them were
neglected and even persecuted by the masters. They considered the
instruction of the Negroes an impracticable and needless work of
popish superstition, and a policy subversive of the interests of
slaveholders. Bishop Sanderson found it necessary to oppose this
policy of Virginia which had met the denunciation of Goodwyn. In
strongly emphasizing this duty of masters, Bishop Fleetwood moved the
hearts of many planters of North Carolina to allow missionaries access
to their slaves. Many of them were thereafter instructed and baptized.
See Goodwyn, _The Negroes and Indians' Advocate_; Hart, _History Told
by Contemporaries_, vol. i., No. 86; _Special Rep. U.S. Com. of Ed._,
1871, p. 363; _An Account of the Endeavors of the Soc._, etc., p. 14.]

Complaints from men of this type led to systematic efforts to
enlighten the blacks. The first successful scheme for this purpose
came from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign
Parts. It was organized by the members of the Established Church in
London in 1701[1] to do missionary work among Indians and Negroes.
To convert the heathen they sent out not only ministers but
schoolmasters. They were required to instruct the children, to teach
them to read the Scriptures and other poems and useful books, to
ground them thoroughly in the Church catechism, and to repeat "morning
and evening prayers and graces composed for their use at home."[2]

[Footnote 1: Pascoe, _Classified Digest of the Records of the Society
for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts_, p. 24.]

[Footnote 2: Dalcho, _An Historical Account of the Protestant
Episcopal Church in South Carolina_, p. 39; _Special Rep. U.S. Com. of
Ed._, 1871, p. 362.]

The first active schoolmaster of this class was Rev. Samuel Thomas of
Goose Creek Parish in South Carolina. He took up this work there in
1695, and in 1705 could count among his communicants twenty Negroes,
who with several others "well understanding the English tongue" could
read and write.[1] Rev. Mr. Thomas said: "I have here presumed to give
an account of one thousand slaves so far as they know of it and are
desirous of Christian knowledge and seem willing to prepare themselves
for it, in learning to read, for which they redeem the time from their
labor. Many of them can read the Bible distinctly, and great numbers
of them were learning when I left the province."[2] But not only had
this worker enlightened many Negroes in his parish, but had enlisted
in the work several ladies, among whom was Mrs. Haig Edwards. The Rev.
Mr. Taylor, already interested in the cause, hoped that other masters
and mistresses would follow the example of Mrs. Edwards.[3]

[Footnote 1: Meriwether, _Education in South Carolina_, p. 123].

[Footnote 2: _Special Rep. U.S. Com. of Ed._, 1871, p. 362.]

[Footnote 3: _An Account of the Endeavors Used by the Society for the
Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts_, pp. 13-14.]

Through the efforts of the same society another school was opened in
New York City in 1704 under Elias Neau.[1] This benefactor is commonly
known as the first to begin such an institution for the education of
Negroes; but the school in Goose Creek Parish, South Carolina, was
in operation at least nine years earlier. At first Neau called the
Negroes together after their daily toil was over and taught them at
his house. By 1708 he was instructing thus as many as two hundred.
Neau's school owes its importance to the fact that not long after its
beginning certain Negroes who organized themselves to kill off their
masters were accredited as students of this institution. For this
reason it was immediately closed.[2] When upon investigating the
causes of the insurrection, however, it was discovered that only one
person connected with the institution had taken part in the struggle,
the officials of the colony permitted Neau to continue his work and
extended him their protection. After having been of invaluable service
to the Negroes of New York this school was closed in 1722 by the
death of its founder. The work of Neau, however, was taken up by Mr.
Huddlestone. Rev. Mr. Wetmore entered the field in 1726. Later there
appeared Rev. Mr. Colgan and Noxon, both of whom did much to promote
the cause. In 1732 came Rev. Mr. Charlton who toiled in this field
until 1747 when he was succeeded by Rev. Mr. Auchmutty. He had the
cooeperation of Mr. Hildreth, the assistant of his predecessor. Much
help was obtained from Rev. Mr. Barclay who, at the death of Mr. Vesey
in 1764, became the rector of the parish supporting the school.[3]

[Footnote 1: _An Account of the Endeavors Used by the Society for the
Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts_, pp. 6-12.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., p. 9.]

[Footnote 3: _Special Report U.S. Com. of Ed._, 1871, p. 362.]

The results obtained in the English colonies during the early period
show that the agitation for the enlightenment of the Negroes spread
not only wherever these unfortunates were found, but claimed the
attention of the benevolent far away. Bishop Wilson of Sodor and Man,
active in the cause during the first half of the eighteenth century,
availed himself of the opportunity to aid those missionaries who
were laboring in the colonies for the instruction of the Indians
and Negroes. In 1740 he published a pamphlet written in 1699 on the
_Principles and Duties of Christianity in their Direct Bearing on the
Uplift of the Heathen_. To teach by example he further aided this
movement by giving fifty pounds for the education of colored children
in Talbot County, Maryland.[1]

[Footnote 1: _Ibid._, 1871, p. 364.]

After some opposition this work began to progress somewhat in
Virginia.[1] The first school established in that colony was for
Indians and Negroes.[2] In the course of time the custom of teaching
the latter had legal sanction there. On binding out a "bastard or
pauper child black or white," churchwardens specifically required
that he should be taught "to read, write, and calculate as well as to
follow some profitable form of labor."[3] Other Negroes also had an
opportunity to learn. Reports of an increase in the number of colored
communicants came from Accomac County where four or five hundred
families were instructing their slaves at home, and had their children
catechized on Sunday. Unusual interest in the cause at Lambeth, in the
same colony, is attested by an interesting document, setting forth
in 1724 a proposition for "_Encouraging the Christian Education of
Indian, Negro, and Mulatto Children_." The author declares it to be
the duty of masters and mistresses of America to endeavor to educate
and instruct their heathen slaves in the Christian faith, and
mentioned the fact that this work had been "earnestly recommended by
his Majesty's instructions." To encourage the movement it was proposed
that "every Indian, Negro and Mulatto child that should be baptized
and afterward brought into the Church and publicly catechized by the
minister, and should before the fourteenth year of his or her age
give a distinct account of the creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten
Commandments," should receive from the minister a certificate which
would entitle such children to exemption from paying all levies until
the age of eighteen.[4] The neighboring colony of North Carolina
also was moved by these efforts despite some difficulties which the
missionaries there encountered.[5]

[Footnote 1: Meade, _Old Families and Churches in Virginia_, p. 264;
Plumer, _Thoughts on the Religious Instruction of Negroes_, pp.

[Footnote 2: Monroe, _Cyclopaedia of Education_, vol. iv., p. 406.]

[Footnote 3: Russell, _The Free Negro in Virginia_, in J.H.U. Studies,
Series xxxi., No. 3, p. 107.]

[Footnote 4: Meade, _Old Families and Churches in Virginia_, pp.

[Footnote 5: Ashe, _History of North Carolina_, pp. 389-90.]

This favorable attitude toward the people of color, and the successful
work among them, caused the opponents of this policy to speak out
boldly against their enlightenment. Some asserted that the Negroes
were such stubborn creatures that there could be no such close dealing
with them, and that even when converted they became saucier than
pious. Others maintained that these bondmen were so ignorant and
indocile, so far gone in their wickedness, so confirmed in their
habit of evil ways, that it was vain to undertake to teach them such
knowledge. Less cruel slaveholders had thought of getting out of the
difficulty by the excuse that the instruction of Negroes required more
time and labor than masters could well spare from their business. Then
there were others who frankly confessed that, being an ignorant and
unlearned people themselves, they could not teach others.[1]

[Footnote 1: For a summary of this argument see Meade, _Four Sermons
of Reverend Bacon_, pp. 81-97; also, _A Letter to an American Planter
from his Friend in London_, p. 5.]

Seeing that many leading planters had been influenced by those opposed
to the enlightenment of Negroes, Bishop Gibson of London issued an
appeal in behalf of the bondmen, addressing the clergy and laymen in
two letters[1] published in London in 1727. In one he exhorted masters
and mistresses of families to encourage and promote the instruction of
their Negroes in the Christian faith. In the other epistle he directed
the missionaries of the colonies to give to this work whatever
assistance they could. Writing to the slaveholders, he took the
position that considering the greatness of the profit from the labor
of the slaves it might be hoped that all masters, those especially who
were possessed of considerable numbers, should be at some expense in
providing for the instruction of those poor creatures. He thought
that others who did not own so many should share in the expense of
maintaining for them a common teacher.

[Footnote 1: _An Account of the Endeavors Used by the Society for the
Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts_, pp. 16, 21, and 32; and
Dalcho, _An Historical Account_, etc., pp. 104 et seq.]

Equally censorious of these neglectful masters was Reverend Thomas
Bacon, the rector of the Parish Church in Talbot County, Maryland.
In 1749 he set forth his protest in four sermons on "the great and
indispensable duty of all Christian masters to bring up their slaves
in the knowledge and fear of God."[1] Contending that slaves
should enjoy rights like those of servants in the household of the
patriarchs, Bacon insisted that next to one's children and brethren
by blood, one's servants, and especially one's slaves, stood in the
nearest relation to him, and that in return for their drudgery the
master owed it to his bondmen to have them enlightened. He believed
that the reading and explaining of the Holy Scriptures should be made
a stated duty. In the course of time the place of catechist in each
family might be supplied out of the intelligent slaves by choosing
such among them as were best taught to instruct the rest.[2] He was of
the opinion, too, that were some of the slaves taught to read, were
they sent to school for that purpose when young, were they given
the New Testament and other good books to be read at night to their
fellow-servants, such a course would vastly increase their knowledge
of God and direct their minds to a serious thought of futurity.[3]

[Footnote 1: Meade, _Sermons of Thomas Bacon_, pp. 31 et seq.]

[Footnote 2: Meade, _Sermons of Thomas Bacon_, pp. 116 _et seq._]

[Footnote 3: _Ibid._, p. 118.]

With almost equal zeal did Bishops Williams and Butler plead the same
cause.[1] They deplored the fact that because of their dark skins
Negro slaves were treated as a species different from the rest of
mankind. Denouncing the more cruel treatment of slaves as cattle,
unfit for mental and moral improvement, these churchmen asserted that
the highest property possible to be acquired in servants could not
cancel the obligation to take care of the religious instruction of
those who "despicable as they are in the eyes of man are nevertheless
the creatures of God."[2]

[Footnote 1: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed._, 1871, p. 363.]

[Footnote 2: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed_., 1871, p. 363.]

On account of these appeals made during the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries a larger number of slaves of the English colonies were
thereafter treated as human beings capable of mental, moral, and
spiritual development. Some masters began to provide for the
improvement of these unfortunates, not because they loved them, but
because instruction would make them more useful to the community. A
much more effective policy of Negro education was brought forward in
1741 by Bishop Secker.[1] He suggested the employment of young Negroes
prudently chosen to teach their countrymen. To carry out such a plan
he had already sent a missionary to Africa. Besides instructing
Negroes at his post of duty, this apostle sent three African natives
to England where they were educated for the work.[2] It was doubtless
the sentiment of these leaders that caused Dr. Brearcroft to allude to
this project in a discourse before the Society for the Propagation of
the Gospel in Foreign Parts in 1741.[3]

[Footnote 1: Secker, _Works_, vol. v., p. 88.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., vol. vi., p. 467.]

[Footnote 3: _An Account of the Endeavors Used by the Society for the
Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts_, p.6.]

This organization hit upon the plan of purchasing two Negroes named
Harry and Andrew, and of qualifying them by thorough instruction in
the principles of Christianity and the fundamentals of education, to
serve as schoolmasters to their people. Under the direction of Rev.
Mr. Garden, the missionary who had directed the training of these
young men, a building costing about three hundred and eight pounds was
erected in Charleston, South Carolina. In the school which opened in
this building in 1744 Harry and Andrew served as teachers.[1] In the
beginning the school had about sixty young students, and had a very
good daily attendance for a number of years. The directors of the
institution planned to send out annually between thirty and forty
youths "well instructed in religion and capable of reading their
Bibles to carry home and diffuse the same knowledge to their fellow
slaves."[2] It is highly probable that after 1740 this school was
attended only by free persons of color. Because the progress of Negro
education had been rather rapid, South Carolina enacted that year a
law prohibiting any person from teaching or causing a slave to be
taught, or from employing or using a slave as a scribe in any manner
of writing.

[Footnote 1: Meriwether, _Education in South Carolina_, p. 123;
McCrady, _South Carolina_, etc., p. 246; Dalcho, _An Historical
Account of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina_, pp.
156, 157, 164.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., pp. 157 and 164.]

In 1764 the Charleston school was closed for reasons which it is
difficult to determine. From one source we learn that one of the
teachers died, and the other having turned out profligate, no
instructors could be found to continue the work. It does not seem that
the sentiment against the education of free Negroes had by that time
become sufficiently strong to cause the school to be discontinued.[1]
It is evident, however, that with the assistance of influential
persons of different communities the instruction of slaves continued
in that colony. Writing about the middle of the eighteenth century,
Eliza Lucas, a lady of South Carolina, who afterward married Justice
Pinckney, mentions a parcel of little Negroes whom she had undertaken
to teach to read.[2]

[Footnote 1: _An Account of the Endeavors Used by the Society for the
Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts_, p. 15.]

[Footnote 2: Bourne, _Spain in America_, p. 241.]

The work of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign
Parts was also effective in communities of the North in which the
established Church of England had some standing. In 1751 Reverend Hugh
Neill, once a Presbyterian minister of New Jersey, became a missionary
of this organization to the Negroes of Pennsylvania. He worked among
them fifteen years. Dr. Smith, Provost of the College of Philadelphia,
devoted a part of his time to the work, and at the death of Neill in
1766 enlisted as a regular missionary of the Society.[1] It seems,
however, that prior to the eighteenth century not much had been done
to enlighten the slaves of that colony, although free persons of
color had been instructed. Rev. Mr. Wayman, another missionary to
Pennsylvania about the middle of the eighteenth century, asserted that
"neither" was "there anywhere care taken for the instruction of Negro
slaves," the duty to whom he had "pressed upon masters with little

[Footnote 1: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed._, 1871, p. 362.]

[Footnote 2: Wickersham, _History of Education in Pennsylvania_, p.

To meet this need the Society set the example of maintaining
catechetical lectures for Negroes in St. Peter's and Christ Church of
Philadelphia, during the incumbency of Dr. Jennings from 1742 to 1762.
William Sturgeon, a student of Yale, selected to do this work, was
sent to London for ordination and placed in charge in 1747.[1] In this
position Rev. Mr. Sturgeon remained nineteen years, rendering such
satisfactory services in the teaching of Negroes that he deserves to
be recorded as one of the first benefactors of the Negro race.

[Footnote 1: _Ibid_., p. 241.]

Antedating this movement in Pennsylvania were the efforts of Reverend
Dr. Thomas Bray. In 1696 he was sent to Maryland by the Bishop of
London on an ecclesiastical mission to do what he could toward the
conversion of adult Negroes and the education of their children.[1]
Bray's most influential supporter was M. D'Alone, the private
secretary of King William. D'Alone gave for the maintenance of the
cause a fund, the proceeds of which were first used for the employment
of colored catechists, and later for the support of the Thomas Bray
Mission after the catechists had failed to give satisfaction. At the
death of this missionary the task was taken up by certain followers
of the good man, known as the "Associates of Doctor Bray."[2] They
extended their work beyond the confines of Maryland. In 1760 two
schools for the education of Negroes were maintained in Philadelphia
by these benefactors. It was the aid obtained from the Dr. Bray fund
that enabled the abolitionists to establish in that city a permanent
school which continued for almost a hundred years.[3] About the close
of the French and Indian War, Rev. Mr. Stewart, a missionary in North
Carolina, found there a school for the education of Indians and free
Negroes, conducted by Dr. Bray's Associates. The example of these men
appealing to him as a wise policy, he directed to it the attention of
the clergy at home.[4]

[Footnote 1: _Ibid_., p. 252; Smyth, _Works of Franklin_, vol. iv., p.
23; and vol. v., p. 431.]

[Footnote 2: Smyth, _Works of Franklin_, vol. v., p. 431.]

[Footnote 3: Wickersham, _History of Education in Pennsylvania_, p.

[Footnote 4: Bassett, _Slavery and Servitude in North Carolina_, Johns
Hopkins University Studies, vol. xv., p. 226.]

Not many slaves were found among the Puritans, but the number sufficed
to bring the question of their instruction before these colonists
almost as prominently as we have observed it was brought in the case
of the members of the Established Church of England. Despite the fact
that the Puritans developed from the Calvinists, believers in the
doctrine of election which swept away all class distinction, this sect
did not, like the Quakers, attack slavery as an institution. Yet if
the Quakers were the first of the Protestants to protest against the
buying and selling of souls, New England divines were among the first
to devote attention to the mental, moral, and spiritual development of
Negroes.[1] In 1675 John Eliot objected to the Indian slave trade, not
because of the social degradation, but for the reason that he desired
that his countrymen "should follow Christ his Designe in this matter
to promote the free passage of Religion" among them. He further
said: "For to sell Souls for Money seemeth to me to be dangerous
Merchandise, to sell away from all Means of Grace whom Christ hath
provided Means of Grace for you is the Way for us to be active in
destroying their Souls when they are highly obliged to seek their
Conversion and Salvation." Eliot bore it grievously that the souls of
the slaves were "exposed by their Masters to a destroying Ignorance
meerly for the Fear of thereby losing the Benefit of their

[Footnote 1: _Pennsylvania Magazine of History_, vol. xiii., p. 265.]

[Footnote 2: Locke, _Anti-slavery Before 1808_, p. 15; Mather, _Life
of John Eliot_, p. 14; _New Plymouth Colony Records_, vol. x., p.

Further interest in the work was manifested by Cotton Mather. He
showed his liberality in his professions published in 1693 in a set of
_Rules for the Society of Negroes_, intended to present the claims of
the despised race to the benefits of religious instruction.[1] Mather
believed that servants were in a sense like one's children, and that
their masters should train and furnish them with Bibles and other
religious books for which they should be given time to read. He
maintained that servants should be admitted to the religious exercises
of the family and was willing to employ such of them as were competent
to teach his children lessons of piety. Coming directly to the issue
of the day, Mather deplored the fact that the several plantations
which lived upon the labor of their Negroes were guilty of the
"prodigious Wickedness of deriding, neglecting, and opposing all
due Means of bringing the poor Negroes unto God." He hoped that
the masters, of whom God would one day require the souls of slaves
committed to their care, would see to it that like Abraham they have
catechised servants. They were not to imagine that the "Almighty God
made so many thousands reasonable Creatures for nothing but only to
serve the Lusts of Epicures, or the Gains of Mammonists."[2]

[Footnote 1: Locke, _Anti-slavery_, etc., p. 15.]

[Footnote 2: Meade, _Sermons of Thomas Bacon_, p. 137 _et seq_.]

The sentiment of the clergy of this epoch was more directly expressed
by Richard Baxter, the noted Nonconformist, in his "Directions to
Masters in Foreign Plantations," incorporated as rules into the
_Christian Directory_.[1] Baxter believed in natural liberty and
the equality of man, and justified slavery only on the ground of
"necessitated consent" or captivity in lawful war. For these reasons
he felt that they that buy slaves and "use them as Beasts for their
meer Commodity, and betray, or destroy or neglect their Souls are
fitter to be called incarnate Devils than Christians, though they be
no Christians whom they so abuse."[2] His aim here, however, is not to
abolish the institution of slavery but to enlighten the Africans and
bring them into the Church.[3] Exactly what effect Baxter had on this
movement cannot be accurately figured out. The fact, however, that his
creed was extensively adhered to by the Protestant colonists among
whom his works were widely read, leads us to think that he influenced
some masters to change their attitude toward their slaves.

[Footnote 1: Baxter, _Practical Works_, vol. i., p. 438.]

[Footnote 2: Baxter, _Practical Works_, vol. i., p. 438-40.]

[Footnote 3: _Ibid_., p. 440.]

The next Puritan of prominence who enlisted among the helpers of the
African slaves was Chief Justice Sewall, of Massachusetts. In 1701
he stirred his section by publishing his _Selling of Joseph_, a
distinctly anti-slavery pamphlet, based on the natural and inalienable
right of every man to be free.[1] The appearance of this publication
marked an epoch in the history of the Negroes. It was the first direct
attack on slavery in New England. The Puritan clergy had formerly
winked at the continuation of the institution, provided the masters
were willing to give the slaves religious instruction. In the _Selling
of Joseph_ Sewall had little to say about their mental and moral
improvement, but in the _Athenian Oracle_, which expressed his
sentiments so well that he had it republished in 1705,[2] he met more
directly the problem of elevating the Negro race. Taking up this
question, Sewall said: "There's yet less doubt that those who are of
Age to answer for themselves would soon learn the Principles of our
Faith, and might be taught the Obligation of the Vow they made in
Baptism, and there's little Doubt but Abraham instructed his Heathen
Servants who were of Age to learn, the Nature of Circumcision before
he circumcised them; nor can we conclude much less from God's own
noble Testimony of him, 'I know him that he will command his Children
and his Household, and they shall keep the Way of the Lord.'"[3]
Sewall believed that the emancipation of the slaves should be promoted
to encourage Negroes to become Christians. He could not understand
how any Christian could hinder or discourage them from learning the
principles of the Christian religion and embracing the faith.

[Footnote 1: Moore, _Notes on Slavery in Massachusetts_, p. 91.]

[Footnote 2: Moore, _Notes on Slavery in Massachusetts_, p. 92; Locke,
_Anti-slavery_, etc., p. 31.]

[Footnote 3: Moore, _Notes on Slavery_, etc., p. 91; _The Athenian
Oracle_, vol. ii., pp. 460 _et seq_.]

This interest shown in the Negro race was in no sense general among
the Puritans of that day. Many of their sect could not favor such
proselyting,[1] which, according to their system of government,
would have meant the extension to the slaves of social and political
privileges. It was not until the French provided that masters should
take their slaves to church and have them indoctrinated in the
Catholic faith, that the proposition was seriously considered by many
of the Puritans. They, like the Anglicans, felt sufficient compunction
of conscience to take steps to Christianize the slaves, lest the
Catholics, whom they had derided as undesirable churchmen, should put
the Protestants to shame.[2] The publication of the Code Noir probably
influenced the instructions sent out from England to his Majesty's
governors requiring them "with the assistance of our council to find
out the best means to facilitate and encourage the conversion of
Negroes and Indians to the Christian Religion." Everly subsequently
mentions in his diary the passing of a resolution by the Council Board
at Windsor or Whitehall, recommending that the blacks in plantations
be baptized, and meting out severe censure to those who opposed this

[Footnote 1: Moore, _Notes on Slavery_, etc., p. 79.]

[Footnote 2: This good example of the Catholics was in later years
often referred to by Bishop Porteus. _Works of Bishop Porteus_, vol.
vi, pp. 168, 173, 177, 178, 401; Moore, _Notes on Slavery_, etc., p.

[Footnote 3: _Ibid_., p. 96.]

More effective than the efforts of other sects in the enlightenment of
the Negroes was the work of the Quakers, despite the fact that they
were not free to extend their operations throughout the colonies. Just
as the colored people are indebted to the Quakers for registering in
1688 the first protest against slavery in Protestant America, so are
they indebted to this denomination for the earliest permanent and
well-developed schools devoted to the education of their race. As the
Quakers believed in the freedom of the will, human brotherhood,
and equality before God, they did not, like the Puritans, find
difficulties in solving the problem of enlightening the Negroes.
While certain Puritans were afraid that conversion might lead to the
destruction of caste and the incorporation of undesirable persons into
the "Body Politick," the Quakers proceeded on the principle that all
men are brethren and, being equal before God, should be considered
equal before the law. On account of unduly emphasizing the relation of
man to God the Puritans "atrophied their social humanitarian instinct"
and developed into a race of self-conscious saints. Believing in human
nature and laying stress upon the relation between man and man the
Quakers became the friends of all humanity.

Far from the idea of getting rid of an undesirable element by merely
destroying the institution which supplied it, the Quakers endeavored
to teach the Negro to be a man capable of discharging the duties of
citizenship. As early as 1672 their attention was directed to this
important matter by George Fox.[1] In 1679 he spoke out more boldly,
entreating his sect to instruct and teach their Indians and Negroes
"how that Christ, by the Grace of God, tasted death for every man."[2]
Other Quakers of prominence did not fail to drive home this thought.
In 1693 George Keith, a leading Quaker of his day, came forward as a
promoter of the religious training of the slaves as a preparation for
emancipation.[3] William Penn advocated the emancipation of slaves,[4]
that they might have every opportunity for improvement. In 1696 the
Quakers, while protesting against the slave trade, denounced also the
policy of neglecting their moral and spiritual welfare.[5] The
growing interest of this sect in the Negroes was shown later by the
development in 1713 of a definite scheme for freeing and returning
them to Africa after having been educated and trained to serve as
missionaries on that continent.[6]

[Footnote 1: Quaker Pamphlet, p. 8; Moore, _Anti-slavery_, etc., p.

[Footnote 2: _Ibid._, p. 79.]

[Footnote 3: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed._, p. 376.]

[Footnote 4: Rhodes, _History of the United States_, vol. i., p. 6;
Bancroft, _History of the United States_, vol. ii., p. 401.]

[Footnote 5: Locke, _Anti-slavery_, p. 32.]

[Footnote 6: _Ibid._, p. 30.]

The inevitable result of this liberal attitude toward the Negroes
was that the Quakers of those colonies where other settlers were
so neglectful of the enlightenment of the colored race, soon found
themselves at war with the leaders of the time. In slaveholding
communities the Quakers were persecuted, not necessarily because they
adhered to a peculiar faith, not primarily because they had manners
and customs unacceptable to the colonists, but because in answering
the call of duty to help all men they incurred the ill will of the
masters who denounced them as undesirable persons, bringing into
America spurious doctrines subversive of the institutions of the
aristocratic settlements.

Their experience in the colony of Virginia is a good example of how
this worked out. Seeing the unchristian attitude of the preachers in
most parts of that colony, the Quakers inquired of them, "Who made you
ministers of the Gospel to white people only, and not to the tawny and
blacks also?"[1] To show the nakedness of the neglectful clergy there
some of this faith manifested such zeal in teaching and preaching to
the Negroes that their enemies demanded legislation to prevent them
from gaining ascendancy over the minds of the slaves. Accordingly, to
make the colored people of that colony inaccessible to these workers
it was deemed wise in 1672 to enact a law prohibiting members of that
sect from taking Negroes to their meetings. In 1678 the colony enacted
another measure excluding Quakers from the teaching profession by
providing that no person should be allowed to keep a school in
Virginia unless he had taken the oath of allegiance and supremacy.[2]
Of course, it was inconsistent with the spirit and creed of the
Quakers to take this oath.

[Footnote 1: Quaker Pamphlet, p. 9.]

[Footnote 2: Hening, _Statutes at Large_, vol. i., 532; ii., 48, 165,
166, 180, 198, and 204. _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed_.,
1871, p. 391.]

The settlers of North Carolina followed the same procedure to check
the influence of Quakers, who spoke there in behalf of the man of
color as fearlessly as they had in Virginia. The apprehension of the
dominating element was such that Governor Tryon had to be instructed
to prohibit from teaching in that colony any person who had not
a license from the Bishop of London.[1] Although this order was
seemingly intended to protect the faith and doctrine of the Anglican
Church, rather than to prevent the education of Negroes, it operated
to lessen their chances for enlightenment, since missionaries from
the Established Church did not reach all parts of the colony.[2] The
Quakers of North Carolina, however, had local schools and actually
taught slaves. Some of these could read and write as early as 1731.
Thereafter, household servants were generally given the rudiments of
an English education.

[Footnote 1: Ashe, _History of North Carolina_, vol. i., p. 389. The
same instructions were given to Governor Francis Nicholson.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., pp. 389, 390.]

It was in the settlements of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York
that the Quakers encountered less opposition in carrying out their
policy of cultivating the minds of colored people. Among these Friends
the education of Negroes became the handmaiden of the emancipation
movement. While John Hepburn, William Burling, Elihu Coleman, and
Ralph Sandiford largely confined their attacks to the injustice of
keeping slaves, Benjamin Lay was working for their improvement as a
prerequisite of emancipation.[1] Lay entreated the Friends to "bring
up the Negroes to some Learning, Reading and Writing and" to "endeavor
to the utmost of their Power in the sweet love of Truth to instruct
and teach 'em the Principles of Truth and Religiousness, and learn
some Honest Trade or Imployment and then set them free. And," says he,
"all the time Friends are teaching of them let them know that they
intend to let them go free in a very reasonable Time; and that our
Religious Principles will not allow of such Severity, as to keep them
in everlasting Bondage and Slavery."[2]

[Footnote 1: Locke, _Anti-slavery_, etc., p. 31.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., p. 32.]

The struggle of the Northern Quakers to enlighten the colored people
had important local results. A strong moral force operated in the
minds of most of this sect to impel them to follow the example of
certain leaders who emancipated their slaves.[1] Efforts in this
direction were redoubled about the middle of the eighteenth century
when Anthony Benezet,[2] addressing himself with unwonted zeal to the
uplift of these unfortunates, obtained the assistance of Clarkson and
others, who solidified the antislavery sentiment of the Quakers and
influenced them to give their time and means to the more effective
education of the blacks. After this period the Quakers were also
concerned with the improvement of the colored people's condition in
other settlements.[3]

[Footnote 1: Dr. DuBois gives a good account of these efforts in his
_Suppression of the African Slave Trade_.]

[Footnote 2: Benezet was a French Protestant. Persecuted on account of
their religion, his parents moved from France to England and later to
Philadelphia. He became a teacher in that city in 1742. Thirteen years
later he was teaching a school established for the education of the
daughters of the most distinguished families in Philadelphia. He was
then using his own spelling-book, primer, and grammar, some of the
first text-books published in America. Known to persecution himself,
Benezet always sympathized with the oppressed. Accordingly, he
connected himself with the Quakers, who at that time had before
them the double task of fighting for religious equality and the
amelioration of the condition of the Negroes. Becoming interested in
the welfare of the colored race, Benezet first attacked the slave
trade, so exposing it in his speeches and writings that Clarkson
entered the field as an earnest advocate of the suppression of the
iniquitous traffic. See Benezet, _Observations_, p. 30, and the
_African Repository_, vol. iv., p. 61.]

[Footnote 3: Quaker Pamphlet, p. 31.]

What the other sects did for the enlightenment of Negroes during this
period, was not of much importance. As the Presbyterians, Methodists,
and Baptists did not proselyte extensively in this country prior to
the middle of the eighteenth century, these denominations had little
to do with Negro education before the liberalism and spirit of
toleration, developed during the revolutionary era, made it possible
for these sects to reach the people. The Methodists, however, confined
at first largely to the South, where most of the slaves were found,
had to take up this problem earlier. Something looking like an attempt
to elevate the Negroes came from Wesley's contemporary, George
Whitefield,[1] who, strange to say, was regarded by the Negro race
as its enemy for having favored the introduction of slavery. He was
primarily interested in the conversion of the colored people. Without
denying that "liberty is sweet to those who are born free," he
advocated the importation of slaves into Georgia "to bring them within
the reach of those means of grace which would make them partake of a
liberty far more precious than the freedom of body."[2] While on a
visit to this country in 1740 he purchased a large tract of land at
Nazareth, Pennsylvania, for the purpose of founding a school for the
education of Negroes.[3] Deciding later to go south, he sold the site
to the Moravian brethren who had undertaken to establish a mission
for Negroes at Bethlehem in 1738.[4] Some writers have accepted the
statement that Whitefield commenced the erection of a schoolhouse at
Nazareth; others maintain that he failed to accomplish anything.[5] Be
that as it may, accessible facts are sufficient to show that, unwise
as was his policy of importing slaves, his intention was to improve
their condition. It was because of this sentiment in Georgia in 1747,
when slavery was finally introduced there, that the people through
their representatives in convention recommended that masters should
educate their young slaves, and do whatever they could to make
religious impressions upon the minds of the aged. This favorable
attitude of early Methodists toward Negroes caused them to consider
the new churchmen their friends and made it easy for this sect to
proselyte the race.

[Footnote 1: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed_., 1871, p. 374.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., p. 374.]

[Footnote 3: Turner, _The Negro in Pennsylvania_, p. 128.]

[Footnote 4: Equally interested in the Negroes were the Moravians who
settled in the uplands of Pennsylvania and roamed over the hills of
the Appalachian region as far south as Carolina. A painting of a
group of their converts prior to 1747 shows among others two Negroes,
Johannes of South Carolina and Jupiter of New York. See Hamilton,
_History of the Church known as the Moravian_, p. 80; Plumer,
_Thoughts on the Religious Instruction of Negroes_, p. 3; Reichel,
_The Moravians in North Carolina_, p. 139.]

[Footnote 5: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed_., 1869, p. 374.]



In addition to the mere diffusion of knowledge as a means to teach
religion there was a need of another factor to make the education of
the Negroes thorough. This required force was supplied by the response
of the colonists to the nascent social doctrine of the eighteenth
century. During the French and Indian War there were set to work
certain forces which hastened the social and political upheaval called
the American Revolution. "Bigoted saints" of the more highly favored
sects condescended to grant the rising denominations toleration,
the aristocratic elements of colonial society deigned to look more
favorably upon those of lower estate, and a large number of leaders
began to think that the Negro should be educated and freed. To
acquaint themselves with the claims of the underman Americans
thereafter prosecuted more seriously the study of Coke, Milton, Locke,
and Blackstone. The last of these was then read more extensively in
the colonies than in Great Britain. Getting from these writers strange
ideas of individual liberty and the social compact theory of man's
making in a state of nature government deriving its power from the
consent of the governed, the colonists contended more boldly than ever
for religious freedom, industrial liberty, and political equality.
Given impetus by the diffusion of these ideas, the revolutionary
movement became productive of the spirit of universal benevolence.
Hearing the contention for natural and inalienable rights, Nathaniel
Appleton[1] and John Woolman,[2] were emboldened to carry these
theories to their logical conclusion. They attacked not only the
oppressors of the colonists but censured also those who denied the
Negro race freedom of body and freedom of mind. When John Adams heard
James Otis basing his argument against the writs of assistance on the
British constitution "founded in the laws of nature," he "shuddered at
the doctrine taught and the consequences that might be derived from
such premises."[3]

[Footnote 1: Locke, _Anti-slavery_, etc., p. 19, 20, 23.]

[Footnote 2: _Works of John Woolman_ in two parts, pp. 58 and 73;
Moore, _Notes on Slavery in Mass._, p. 71.]

[Footnote 3: Adams, _Works of John Adams_, vol. x., p. 315; Moore,
_Notes on Slavery in Mass._, p. 71.]

So effective was the attack on the institution of slavery and its
attendant evils that interest in the question leaped the boundaries
of religious organizations and became the concern of fair-minded men
throughout the country. Not only did Northern men of the type of John
Adams and James Otis express their opposition to this tyranny of men's
bodies and minds, but Laurens, Henry, Wythe, Mason, and Washington
pointed out the injustice of such a policy. Accordingly we find
arrayed against the aristocratic masters almost all the leaders of the
American Revolution.[1] They favored the policy, first, of suppressing
the slave trade, next of emancipating the Negroes in bondage, and
finally of educating them for a life of freedom.[2] While students of
government were exposing the inconsistency of slaveholding among a
people contending for political liberty, and men like Samuel Webster,
James Swan, and Samuel Hopkins attacked the institution on economic
grounds;[3] Jonathan Boucher,[4] Dr. Rush,[5] and Benjamin Franklin[6]
were devising plans to educate slaves for freedom; and Isaac Tatem[7]
and Anthony Benezet[8] were actually in the schoolroom endeavoring to
enlighten their black brethren.

[Footnote 1: Cobb, _Slavery_, etc., p. 82.]

[Footnote 2: Madison, _Works of_, vol. iii., p. 496; Smyth, _Works of
Franklin_, vol. v., p. 431; Washington, _Works of Jefferson_, vol.
ix., p. 163; Brissot de Warville, _New Travels_, vol. i., p. 227;
Proceedings of the American Convention of Abolition Societies, 1794,
1795, 1797.]

[Footnote 3: Webster, _A Sermon Preached before the Honorable
Council_, etc.; Webster, _Earnest Address to My Country on Slavery_;
Swan, _A Dissuasion to Great Britain and the Colonies_; Hopkins,
_Dialogue Concerning Slavery_.]

[Footnote 4: Boucher, _A View of the Causes and Consequences of the
American Revolution_, p. 39.]

[Footnote 5: Rush, _An Address to the Inhabitants of_, etc., p. 16.]

[Footnote 6: Smyth, _Works of Franklin_, vol. iv., p. 23; vol. v., p.

[Footnote 7: Wickersham, _History of Ed. in Pa_., p. 249.]

[Footnote 8: _Ibid_., p. 250; _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of
Ed_., 1869, p. 375; _African Repository_, vol. iv., p. 61; Benezet,
_Observations_; Benezet, _A Serious Address to the Rulers of

The aim of these workers was not merely to enable the Negroes to take
over sufficient of Western civilization to become nominal Christians,
not primarily to increase their economic efficiency, but to enlighten
them because they are men. To strengthen their position these
defendants of the education of the blacks cited the customs of the
Greeks and Romans, who enslaved not the minds and wills, but only the
bodies of men. Nor did these benefactors fail to mention the cases of
ancient slaves, who, having the advantages of education, became poets,
teachers, and philosophers, instrumental in the diffusion of knowledge
among the higher classes. There was still the idea of Cotton Mather,
who was willing to treat his servants as part of the family, and to
employ such of them as were competent to teach his children lessons of

[Footnote 1: Meade, _Sermons of Thomas Bacon_, appendix.]

The chief objection of these reformers to slavery was that its victims
had no opportunity for mental improvement. "Othello," a free person
of color, contributing to the _American Museum_ in 1788, made the
institution responsible for the intellectual rudeness of the Negroes
who, though "naturally possessed of strong sagacity and lively parts,"
were by law and custom prohibited from being instructed in any kind
of learning.[1] He styled this policy an effort to bolster up an
institution that extinguished the "divine spark of the slave, crushed
the bud of his genius, and kept him unacquainted with the world." Dr.
McLeod denounced slavery because it "debases a part of the human race"
and tends "to destroy their intellectual powers."[2] "The slave from
his infancy," continued he, "is obliged implicitly to obey the will of
another. There is no circumstance which can stimulate him to exercise
his intellectual powers." In his arraignment of this system Rev. David
Rice complained that it was in the power of the master to deprive
the slaves of all education, that they had not the opportunity for
instructing conversation, that it was put out of their power to
learn to read, and that their masters kept them from other means of
information.[3] Slavery, therefore, must be abolished because it
infringes upon the natural right of men to be enlightened.

[Footnote 1: _The American Museum_, vol. iv., pp. 415 and 511.]

[Footnote 2: McLeod, _Negro Slavery_, p. 16.]

[Footnote 3: Rice, Speech in the Constitutional Convention of
Kentucky, p. 5.]

During this period religion as a factor in the educational progress of
the Negroes was not eliminated. In fact, representative churchmen of
the various sects still took the lead in advocating the enlightenment
of the colored people. These protagonists, however, ceased to claim
this boon merely as a divine right and demanded it as a social
privilege. Some of the clergy then interested had not at first
seriously objected to the enslavement of the African race, believing
that the lot of these people would not be worse in this country where
they might have an opportunity for enlightenment. But when this result
failed to follow, and when the slavery of the Africans' bodies turned
out to be the slavery of their minds, the philanthropic and religious
proclaimed also the doctrine of enlightenment as a right of man.
Desiring to see Negroes enjoy this privilege, Jonathan Boucher,[1] one
of the most influential of the colonial clergymen, urged his hearers
at the celebration of the Peace of 1763 to improve and emancipate
their slaves that they might "participate in the general joy."
With the hope of inducing men to discharge the same duty, Bishop
Warburton[2] boldly asserted a few years later that slaves are
"rational creatures endowed with all our qualities except that of
color, and our brethren both by nature and grace." John Woolman,[3] a
Quaker minister, influenced by the philosophy of John Locke, began to
preach that liberty is the right of all men, and that slaves, being
the fellow-creatures of their masters, had a natural right to be

[Footnote 1: Jonathan Boucher was a rector of the Established Church
in Maryland. Though not a promoter of the movement for the political
rights of the colonists, Boucher was, however, so moved by the spirit
of uplift of the downtrodden that he takes front rank among those who,
in emphasizing the rights of servants, caused a decided change in the
attitude of white men toward the improvement of Negroes. Boucher was
not an immediate abolitionist. He abhorred slavery, however, to the
extent that he asserted that if ever the colonies would be improved to
their utmost capacity, an essential part of that amelioration had
to be the abolition of slavery. His chief concern then was the
cultivation of the minds in order to make amends for the drudgery to
their bodies. See Boucher, _Causes_, etc., p. 39.]

[Footnote 2: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed_., 1871, p. 363.]

[Footnote 3: An influential minister of the Society of Friends and an
extensive traveler through the colonies, Woolman had an opportunity to
do much good in attacking the policy of those who kept their Negroes
in deplorable ignorance, and in commending the good example of those
who instructed their slaves in reading. In his _Considerations on the
Keeping of Slaves_ he took occasion to praise the Friends of North
Carolina for the unusual interest they manifested in the cause at
their meetings during his travels in that colony about the year 1760.
With such workers as Woolman in the field it is little wonder that
Quakers thereafter treated slaves as brethren, alleviated their
burdens, enlightened their minds, emancipated and cared for them until
they could provide for themselves. See _Works of John Woolman_ in two
parts, pp. 58 and 73.]

Thus following the theories of the revolutionary leaders these
liberal-minded men promulgated along with the doctrine of individual
liberty that of the freedom of the mind. The best expression of this
advanced idea came from the Methodist Episcopal Church, which reached
the acme of antislavery sentiment in 1784. This sect then boldly
declared: "We view it as contrary to the golden law of God and the
prophets, and the inalienable rights of mankind as well as every
principle of the Revolution to hold in deepest abasement, in a more
abject slavery than is perhaps to be found in any part of the world,
except America, so many souls that are capable of the image of

[Footnote 1: Matlack, _History of American Slavery and Methodism_, pp.
29 _et seq_.; McTyeire, _History of Methodism_, p. 28.]

Frequently in contact with men who were advocating the right of the
Negroes to be educated, statesmen as well as churchmen could not
easily evade the question. Washington did not have much to say about
it and did little more than to provide for the ultimate liberation of
his slaves and the teaching of their children to read.[1] Less aid to
this movement came from John Adams, although he detested slavery to
the extent that he never owned a bondman, preferring to hire freemen
at extra cost to do his work.[2] Adams made it clear that he favored
gradual emancipation. But he neither delivered any inflammatory
speeches against slaveholders neglectful of the instruction of their
slaves, nor devised any scheme for their enjoyment of freedom. So was
it with Hamilton who, as an advocate of the natural rights of man,
opposed the institution of slavery, but, with the exception of what
assistance he gave the New York African Free Schools[3] said and did
little to promote the actual education of the colored people.

[Footnote 1: Lossing, _Life of George Washington_, vol. iii., p. 537.]

[Footnote 2: Adams, _Works of John Adams_, vol. viii., p. 379; vol.
ix., p. 92; vol. x., p. 380.]

[Footnote 3: Andrews, _History of the New York African Free Schools_,
p. 57.]

Madison in stating his position on this question was a little more
definite than some of his contemporaries. Speaking of the necessary
preparation of the colored people for emancipation he thought it was
possible to determine the proper course of instruction. He believed,
however, that, since the Negroes were to continue in a state
of bondage during the preparatory period and to be within the
jurisdiction of commonwealths recognizing ample authority over them,
"a competent discipline" could not be impracticable. He said further
that the "degree in which this discipline" would "enforce the needed
labor and in which a voluntary industry" would "supply the defect of
compulsory labor, were vital points on which it" might "not be safe
to be very positive without some light from actual experiment."[1]
Evidently he was of the opinion that the training of slaves to
discharge later the duties of freemen was a difficult task but, if
well planned and directed, could be made a success.

[Footnote 1: Madison, _Works of_, vol. iii., p. 496.]

No one of the great statesmen of this time was more interested in the
enlightenment of the Negro than Benjamin Franklin.[1] He was for a
long time associated with the friends of the colored people and turned
out from his press such fiery anti-slavery pamphlets as those of Lay
and Sandiford. Franklin also became one of the "Associates of Dr.
Bray." Always interested in the colored schools of Philadelphia,
the philosopher was, while in London, connected with the English
"gentlemen concerned with the pious design,"[2] serving as chairman of
the organization for the year 1760. He was a firm supporter of Anthony
Benezet,[3] and was made president of the Abolition Society of
Philadelphia which in 1774 founded a successful colored school.[4]
This school was so well planned and maintained that it continued about
a hundred years.

[Footnote 1: Smyth, _Works of Benjamin Franklin_, vol. v., p. 431.]

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

[Footnote 3: Smyth, _Works of Benjamin Franklin_, vol. v., p. 431.]

[Footnote 4: _Ibid_., vol. x., p. 127; and Wickersham, _History of
Education in Pennsylvania_, p. 253.]

John Jay kept up his interest in the Negro race.[1] In the Convention
of 1787 he cooeperated with Gouverneur Morris, advocating the abolition
of the slave trade and the rejection of the Federal ratio. His efforts
in behalf of the colored people were actuated by his early conviction
that the national character of this country could be retrieved only
by abolishing the iniquitous traffic in human souls and improving
the Negroes.[2] Showing his pity for the downtrodden people of color
around him, Jay helped to promote the cause of the abolitionists of
New York who established and supported several colored schools in
that city. Such care was exercised in providing for the attendance,
maintenance, and supervision of these schools that they soon took rank
among the best in the United States.

[Footnote 1: Jay, _Works of John Jay_, vol. i., p. 136; vol. iii, p.

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., vol. iii., p. 343.]

More interesting than the views of any other man of this epoch on the
subject of Negro education were those of Thomas Jefferson. Born of
pioneer parentage in the mountains of Virginia, Jefferson never
lost his frontier democratic ideals which made him an advocate of
simplicity, equality, and universal freedom. Having in mind when he
wrote the Declaration of Independence the rights of the blacks as well
as those of whites, this disciple of John Locke, could not but feel
that the slaves of his day had a natural right to education and
freedom. Jefferson said so much more on these important questions than
his contemporaries that he would have been considered an abolitionist,
had he lived in 1840.

Giving his views on the enlightenment of the Negroes he asserted
that the minds of the masters should be "apprized by reflection and
strengthened by the energies of conscience against the obstacles of
self-interest to an acquiescence in the rights of others." The owners
would then permit their slaves to be "prepared by instruction and
habit" for self-government, the honest pursuit of industry, and social
duty.[1] In his scheme for a modern system of public schools Jefferson
included the training of the slaves in industrial and agricultural
branches to equip them for a higher station in life, else he thought
they should be removed from the country when liberated.[2] Capable of
mental development, as he had found certain men of color to be, the
Sage of Monticello doubted at times that they could be made the
intellectual equals of white men,[3] and did not actually advocate
their incorporation into the body politic.

[Footnote 1: Washington, _Works of Jefferson_, vol. vi., p. 456.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., vol. viii., p. 380; and Mayo, _Educational
Movement in the South_, p. 37.]

[Footnote 3: As to what Jefferson thought of the Negro intellect
we are still in doubt. Writing in 1791 to Banneker, the Negro
mathematician and astronomer, he said that nobody wished to see more
than he such proofs as Banneker exhibited that nature has given to our
black brethren talents equal to those of men of other colors, and that
the appearance of a lack of such native ability was owing only to
their degraded condition in Africa and America. Jefferson expressed
himself as being ardently desirous of seeing a good system commenced
for raising the condition both of the body and the mind of the slaves
to what it ought to be as fast as the "imbecility" of their then
existence and other circumstances, which could not be neglected, would
admit. Replying to Gregoire of Paris, who wrote an interesting essay
on the _Literature of Negroes_, showing the power of their intellect,
Jefferson assured him that no person living wished more sincerely
than he to see a complete refutation of the doubts he himself had
entertained and expressed on the grade of understanding allotted to
them by nature and to find that in this respect they are on a par
with white men. These doubts, he said, were the result of personal
observations in the limited sphere of his own State where "the
opportunities for the development of their genius were not favorable,
and those of exercising it still less so." He said that he had
expressed them with great hesitation; but "whatever be the degree of
their talent, it is no measure of their rights. Because Sir Isaac
Newton was superior to others in understanding, he was not therefore
lord of the person or property of others." In this respect he believed
they were gaining daily in the opinions of nations, and hopeful
advances were being made toward their reestablishment on an equal
footing with other colors of the human family. He prayed, therefore,
that God might accept his thanks for enabling him to observe the "many
instances of respectable intelligence in that race of men, which could
not fail to have effect in hastening the day of their relief." Yet
a few days later when writing to Joel Barlow, Jefferson referred to
Bishop Gregoire's essay and expressed his doubt that this pamphlet was
weighty evidence of the intellect of the Negro. He said that the whole
did not amount in point of evidence to what they themselves knew of
Banneker. He conceded that Banneker had spherical knowledge enough to
make almanacs, but not without the suspicion of aid from Ellicott
who was his neighbor and friend, and never missed an opportunity of
puffing him. Referring to the letter he received from Banneker, he
said it showed the writer to have a mind of very common stature
indeed. See Washington, _Works of Jefferson_, vol. v., pp. 429 and

So much progress in the improvement of slaves was effected with all of
these workers in the field that conservative southerners in the midst
of the antislavery agitation contented themselves with the thought
that radical action was not necessary, as the institution would
of itself soon pass away. Legislatures passed laws facilitating
manumission,[1] many southerners emancipated their slaves to give them
a better chance to improve their condition, regulations unfavorable to
the assembly of Negroes for the dissemination of information almost
fell into desuetude, a larger number of masters began to instruct
their bondmen, and persons especially interested in these unfortunates
found the objects of their piety more accessible.[2]

[Footnote 1: _Locke, Anti-slavery_, etc., p. 14.]

[Footnote 2: Brissot de Warville, _New Travels_, vol. i., p. 220;
Johann Schoepf, _Travels in the Confederation_, p. 149.]

Not all slaveholders, however, were thus induced to respect this new
right claimed for the colored people. Georgia and South Carolina
were exceptional in that they were not sufficiently stirred by the
revolutionary movement to have much compassion for this degraded
class. The attitude of the people of Georgia, however, was then more
favorable than that of the South Carolinians.[1] Nevertheless, the
Georgia planters near the frontier were not long in learning that the
general enlightenment of the Negroes would endanger the institution of
slavery. Accordingly, in 1770, at the very time when radical reformers
were clamoring for the rights of man, Georgia, following in the wake
of South Carolina, reenacted its act of 1740 which imposed a penalty
on any one who should teach or cause slaves to be taught or employ
them "in any manner of writing whatever."[2] The penalty, however,
was less than that imposed in South Carolina.[3] The same measure
terminated the helpful mingling of slaves by providing for their
dispersion when assembled for the old-time "love feast" emphasized so
much among the rising Methodists of the South.

[Footnote 1: The laws of Georgia were not so harsh as those of South
Carolina. A larger number of intelligent persons of color were
found in the rural districts of Georgia. Charleston, however, was
exceptional in that its Negroes had unusual educational advantages.]

[Footnote 2: Marbury and Crawford, _Digest of the Laws of the State of
Georgia_, p. 438.]

[Footnote 3: Brevard, _Digest of the Public Statutes of South
Carolina_, vol. ii., p. 243.]

Those advocating the imposition of restraints upon Negroes acquiring
knowledge were not, however, confined to South Carolina and Georgia
where the malevolent happened to be in the majority. The other States
had not seen the last of the generation of those who doubted that
education would fit the slaves for the exalted position of citizens.
The retrogressives made much of the assertion that adult slaves lately
imported, were, on account of their attachment to heathen practices
and idolatrous rites, loath to take over the Teutonic civilization,
and would at best learn to speak the English language imperfectly
only.[1] The reformers, who at times admitted this, maintained that
the alleged difficulties encountered in teaching the crudest element
of the slaves could not be adduced as an argument against the
religious instruction of free Negroes and the education of the
American born colored children.[2] This problem, however, was not a
serious one in most Northern States, for the reason that the small
number of slaves in that section obviated the necessity for much
apprehension as to what kind of education the blacks should have,
and whether they should be enlightened before or after emancipation.
Although the Northern people believed that the education of the race
should be definitely planned, and had much to say about industrial
education, most of them were of the opinion that ordinary training
in the fundamentals of useful knowledge and in the principles of
Christian religion, was sufficient to meet the needs of those
designated for freedom.

[Footnote 1: Meade, _Sermons of Thomas Bacon_, pp. 81-87.]

[Footnote 2: Porteus, _Works of_, vol. vi., p. 177; Warburton, _A
Sermon_, etc., pp. 25 and 27.]

On the other hand, most southerners who conceded the right of the
Negro to be educated did not openly aid the movement except with the
understanding that the enlightened ones should be taken from their
fellows and colonized in some remote part of the United States or
in their native land.[1] The idea of colonization, however, was not
confined to the southern slaveholders, for Thornton, Fothergill, and
Granville Sharp had long looked to Africa as the proper place for
enlightened people of color.[2] Feeling that it would be wrong to
expatriate them, Benezet and Branagan[3] advocated the colonization of
such Negroes on the public lands west of the Alleghanies. There was
some talk of giving slaves training in the elements of agriculture
and then dividing plantations among them to develop a small class of
tenants. Jefferson, a member of a committee appointed in 1779 by the
General Assembly of that commonwealth to revise its laws, reported a
plan providing for the instruction of its slaves in agriculture and
the handicrafts to prepare them for liberation and colonization under
the supervision of the home government until they could take care of

[Footnote 1: _Writings of James Monroe_, vol. iii., pp. 261, 266, 292,
295, 321, 322, 336, 338, 349, 351, 352, 353, 378.]

[Footnote 2: Brissot de Warville, _Travels_, vol. i., p. 262.]

[Footnote 3: _Tyrannical Libertymen_, pp. 10-11; Locke,
_Anti-slavery_, etc., pp. 31-32; Branagan, _Serious Remonstrance_, p.

[Footnote 4: Washington, _Works of Jefferson_, vol. iii., p. 296; vol.
iv., p. 291 and vol. viii., p. 380.]

Without resorting to the subterfuge of colonization, not a few
slaveholders were still wise enough to show why the improvement of the
Negroes should be neglected altogether. Vanquished by the logic of
Daniel Davis[1] and Benjamin Rush,[2] those who had theretofore
justified slavery on the ground that it gave the bondmen a chance to
be enlightened, fell back on the theory of African racial inferiority.
This they said was so well exhibited by the Negroes' lack of
wisdom and of goodness that continued heathenism of the race was
justifiable.[3] Answering these inconsistent persons, John Wesley
inquired: "Allowing them to be as stupid as you say, to whom is that
stupidity owing? Without doubt it lies altogether at the door of the
inhuman masters who give them no opportunity for improving their
understanding and indeed leave them no motive, either from hope or
fear to attempt any such thing." Wesley asserted, too, that the
Africans were in no way remarkable for their stupidity while they
remained in their own country, and that where they had equal motives
and equal means of improvement, the Negroes were not only not inferior
to the better inhabitants of Europe, but superior to some of them.[4]

[Footnote 1: Davis was a logical antislavery agitator. He believed
that if the slaves had had the means of education, if they had been
treated with humanity, making slaves of them had been no more than
doing evil that good might come. He thought that Christianity and
humanity would have rather dictated the sending of books and teachers
into Africa and endeavors for their salvation.]

[Footnote 2: Benjamin Rush was a Philadelphia physician of Quaker
parentage. He was educated at the College of New Jersey and at the
Medical School of Edinburgh, where he came into contact with some of
the most enlightened men of his time. Holding to the ideals of his
youth, Dr. Rush was soon associated with the friends of the Negroes on
his return to Philadelphia. He not only worked for the abolition of
the slave trade but fearlessly advocated the right of the Negroes
to be educated. He pointed out that an inquiry into the methods of
converting Negroes to Christianity would show that the means were
ill suited to the end proposed. "In many cases," said he, "Sunday
is appropriated to work for themselves. Reading and writing are
discouraged among them. A belief is inculcated among some that they
have no souls. In a word, every attempt to instruct or convert them
has been constantly opposed by their masters." See Rush, _An Address
to the Inhabitants_, etc., p. 16.]

[Footnote 3: Meade, _Sermons of Rev. Thomas Bacon_, pp. 81-97.]

[Footnote 4: Wesley, _Thoughts upon Slavery_, p. 92.]

William Pinkney, the antislavery leader of Maryland, believed also
that Negroes are no worse than white people under similar conditions,
and that all the colored people needed to disprove their so-called
inferiority was an equal chance with the more favored race.[1] Others
like George Buchanan referred to the Negroes' talent for the fine arts
and to their achievements in literature, mathematics, and philosophy.
Buchanan informed these merciless aristocrats "that the Africans
whom you despise, whom you inhumanly treat as brutes and whom you
unlawfully subject to slavery with tyrannizing hands of despots are
equally capable of improvement with yourselves."[2]

[Footnote 1: Pinkney, _Speech in Maryland House of Delegates_, p. 6.]

[Footnote 2: Buchanan, _An Oration on the Moral and Political Evil of
Slavery_, p. 10.]

Franklin considered the idea of the natural inferiority of the
Negro as a silly excuse. He conceded that most of the blacks were
improvident and poor, but believed that their condition was not due to
deficient understanding but to their lack of education. He was very
much impressed with their achievements in music.[1] So disgusting was
this notion of inferiority to Abbe Gregoire of Paris that he wrote an
interesting essay on "Negro Literature" to prove that people of color
have unusual intellectual power.[2] He sent copies of this pamphlet
to leading men where slavery existed. Another writer discussing
Jefferson's equivocal position on this question said that one would
have thought that "modern philosophy himself" would not have the face
to expect that the wretch, who is driven out to labor at the dawn of
day, and who toils until evening with a whip over his head, ought to
be a poet. Benezet, who had actually taught Negroes, declared "with
truth and sincerity" that he had found among them as great variety of
talents as among a like number of white persons. He boldly asserted
that the notion entertained by some that the blacks were inferior
in their capacities was a vulgar prejudice founded on the pride or
ignorance of their lordly masters who had kept their slaves at such a
distance as to be unable to form a right judgment of them.[3]

[Footnote 1: Smyth, _Works of Franklin_, vol. vi., p. 222.]

[Footnote 2: Gregoire, _La Litterature des Negres_.]

[Footnote 3: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed._, 1871, p. 375.]



Would these professions of interest in the mental development of the
blacks be translated into action? What these reformers would do to
raise the standard of Negro education above the plane of rudimentary
training incidental to religious instruction, was yet to be seen.
Would they secure to Negroes the educational privileges guaranteed
other elements of society? The answer, if not affirmative, was
decidedly encouraging. The idea uppermost in the minds of these
workers was that the people of color could and should be educated as
other races of men.

In the lead of this movement were the antislavery agitators.
Recognizing the Negroes' need of preparation for citizenship, the
abolitionists proclaimed as a common purpose of their organizations
the education of the colored people with a view to developing in them
self-respect, self-support, and usefulness in the community.[1]

[Footnote 1: Smyth, _Works of Benjamin Franklin_, vol. x., p. 127;
Torrey, _Portraiture of Slavery_, p. 21. See also constitution of
almost any antislavery society organized during this period.]

The proposition to cultivate the minds of the slaves came as a happy
solution of what had been a perplexing problem. Many Americans who
considered slavery an evil had found no way out of the difficulty when
the alternative was to turn loose upon society so many uncivilized men
without the ability to discharge the duties of citizenship.[1] Assured
then that the efforts at emancipation would be tested by experience,
a larger number of men advocated abolition. These leaders recommended

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