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

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thought that much more would have been accomplished in that community,
if the friends of the colored people had been able to find workers
acceptable to the masters and at the same time competent to teach the
slaves.[5] Yet another observer felt that the Negroes of Baltimore had
more opportunities than they embraced.[6]

[Footnote 1: Buckingham, _America, Historical_, etc., vol. i., p.

[Footnote 2: _Ibid._, p. 438; Andrews, _Slavery and the Domestic Slave
Trade_, pp. 54, 55, and 56; and Varle, _A Complete View of Baltimore_,
p. 33.]

[Footnote 3: Varle, _A Complete View of Baltimore_, p. 33; and
Andrews, _Slavery and the Domestic Slave Trade_, pp. 85 and 92.]

[Footnote 4: _Ibid._, p. 33.]

[Footnote 5: _Ibid._, p. 54.]

[Footnote 6: _Ibid._, p. 37.]

These conditions, however, were so favorable in 1835 that when
Professor E.A. Andrews came to Baltimore to introduce the work of
the American Union for the Relief and Improvement of the Colored
People,[1] he was informed that the education of the Negroes of that
city was fairly well provided for. Evidently the need was that the
"systematic and sustained exertions" of the workers should spring
from a more nearly perfect organization "to give efficiency to their
philanthropic labors."[2] He was informed that as his society was of
New England, it would on account of its origin in the wrong quarter,
be productive of mischief.[3] The leading people of Baltimore
thought that it would be better to accomplish this task through the
Colonization Society, a southern organization carrying out the very
policy which the American Union proposed to pursue.[4]

[Footnote 1: On January 14, 1835, a convention of more than one
hundred gentlemen from ten different States assembled in Boston and
organized the "American Union for the Relief and Improvement of the
Colored Race." Among these workers were William Reed, Daniel Noyes,
J.W. Chickering, J.W. Putnam, Baron Stow, B.B. Edwards, E.A. Andrews,
Charles Scudder, Joseph Tracy, Samuel Worcester, and Charles Tappan.
The gentlemen were neither antagonistic to the antislavery nor to the
colonization societies. They aimed to do that which had been neglected
in giving the Negroes proper preparation for freedom. Knowing that
the actual emancipation of an oppressed race cannot be effected by
legislation, they hoped to provide religious and literary instruction
for all colored children that they might "ameliorate their economic
condition" and prepare themselves for higher usefulness. See the
_Exposition of the Object and Plans of the American Union_, pp.

[Footnote 2: Andrews, _Slavery and the Domestic Slave Trade_, p. 57.]

[Footnote 3: _Ibid_., p. 188.]

[Footnote 4: Andrews, _Slavery_, etc., p. 56.]

The instruction of ambitious blacks in this city was not confined to
mere rudimentary training. The opportunity for advanced study was
offered colored girls in the Convent of the Oblate Sisters of
Providence. These Negroes, however, early learned to help themselves.
In 1835 considerable assistance came from Nelson Wells, one of their
own color. He left to properly appointed trustees the sum of $10,000,
the income of which was to be appropriated to the education of free
colored children.[1] With this benefaction the trustees concerned
established in 1835 what they called the Wells School. It offered
Negroes free instruction long after the Civil War.

[Footnote 2: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed_., 1871, p. 353.]

In seeking to show how these good results were obtained by the
Negroes' cooeperative power and ability to supply their own needs, we
are not unmindful of the assistance which they received. To say that
the colored people of Baltimore, themselves, provided all these
facilities of education would do injustice to the benevolent element
of that city. Among its white people were found so much toleration
of opinion on slavery and so much sympathy with the efforts for its
removal, that they not only permitted the establishment of Negro
churches, but opened successful colored schools in which white men
and women assisted personally in teaching. Great praise is due
philanthropists of the type of John Breckenridge and Daniel Raymond,
who contributed their time and means to the cause and enlisted the
efforts of others. Still greater credit should be given to William
Crane, who for forty years was known as an "ardent, liberal, and wise
friend of the black man." At the cost of $20,000 he erected in the
central part of the city an edifice exclusively for the benefit of
the colored people. In this building was an auditorium, several
large schoolrooms, and a hall for entertainments and lectures. The
institution employed a pastor and two teachers[1] and it was often
mentioned as a high school.

[Footnote 1: A contributor to the _Christian Chronicle_ found in this
institution a pastor, a principal of the school, and an assistant,
all of superior qualifications. The classes which this reporter heard
recite grammar and geography convinced him of the thoroughness of the
work and the unusual readiness of the colored people to learn. See
_The African Repository_, vol. xxxii., p. 91.]

In northern cities like Philadelphia and New York, where benevolent
organizations provided an adequate number of colored schools, the free
blacks did not develop so much of the power to educate themselves. The
Negroes of these cities, however, cannot be considered exceptions to
the rule. Many of those of Philadelphia were of the most ambitious
kind, men who had purchased their freedom or had developed sufficient
intelligence to delude their would-be captors and conquer the
institution of slavery. Settled in this community, the thrifty class
accumulated wealth which they often used, not only to defray the
expenses of educating their own children, but to provide educational
facilities for the poor children of color.

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

[Footnote 1: Turner, _The Negro in Pennsylvania_, p. 129.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid._, p. 130.]

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

[Footnote 4: _Proceedings of the American Convention_, etc., 1825, p.

[Footnote 5: _Proceedings of the Am. Convention_, etc., 1830, p.8; and
Wickersham, _History of Education in Pennsylvania_, p. 253.]

The statistics of later years show how successful these early efforts
had been. By 1849 the colored schools of Philadelphia had developed
to the extent that they seemed like a system. According to the
_Statistical Inquiry into the Condition of Colored People in and about
Philadelphia_, published that year, there were 1643 children of color
attending well-regulated schools. The larger institutions were mainly
supported by State and charitable organizations of which the Society
of Friends and the Pennsylvania Abolition Society were the most
important. Besides supporting these institutions, however, the
intelligent colored men of Philadelphia had maintained smaller schools
and organized a system of lyceums and debating clubs, one of which had
a library of 1400 volumes. Moreover, there were then teaching in the
colored families and industrial schools of Philadelphia many men and
women of both races.[1] Although these instructors restricted their
work to the teaching of the rudiments of education, they did much to
help the more advanced schools to enlighten the Negroes who came to
that city in large numbers when conditions became intolerable for
the free people of color in the slave States. The statistics of the
following decade show unusual progress. In the year 1859 there were
in the colored public schools of Philadelphia, 1031 pupils; in the
charity schools, 748; in the benevolent schools, 211; in private
schools, 331; in all, 2321, whereas in 1849 there were only 1643.[2]

[Footnote 1: About the middle of the nineteenth century colored
schools of various kinds arose in Philadelphia. With a view to giving
Negroes industrial training their friends opened "The School for the
Destitute" at the House of Industry in 1848. Three years later Sarah
Luciana was teaching a school of seventy youths at this House of
Industry, and the Sheppard School, another industrial institution,
was in operation in 1850 in a building bearing the same name. In 1849
arose the "Corn Street Unclassified School" of forty-seven children
in charge of Sarah L. Peltz. "The Holmesburg Unclassified School" was
organized in 1854. Other institutions of various purposes were "The
House of Refuge," "The Orphans' Shelter," and "The Home for
Colored Children." See Bacon, _Statistics of the Colored People of
Philadelphia_, 1859.

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

[Footnote 2: _Statistical Inquiry into the Condition of the Colored
People of Philadelphia_, in 1859.]

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

[Footnote 1: See the Address of the American Convention, 1819.]

[Footnote 2: _Proceedings of the Am. Convention_, etc., 1812, p. 7.

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

[Footnote 3: _Ibid._, p. 58.]

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

[Footnote 1: Stockwell, _History of Ed. in R.I._, p. 30.]

In Boston, where were found more Negroes than in most New England
communities, the colored people themselves maintained a separate
school after the revolutionary era. In the towns of Salem, Nantucket,
New Bedford, and Lowell the colored schools failed to make much
progress after the first quarter of the nineteenth century on account
of the more liberal construction of the laws which provided for
democratic education. This the free blacks were forced to advocate for
the reason that the seeming onerous task of supporting a dual system
often caused the neglect, and sometimes the extinction of the separate
schools. Furthermore, either the Negroes of some of these towns were
too scarce or the movement to furnish them special facilities of
education started too late to escape the attacks of the abolitionists.
Seeing their mistake of first establishing separate schools, they
began to attack caste in public education.

In the eastern cities where colored school systems thereafter
continued, the work was not always successful. The influx of fugitives
in the rough sometimes jeopardized their chances for education by
menacing liberal communities with the trouble of caring for an
undesirable class. The friends of the Negroes, however, received more
encouragement during the two decades immediately preceding the Civil
War. There was a change in the attitude of northern cities toward
the uplift of the colored refugees. Catholics, Protestants, and
abolitionists often united their means to make provision for the
education of accessible Negroes, although these friends of the
oppressed could not always agree on other important schemes. Even the
colonizationists, the object of attack from the ardent antislavery
element, considerably aided the cause. They educated for work in
Liberia a number of youths, who, given the opportunity to attend
good schools, demonstrated the capacity of the colored people. More
important factors than the colonizationists were the free people of
color. Brought into the rapidly growing urban communities, these
Negroes began to accumulate sufficient wealth to provide permanent
schools of their own. Many of these were later assimilated by
the systems of northern cities when their separate schools were



Encouraging as had been the movement to enlighten the Negroes, there
had always been at work certain reactionary forces which impeded the
intellectual progress of the colored people. The effort to enlighten
them that they might be emancipated to enjoy the political rights
given white men, failed to meet with success in those sections where
slaves were found in large numbers. Feeling that the body politic, as
conceived by Locke and Montesquieu, did not include the slaves, many
citizens opposed their education on the ground that their mental
improvement was inconsistent with their position as persons held to
service. For this reason there was never put forward any systematic
effort to elevate the slaves. Every master believed that he had a
divine right to deal with the situation as he chose. Moreover, even
before the policy of mental and moral improvement of the slaves could
be given a trial, some colonists, anticipating the "evils of the
scheme," sought to obviate them by legislation. Such we have observed
was the case in Virginia,[1] South Carolina,[2] and Georgia.[3] To
control the assemblies of slaves, North Carolina,[4] Delaware,[5] and
Maryland[6] early passed strict regulations for their inspection.

[Footnote 1: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed._, 1871, p. 391.]

[Footnote 2: Brevard, _Digest of the Public Statute Law of S.C._, vol.
ii., p.243.]

[Footnote 3: Marbury and Crawford, _Digest of Laws of the State of
Georgia_, p. 438.]

[Footnote 4: _Laws of North Carolina_, vol. i., pp. 126, 563, and

[Footnote 5: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed._, 1871, p. 335.]

[Footnote 6: _Ibid._, p. 352.]

The actual opposition of the masters to the mental improvement of
Negroes, however, did not assume sufficiently large proportions to
prevent the intellectual progress of that race, until two forces then
at work had had time to become effective in arousing southern planters
to the realization of what a danger enlightened colored men would
be to the institution of slavery. These forces were the industrial
revolution and the development of an insurrectionary spirit among
slaves, accelerated by the rapid spreading of the abolition agitation.
The industrial revolution was effected by the multiplication of
mechanical appliances for spinning and weaving which so influenced the
institution of slavery as seemingly to doom the Negroes to heathenism.
These inventions were the spinning jenny, the steam engine, the power
loom, the wool-combing machine, and the cotton gin. They augmented
the output of spinning mills, and in cheapening cloth, increased the
demand by bringing it within the reach of the poor. The result was
that a revolution was brought about not only in Europe, but also in
the United States to which the world looked for this larger supply of
cotton fiber.[1] This demand led to the extension of the plantation
system on a larger scale. It was unfortunate, however, that many of
the planters thus enriched, believed that the slightest amount of
education, merely teaching slaves to read, impaired their value
because it instantly destroyed their contentedness. Since they did not
contemplate changing their condition, it was surely doing them an ill
service to destroy their acquiescence in it. This revolution then had
brought it to pass that slaves who were, during the eighteenth century
advertised as valuable on account of having been enlightened, were in
the nineteenth century considered more dangerous than useful.

[Footnote 1: Turner, _The Rise of the New West_, pp. 45, 46, 47, 48,
and 49; and Hammond, _Cotton Industry_, chaps. i. and ii.]

With the rise of this system, and the attendant increased importation
of slaves, came the end of the helpful contact of servants with their
masters. Slavery was thereby changed from a patriarchal to an economic
institution. Thereafter most owners of extensive estates abandoned the
idea that the mental improvement of slaves made them better servants.
Doomed then to be half-fed, poorly clad, and driven to death in this
cotton kingdom, what need had the slaves for education? Some planters
hit upon the seemingly more profitable scheme of working newly
imported slaves to death during seven years and buying another supply
rather than attempt to humanize them.[1] Deprived thus of helpful
advice and instruction, the slaves became the object of pity not only
to abolitionists of the North but also to some southerners. Not a
few of these reformers, therefore, favored the extermination of the
institution. Others advocated the expansion of slavery not to extend
the influence of the South, but to disperse the slaves with a view to
bringing about a closer contact between them and their masters.[2]
This policy was duly emphasized during the debate on the admission of
the State of Missouri.

[Footnote 1: Rhodes, _History of the United States_, vol. i., p. 32;
Kemble, Journal, p. 28; Martineau, _Society in America_, vol. i., p.
308; Weld, _Slavery_, etc., p. 41.]

[Footnote 2: Annals of Congress, First Session, vol. i., pp. 996 _et
seq._ and 1296 _et seq._]

Seeking to direct the attention of the world to the slavery of men's
bodies and minds the abolitionists spread broadcast through the South
newspapers, tracts, and pamphlets which, whether or not they had much
effect in inducing masters to improve the condition of their slaves,
certainly moved Negroes themselves. It hardly required enlightenment
to convince slaves that they would be better off as freemen than as
dependents whose very wills were subject to those of their masters.
Accordingly even in the seventeenth century there developed in the
minds of bondmen the spirit of resistance. The white settlers of the
colonies held out successfully in putting down the early riots of
Negroes. When the increasing intelligent Negroes of the South,
however, observed in the abolition literature how the condition of the
American slaves differed from that of the ancient servants and even
from what it once had been in the United States; when they fully
realized their intolerable condition compared with that of white men,
who were clamoring for liberty and equality, there rankled in the
bosom of slaves that insurrectionary passion productive of the daring
uprisings which made the chances for the enlightenment of colored
people poorer than they had ever been in the history of this country.

The more alarming insurrections of the first quarter of the nineteenth
century were the immediate cause of the most reactionary measures.
It was easily observed that these movements were due to the mental
improvement of the colored people during the struggle for the rights
of man. Not only had Negroes heard from the lips of their masters
warm words of praise for the leaders of the French Revolution but had
developed sufficient intelligence themselves to read the story of the
heroes of the world, who were then emboldened to refresh the tree
of liberty "with the blood of patriots and tyrants."[1] The
insurrectionary passion among the colored people was kindled, too,
around Baltimore, Norfolk, Charleston, and New Orleans by certain
Negroes who to escape the horrors of the political upheaval in Santo
Domingo,[2] immigrated into this country in 1793. The education of the
colored race had paved the way for the dissemination of their ideas of
liberty and equality. Enlightened bondmen persistently made trouble
for the white people in these vicinities. Negroes who could not read,
learned from others the story of Toussaint L'Ouverture, whose example
colored men were then ambitious to emulate.

[Footnote 1: Washington, _Works of Jefferson_, vol. iv., p. 467.]

[Footnote 2: Drewery, _Insurrections in Virginia_, p. 121.]

The insurrection of Gabriel in Virginia and that of South Carolina in
the year 1800 are cases in evidence. Unwilling to concede that slaves
could have so well planned such a daring attack, the press of the
time insisted that two Frenchmen were the promoters of the affair in
Virginia.[1] James Monroe said there was no evidence that any white
man was connected with it.[2] It was believed that the general
tendency of the Negroes toward an uprising had resulted from French
ideas which had come to the slaves through intelligent colored men.[3]
Observing that many Negroes were sufficiently enlightened to see
things as other men, the editor of the _Aurora_ asserted that in
negotiating with the "Black Republic" the United States and Great
Britain had set the seal of approval upon servile insurrection.[4]
Others referred to inflammatory handbills which Negroes extensively
read.[5] Discussing the Gabriel plot in 1800, Judge St. George Tucker
said: "Our sole security then consists in their ignorance of this
power (doing us mischief) and their means of using it--a security
which we have lately found is not to be relied on, and which, small as
it is, every day diminishes. Every year adds to the number of those
who can read and write; and the increase in knowledge is the principal
agent in evolving the spirit we have to fear."[6]

[Footnote 1: _The New York Daily Advertiser_, Sept. 22, 1800; and _The
Richmond Enquirer_, Oct. 21, 1831.]

[Footnote 2: _Writings of James Monroe_, vol. iii., p. 217.]

[Footnote 3: Educated Negroes then constituted an alarming element in
Massachusetts, Virginia, and South Carolina. See _The New York Daily
Advertiser_, Sept. 22, 1800.]

[Footnote 4: See _The New York Daily Advertiser_, Sept. 22, 1800.]

[Footnote 5: _Ibid._, Oct. 7, 1800.]

[Footnote 6: Letter of St. George Tucker in Joshua Coffin's _Slave

Camden was disturbed by an insurrection in 1816 and Charleston in
1822 by a formidable plot which the officials believed was due to the
"sinister" influences of enlightened Negroes.[1] The moving spirit of
this organization was Denmark Vesey. He had learned to read and write,
had accumulated an estate worth $8000, and had purchased his freedom
in 1800[2] Jack Purcell, an accomplice of Vesey, weakened in the
crisis and confessed. He said that Vesey was in the habit of reading
to him all the passages in the newspapers, that related to Santo
Domingo and apparently every accessible pamphlet that had any
connection with slavery.[3] One day he read to Purcell the speeches of
Mr. King on the subject of slavery and told Purcell how this friend of
the Negro race declared he would continue to speak, write, and publish
pamphlets against slavery "the longest day he lived," until the
Southern States consented to emancipate their slaves.[4]

[Footnote 1: _The City Gazette and Commercial Daily Advertiser_
(Charleston, South Carolina), August 21, 1822.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid._, August 21, 1822.]

[Footnote 3: _The City Gazette and Commercial Daily Advertiser_,
August 21, 1822.]

[Footnote 4: _Ibid_., August 21, 1822.]

The statement of the Governor of South Carolina also shows the
influence of the educated Negro. This official felt that Monday, the
slave of Mr. Gill, was the most daring conspirator. Being able to read
and write he "attained an extraordinary and dangerous influence over
his fellows." "Permitted by his owner to occupy a house in the central
part of this city, he was afforded hourly opportunities for the
exercise of his skill on those who were attracted to his shop by
business or favor." "Materials were abundantly furnished in the
seditious pamphlets brought into the State by equally culpable
incendiaries, while the speeches of the oppositionists in Congress to
the admission of Missouri gave a serious and imposing effect to his
machinations."[1] It was thus brought home to the South that the
enlightened Negro was having his heart fired with the spirit of
liberty by his perusal of the accounts of servile insurrections and
the congressional debate on slavery.

[Footnote 1: _The Norfolk and Portsmouth Herald_, Aug. 30, 1822.]

Southerners of all types thereafter attacked the policy of educating
Negroes.[1] Men who had expressed themselves neither one way nor the
other changed their attitude when it became evident that abolition
literature in the hands of slaves would not only make them
dissatisfied, but cause them to take drastic measures to secure
liberty. Those who had emphasized the education of the Negroes to
increase their economic efficiency were largely converted. The
clergy who had insisted that the bondmen were entitled to, at least,
sufficient training to enable them to understand the principles of the
Christian religion, were thereafter willing to forego the benefits
of their salvation rather than see them destroy the institution of

[Footnote 1: Hodgson, _Whitney's Remarks during a Journey through
North America_, p. 184.]

In consequence of this tendency, State after State enacted more
stringent laws to control the situation. Missouri passed in 1817 an
act so to regulate the traveling and assembly of slaves as to make
them ineffective in making headway against the white people by
insurrection. Of course, in so doing the reactionaries deprived
them of the opportunities of helpful associations and of attending
schools.[1] By 1819 much dissatisfaction had arisen from the seeming
danger of the various colored schools in Virginia. The General
Assembly, therefore, passed a law providing that there should be no
more assemblages of slaves, or free Negroes, or mulattoes, mixing or
associating with such slaves for teaching them reading and writing.[2]
The opposition here seemed to be for the reasons that Negroes were
being generally enlightened in the towns of the State and that white
persons as teachers in these institutions were largely instrumental in
accomplishing this result. Mississippi even as a Territory had tried
to meet the problem of unlawful assemblies. In the year 1823 it was
declared unlawful for Negroes above the number of five to meet for
educational purposes.[3] Only with the permission of their masters
could slaves attend religious worship conducted by a recognized white
minister or attended by "two discreet and reputable persons."[4]

[Footnote 1: _Laws of Missouri Territory_, etc., p. 498.]

[Footnote 2: Tate, _Digest of the Laws of Virginia_, pp. 849-850.]

[Footnote 3: Poindexter, _Revised Code of the Laws of Mississippi_, p.

[Footnote 4: _Ibid_., p. 390.]

The problem in Louisiana was first to keep out intelligent persons who
might so inform the slaves as to cause them to rise. Accordingly in
1814[1] the State passed a law prohibiting the immigration of free
persons of color into that commonwealth. This precaution, however, was
not deemed sufficient after the insurrectionary Negroes of New Berne,
Tarborough, and Hillsborough, North Carolina,[2] had risen, and David
Walker of Massachusetts had published to the slaves his fiery appeal
to arms.[3] In 1830, therefore, Louisiana enacted another measure,
providing that whoever should write, print, publish, or distribute
anything having the tendency to produce discontent among the slaves,
should on conviction thereof be imprisoned at hard labor for life or
suffer death at the discretion of the court. It was provided, too,
that whoever used any language or became instrumental in bringing into
the State any paper, book, or pamphlet inducing this discontent should
suffer practically the same penalty. All persons who should teach, or
permit or cause to be taught, any slave to read or write, should be
imprisoned not less than one month nor more than twelve.[4]

[Footnote 1: Bullard and Curry, _A New Digest of the Statute Laws of
the State of Louisiana_, p. 161.]

[Footnote 2: Coffin, _Slave Insurrections_, p. 22.]

[Footnote 3: Walker mentioned "our wretchedness in consequence
of slavery, our wretchedness in consequence of ignorance, our
wretchedness in consequence of the preachers of the religion of Jesus
Christ, and our wretchedness in consequence of the colonization plan."
See _Walker's Appeal_.]

[Footnote 4: Acts passed at the Ninth Session of the Legislature of
Louisiana, p. 96.]

Yielding to the demand of slaveholders, Georgia passed a year later a
law providing that any Negro who should teach another to read or write
should be punished by fine and whipping. If a white person should so
offend, he should be punished with a fine not exceeding $500 and with
imprisonment in the common jail at the discretion of the committing

[Footnote 1] Dawson, _A Compilation of the Laws of the State of
Georgia_, etc., p. 413.

In Virginia where the prohibition did not then extend to freedmen,
there was enacted in 1831 a law providing that any meeting of free
Negroes or mulattoes for teaching them reading or writing should be
considered an unlawful assembly. To break up assemblies for this
purpose any judge or justice of the peace could issue a warrant to
apprehend such persons and inflict corporal punishment not exceeding
twenty lashes. White persons convicted of teaching Negroes to read
or write were to be fined fifty dollars and might be imprisoned two
months. For imparting such information to a slave the offender was
subject to a fine of not less than ten nor more than one hundred

[Footnote 1]_Laws of Virginia_, 1830-1831, p. 108, Sections 5 and 6.

The whole country was again disturbed by the insurrection in
Southampton County, Virginia, in 1831. The slave States then had a
striking example of what the intelligent Negroes of the South might
eventually do. The leader of this uprising was Nat Turner. Precocious
as a youth he had learned to read so easily that he did not remember
when he first had that attainment.[1] Given unusual social and
intellectual advantages, he developed into a man of considerable
"mental ability and wide information." His education was chiefly
acquired in the Sunday-schools in which "the text-books for the small
children were the ordinary speller and reader, and that for the older
Negroes the Bible."[2] He had received instruction also from his
parents and his indulgent young master, J.C. Turner.

[Footnote 1] Drewery, _Insurrections in Virginia_, p. 27.

[Footnote 2: Drewery, _Insurrections in Virginia_, p. 28.]

When Nat Turner appeared, the education of the Negro had made the way
somewhat easier for him than it was for his predecessors. Negroes who
could read and write had before them the revolutionary ideas of the
French, the daring deeds of Toussaint L'Ouverture, the bold attempt of
General Gabriel, and the far-reaching plans of Denmark Vesey. These
were sometimes written up in the abolition literature, the circulation
of which was so extensive among the slaves that it became a national

[Footnote 1: These organs were _The Albany Evening Journal, The New
York Free Press, The Genius of Universal Emancipation_, and _The
Boston Liberator_. See _The Richmond Enquirer_, Oct. 21, 1831.]

Trying to account for this insurrection the Governor of the State lays
it to the charge of the Negro preachers who were in position to foment
much disorder on account of having acquired "great ascendancy over the
minds" of discontented slaves. He believed that these ministers were
in direct contact with the agents of abolition, who were using colored
leaders as a means to destroy the institutions of the South. The
Governor was cognizant of the fact that not only was the sentiment of
the incendiary pamphlets read but often the words.[1] To prevent the
"enemies" in other States from communicating with the slaves of that
section he requested that the laws regulating the assembly of Negroes
be more rigidly enforced and that colored preachers be silenced. The
General Assembly complied with this request.[2]

[Footnote 1: _The Richmond Enquirer_, Oct. 21, 1831.]

[Footnote 2: _The Laws of Virginia_, 1831-1832, p. 20.]

The aim of the subsequent reactionary legislation of the South was to
complete the work of preventing the dissemination of information
among Negroes and their reading of abolition literature. This they
endeavored to do by prohibiting the communication of the slaves with
one another, with the better informed free persons of color, and with
the liberal white people; and by closing all the schools theretofore
opened to Negroes. The States passed laws providing for a more
stringent regulation of passes, defining unlawful assemblies, and
fixing penalties for the same. Other statutes prohibited religious
worship, or brought it under direct supervision of the owners of the
slaves concerned, and proscribed the private teaching of slaves in any
manner whatever.

Mississippi, which already had a law to prevent the mental improvement
of the slaves, enacted in 1831 another measure to remove from them the
more enlightened members of their race. All free colored persons were
to leave the State in ninety days. The same law provided, too, that
no Negro should preach in that State unless to the slaves of his
plantation and with the permission of the owner.[1] Delaware saw fit
to take a bold step in this direction. The act of 1831 provided that
no congregation or meeting of free Negroes or mulattoes of more than
twelve persons should be held later than twelve o'clock at night,
except under the direction of three respectable white persons who were
to attend the meeting. It further provided that no free Negro should
attempt to call a meeting for religious worship, to exhort or preach,
unless he was authorized to do so by a judge or justice of the peace,
upon the recommendation of five "respectable and judicious citizens."
[2] This measure tended only to prevent the dissemination of
information among Negroes by making it impossible for them to
assemble. It was not until 1863 that the State of Delaware finally
passed a positive measure to prevent the assemblages of colored
persons for instruction and all other meetings except for religious
worship and the burial of the dead.[3] Following the example of
Delaware in 1832, Florida passed a law prohibiting all meetings of
Negroes except those for divine worship at a church or place attended
by white persons.[4] Florida made the same regulations more stringent
in 1846 when she enjoyed the freedom of a State.[5]

[Footnote 1] Hutchinson, _Code of Mississippi_, p. 533.

[Footnote 2] _Laws of Delaware_, 1832, pp. 181-182.

[Footnote 3] _Ibid._, 1863, p. 330 _et seq._

[Footnote 4: _Acts of the Legislative Council of the Territory of
Florida, 1832_, p. 145.]

[Footnote 5: _Acts of Florida, 1846_, ch. 87, sec. 9.]

Alabama had some difficulty in getting a satisfactory law. In 1832
this commonwealth enacted a law imposing a fine of from $250 to $500
on persons who should attempt to educate any Negro whatsoever. The act
also prohibited the usual unlawful assemblies and the preaching or
exhorting of Negroes except in the presence of five "respectable
slaveholders" or unless the officiating minister was licensed by some
regular church of which the persons thus exhorted were members.[1] It
soon developed that the State had gone too far. It had infringed upon
the rights and privileges of certain creoles, who, being residents
of the Louisiana Territory when it was purchased in 1803, had been
guaranteed the rights of citizens of the United States. Accordingly in
1833 the Mayor and the Aldermen of Mobile were authorized by law to
grant licenses to such persons as they might deem suitable to instruct
for limited periods, in that city and the counties of Mobile and
Baldwin, the free colored children, who were descendants of colored
creoles residing in the district in 1803.[2]

[Footnote 1: Clay, _Digest of the Laws of the State of Alabama_, p.

[Footnote 2: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed_., 1871, p. 323.]

Another difficulty of certain commonwealths had to be overcome.
Apparently Georgia had already incorporated into its laws provisions
adequate to the prevention of the mental improvement of Negroes. But
it was discovered that employed as they had been in various positions
either requiring knowledge, or affording its acquirement, Negroes
would pick up the rudiments of education, despite the fact that they
had no access to schools. The State then passed a law imposing a
penalty not exceeding one hundred dollars for the employment of any
slave or free person of color "in setting up type or other labor about
a printing office requiring a knowledge of reading and writing."[1]
In 1834 South Carolina saw the same danger. In addition to enacting a
more stringent law for the prevention of the teaching of Negroes by
white or colored friends, and for the destruction of their schools,
it provided that persons of African blood should not be employed as
clerks or salesmen in or about any shop or store or house used for

[Footnote 1: Cobb, _Digest of the Laws of Georgia_, p. 555; and
Prince, _Digest of the Laws of Georgia_, p. 658.]

[Footnote 2: Laws of South Carolina, 1834.]

North Carolina was among the last States to take such drastic measures
for the protection of the white race. In this commonwealth the whites
and blacks had lived on liberal terms. Negroes had up to this time
enjoyed the right of suffrage there. Some attended schools open to
both races. A few even taught white children.[1]

[Footnote 1: Bassett, _Slavery in North Carolina_, p. 74; and
testimonies of various ex-slaves.]

The intense feeling against Negroes engendered by the frequency
of insurrections, however, sufficed to swing the State into the
reactionary column by 1835. An act passed by the Legislature that year
prohibited the public instruction of Negroes, making it impossible
for youth of African descent to get any more education than what
they could in their own family circle.[1] The public school system
established thereafter specifically provided that its benefits should
not extend to any descendant from Negro ancestors to the fourth
generation inclusive.[2] Bearing so grievously this loss of their
social status after they had toiled up from poverty, many ambitious
free persons of color, left the State for more congenial communities.

[Footnote 1: _Revised Statutes of North Carolina_, 578.]

[Footnote 2: _Laws of North Carolina, 1835_, C.6, S.2.]

The States of the West did not have to deal so severely with their
slaves as was deemed necessary in Southern States. Missouri found it
advisable in 1833 to amend the law of 1817[1] so as to regulate more
rigorously the traveling and the assembling of slaves. It was not
until 1847, however, that this commonwealth specifically provided
that no one should keep or teach any school for the education of
Negroes.[2] Tennessee had as early as 1803 a law governing the
movement of slaves but exhibited a little more reactionary spirit in
1836 in providing that there should be no circulation of seditious
books or pamphlets which might lead to insurrection or rebellion
among Negroes.[3] Tennessee, however, did not positively forbid the
education of colored people. Kentucky had a system of regulating the
egress and regress of slaves but never passed any law prohibiting
their instruction. Yet statistics show that although the education of
Negroes was not penalized, it was in many places made impossible by
public sentiment. So was it in the State of Maryland, which did not
expressly forbid the instruction of anyone.

[Footnote 1: _Laws of the Territory of Missouri_, p. 498.]

[Footnote 2: _Laws of the State of Missouri_, 1847, pp. 103 and 104.]

[Footnote 3: _Public Acts passed at the First Session of the General
Assembly of the State of Tennessee_, p. 145, chap. 44.]

These reactionary results were not obtained without some opposition.
The governing element of some States divided on the question. The
opinions of this class were well expressed in the discussion between
Chancellor Harper and J.B. O'Neal of the South Carolina bar. The
former said that of the many Negroes whom he had known to be capable
of reading, he had never seen one read anything but the Bible. He
thought that they imposed this task upon themselves as a matter
of duty. Because of the Negroes' "defective comprehension and the
laborious nature of this employment to them"[1] he considered such
reading an inefficient method of religious instruction. He, therefore,
supported the oppressive measures of the South. The other member
of the bar maintained that men could not reflect as Christians and
justify the position that slaves should not be permitted to read the
Bible. "It is in vain," added he, "to say there is danger in it. The
best slaves of the State are those who can and do read the Scriptures.
Again, who is it that teaches your slaves to read? It is generally
done by the children of the owners. Who would tolerate an indictment
against his son or daughter for teaching a slave to read? Such laws
look to me as rather cowardly."[2] This attorney was almost of
the opinion of many others who believed that the argument that to
Christianize and educate the colored people of a slave commonwealth
had a tendency to elevate them above their masters and to destroy the
"legitimate distinctions" of the community, could be admitted only
where the people themselves were degraded.

[Footnote 1: DeBow, _The Industrial Resources of the Southern and
Western States_, vol. ii., p. 269.]

[Footnote 2: DeBow, _The Industrial Resources of the Southern and
Western States_, vol. ii., p. 279.]

After these laws had been passed, American slavery extended not
as that of the ancients, only to the body, but also to the mind.
Education was thereafter regarded as positively inconsistent with the
institution. The precaution taken to prevent the dissemination of
information was declared indispensable to the system. The situation in
many parts of the South was just as Berry portrayed it in the Virginia
House of Delegates in 1832. He said: "We have as far as possible
closed every avenue by which light may enter their [the slaves']
minds. If we could extinguish the capacity to see the light, our work
would be completed; they would then be on a level with the beasts of
the field and we should be safe! I am not certain that we would not
do it, if we could find out the process, and that on the plea of

[Footnote 1: Coffin, _Slave Insurrections_, p. 23; and Goodell, _Slave
Code_, p. 323.]

It had then come to pass that in the South, where once were found
a considerable number of intelligent Negroes, they had become
exceedingly scarce or disappeared from certain sections altogether. On
plantations of hundreds of slaves it was common to discover that
not one of them had the mere rudiments of education. In some large
districts it was considered almost a phenomenon to find a Negro who
could read the Bible or sign his name.[1]

[Footnote 1:_Ibid._, pp. 323-324.]

The reactionary tendency was in no sense confined to the Southern
States. Laws were passed in the North to prevent the migration of
Negroes to that section. Their education at certain places was
discouraged. In fact, in the proportion that the conditions in the
South made it necessary for free blacks to flee from oppression, the
people of the North grew less tolerant on account of the large number
of those who crowded the towns and cities of the free States near the
border. The antislavery societies at one time found it necessary to
devote their time to the amelioration of the economic condition of the
refugees to make them acceptable to the white people rather than to
direct their attention to mere education.[1] Not a few northerners,
dreading an influx of free Negroes, drove them even from communities
to which they had learned to, repair for education.

[Footnote 1: _Proceedings of the American Convention_.]

The best example of this intolerance was the opposition encountered
by Prudence Crandall, a well-educated young Quaker lady, who had
established a boarding-school at Canterbury, Connecticut. Trouble
arose when Sarah Harris, a colored girl, asked admission to this
institution.[1] For many reasons Miss Crandall hesitated to admit her
but finally yielded. Only a few days thereafter the parents of the
white girls called on Miss Crandall to offer their objections to
sending their children to school with a "nigger."[2] Miss Crandall
stood firm, the white girls withdrew, and the teacher advertised for
young women of color. The determination to continue the school on this
basis incited the townsmen to hold an indignation meeting. They passed
resolutions to protest through a committee of local officials against
the establishment of a school of this kind in that community. At this
meeting Andrew T. Judson denounced the policy of Miss Crandall, while
the Rev. Samuel J. May ably defended it. Judson was not only opposed
to the establishment of such a school in Canterbury but in any part of
the State. He believed that colored people, who could never rise
from their menial condition in the United States, should not to
be encouraged to expect to elevate themselves in Connecticut. He
considered them inferior servants who should not be treated as equals
of the Caucasians, but should be sent back to Africa to improve
themselves and Christianize the natives.[3] On the contrary, Mr. May
thought that there would never be fewer colored people in this country
than were found here then and that it would be unjust to exile them.
He asserted that white people should grant Negroes their rights or
lose their own and that since education is the primal, fundamental
right of all men, Connecticut was the last place where this should be

[Footnote 1: Jay, _An Inquiry_, etc., p. 30.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., pp. 32 _et seq_.]

[Footnote 3: Jay, _An Inquiry, etc._, p. 33; and _Special Report of
the U.S. Com. of Ed._, pp. 328 _et seq._]

[Footnote 4: Jay, _An Inquiry_, etc., p. 33.]

Miss Crandall and her pupils were threatened with violence.
Accommodation at the local stores was denied her. The pupils were
insulted. The house was besmeared and damaged. An effort was made to
invoke the law by which the selectmen might warn any person not an
inhabitant of the State to depart under penalty of paying $1.67 for
every week he remained after receiving such notice.[1] This failed,
but Judson and his followers were still determined that the "nigger
school" should never be allowed in Canterbury nor any town of the
State. They appealed to the legislature. Setting forth in its preamble
that the evil to be obviated was the increase of the black population
of the commonwealth, that body passed a law providing that no person
should establish a school for the instruction of colored people who
were not inhabitants of the State of Connecticut, nor should any one
harbor or board students brought to the State for this purpose without
first obtaining, in writing, the consent of a majority of the civil
authority and of the selectmen of the town.[2]

[Footnote 1: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed_., 1871, p. 331;
and May, _Letters to A.T. Judson, Esq., and Others_, p. 5.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., p. 5.]

The enactment of this law caused Canterbury to go wild with joy. Miss
Crandall was arrested on the 27th of June, and committed to await her
trial at the next session of the Supreme Court. She and her friends
refused to give bond that the officials might go the limit in
imprisoning her. Miss Crandall was placed in a murderer's cell. Mr.
May, who had stood by her, said when he saw the door locked and the
key taken out, "The deed is done, completely done. It cannot be
recalled. It has passed into the history of our nation and age." Miss
Crandall was tried the 23d of August, 1833, at Brooklyn, the county
seat of the county of Windham. The jury failed to agree upon a
verdict, doubtless because Joseph Eaton, who presided, had given it as
his opinion that the law was probably unconstitutional. At the second
trial before Judge Dagget of the Supreme Court, who was an advocate of
the law, Miss Crandall was convicted. Her counsel, however, filed a
bill of exceptions and took an appeal to the Court of Errors. The
case came up on the 22d of July, 1834. The nature of the law was ably
discussed by W.W. Ellsworth and Calvin Goddard, who maintained that
it was unconstitutional, and by A.T. Judson and C.F. Cleveland, who
undertook to prove its constitutionality. The court reserved its
decision, which was never given. Finding that there were defects in
the information prepared by the attorney for the State, the indictment
was quashed. Because of subsequent attempts to destroy the building,
Mr. May and Miss Crandall decided to abandon the school.[1]

[Footnote 1: Jay, _An Inquiry, etc._, p. 26.]

It resulted then that even in those States to which free blacks had
long looked for sympathy, the fear excited by fugitives from the more
reactionary commonwealths had caused northerners so to yield to the
prejudices of the South that they opposed insuperable obstacles to the
education of Negroes for service in the United States. The colored
people, as we shall see elsewhere, were not allowed to locate their
manual labor college at New Haven[1] and the principal of the Noyes
Academy at Canaan, New Hampshire, saw his institution destroyed
because he decided to admit colored students.[2] These fastidious
persons, however, raised no objection to the establishment of schools
to prepare Negroes to expatriate themselves under the direction of the
American Colonization Society.[3]

[Footnote 1: _Proceedings of the Third Annual Convention for the
Improvement of the Free People of Color_, p. 14.]

[Footnote 2: _Fourth Annual Report of the American Antislavery
Society_, p. 34.]

[Footnote 3: Alexander, _A History of Colonization on the Western
Continent_, p. 348.]

Observing these conditions the friends of the colored people could
not be silent. The abolitionists led by Caruthers, May, and Garrison
hurled their weapons at the reactionaries, branding them as
inconsistent schemers. After having advanced the argument of the
mental inferiority of the colored race they had adopted the policy
of educating Negroes on the condition that they be removed from the
country.[1] Considering education one of the rights of man, the
abolitionists persistently rebuked the North and South for their
inhuman policy. On every opportune occasion they appealed to the world
in behalf of the oppressed race, which the hostile laws had removed
from humanizing influences, reduced to the plane of beasts, and made
to die in heathenism.

[Footnote 1: Jay,_An Inquiry_, etc., p. 26; Johns Hopkins University
Studies, Series xvi., p. 319; and _Proceedings of the New York State
Colonization Society_, 1831, p. 6.]

In reply to the abolitionists the protagonists of the reactionaries
said that but for the "intrusive and intriguing interference of
pragmatical fanatics"[1] such precautionary enactments would never
have been necessary. There was some truth in this statement; for
in certain districts these measures operated not to prevent the
aristocratic people of the South from enlightening the Negroes, but to
keep away from them what they considered undesirable instructors.
The southerners regarded the abolitionists as foes in the field,
industriously scattering the seeds of insurrection which could then
be prevented only by blocking every avenue through which they could
operate upon the minds of the slaves. A writer of this period
expressed it thus: "It became necessary to check or turn aside the
stream which instead of flowing healthfully upon the Negro is
polluted and poisoned by the abolitionists and rendered the source
of discontent and excitement."[2] He believed that education thus
perverted would become equally dangerous to the master and the slave,
and that while fanaticism continued its war upon the South the
measures of necessary precaution and defense had to be continued. He
asserted, however, that education would not only unfit the Negro for
his station in life and prepare him for insurrection, but would prove
wholly impracticable in the performance of the duties of a laborer.[3]
The South has not yet learned that an educated man is a better laborer
than an ignorant one.

[Footnote 1: Hodgkin, _An Inquiry into the Merits of the Am. Col.
Soc_., p. 31; and _The South Vindicated from the Treason and
Fanaticism of the Abolitionists_, p. 68.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., p. 69.]

[Footnote 3: _The South Vindicated from the Treason and Fanaticism of
the Abolitionists_, p. 69.]



Stung by the effective charge of the abolitionists that the
reactionary legislation of the South consigned the Negroes to
heathenism, slaveholders considering themselves Christians, felt that
some semblance of the religious instruction of these degraded people
should be devised. It was difficult, however, to figure out exactly
how the teaching of religion to slaves could be made successful and at
the same time square with the prohibitory measures of the South. For
this reason many masters made no effort to find a way out of the
predicament. Others with a higher sense of duty brought forward a
scheme of oral instruction in Christian truth or of religion without
letters. The word instruction thereafter signified among the
southerners a procedure quite different from what the term meant in
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when Negroes were taught to
read and write that they might learn the truth for themselves.

Being aristocratic in its bearing, the Episcopal Church in the South
early receded from the position of cultivating the minds of the
colored people. As the richest slaveholders were Episcopalians, the
clergy of that denomination could hardly carry out a policy which
might prove prejudicial to the interests of their parishioners.
Moreover, in their propaganda there was then nothing which required
the training of Negroes to instruct themselves. As the qualifications
of Episcopal ministers were rather high even for the education of the
whites of that time, the blacks could not hope to be active churchmen.
This Church, therefore, soon limited its work among the Negroes of
the South to the mere verbal instruction of those who belonged to the
local parishes. Furthermore, because this Church was not exceedingly
militant, and certainly not missionary, it failed to grow rapidly. In
most parts it suffered from the rise of the more popular Methodists
and Baptists into the folds of which slaves followed their masters
during the eighteenth century.

The adjustment of the Methodist and Baptist churches in the South to
the new work among the darker people, however, was after the first
quarter of the nineteenth century practically easy. Each of these
denominations had once strenuously opposed slavery, the Methodists
holding out longer than the Baptists. But the particularizing force
of the institution soon became such that southern churches of these
connections withdrew most of their objections to the system and, of
course, did not find it difficult to abandon the idea of teaching
Negroes to read.[1] Moreover, only so far as it was necessary to
prepare men to preach and exhort was there an urgent need for literary
education among these plain and unassuming missionaries. They came,
not emphasizing the observance of forms which required so much
development of the intellect, but laying stress upon the quickening
of man's conscience and the regeneration of his soul. In the States,
however, where the prohibitory laws were not so rigidly enforced,
the instruction received in various ways from workers of these
denominations often turned out to be more than religion without

[Footnote 1: Matlack, _History of Methodism_, etc., p. 132; Benedict,
_History of the Baptists_, p. 212.]

[Footnote 2: Adams, _South-side View_, p. 59.]

The Presbyterians found it more difficult to yield on this point. For
decades they had been interested in the Negro race and had in 1818
reached the acme of antislavery sentiment.[1] Synod after synod
denounced the attitude of cruel masters toward their slaves and took
steps to do legally all they could to provide religious instruction
for the colored people.[2] When public sentiment and reactionary
legislation made the instruction of the Negroes of the South
impracticable the Presbyterians of New York and New Jersey were active
in devising schemes for the education of the colored people at points
in the North.[3] Then came the crisis of the prolonged abolition
agitation which kept the Presbyterian Church in an excited state from
1818 to 1830 and resulted in the recession of that denomination from
the position it had formerly taken against slavery.[4] Yielding to the
reactionaries in 1835, this noble sect which had established schools
for Negroes, trained ambitious colored men for usefulness, and
endeavored to fit them for the best civil and religious emoluments,
thereafter became divided. The southern connection lost much of its
interest in the dark race, and fell back on the policy of the verbal
instruction and memory training of the blacks that they might never
become thoroughly enlightened as to their condition.

[Footnote 1: Baird, _Collections_, etc., pp. 814-817.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid._, p. 815.]

[Footnote 3: _Enormity of the Slave Trade_, etc. p. 67.]

[Footnote 4: Baird, _Collections_, etc., pp. 816, 817.]

Despite the fact that southern Methodists and Presbyterians generally
ceased to have much anti-slavery ardor, there continued still in
the western slave States and in the mountains of Virginia and North
Carolina, a goodly number of these churchmen, who suffered no
diminution of interest in the enlightenment of Negroes. In the States
of Kentucky and Tennessee friends of the race were often left free to
instruct them as they wished. Many of the people who settled those
States came from the Scotch-Irish stock of the Appalachian Mountains,
where early in the nineteenth century the blacks were in some cases
treated as equals of the whites.[1]

[Footnote 2: _Fourth Annual Report of the American Antislavery
Society_, New York, 1837, P. 31; _The New England Antislavery
Almanac_, 1841, p. 31; and _The African Repository_, vol. xxxii., p.

The Quakers, and many Catholics, however, were as effective as the
mountaineers in elevating Negroes. They had for centuries labored
to promote religion and education among their colored brethren. So
earnest were these sects in working for the uplift of the Negro race
that the reactionary movement failed to swerve them from their course.
When the other churches adopted the policy of mere verbal training,
the Quakers and Catholics adhered to their idea that the Negroes
should be educated to grasp the meaning of the Christian religion just
as they had been during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.[1]
This favorable situation did not mean so much, however, since with the
exception of the Catholics in Maryland and Louisiana and the Quakers
in Pennsylvania, not many members of these sects lived in communities
of a large colored population. Furthermore, they were denied access to
the Negroes in most southern communities, even when they volunteered
to work as missionaries among the colored people.[2]

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

[Footnote 2: In several Southern States special laws were enacted to
prevent the influx of such Christian workers.]

How difficult it was for these churchmen to carry out their policy
of religion without letters may be best observed by viewing the
conditions then obtaining. In most Southern States in which Negro
preachers could not be deterred from their mission by public
sentiment, they were prohibited by law from exhorting their fellows.
The ground for such action was usually said to be incompetency and
liability to abuse their office and influence to the injury of the
laws and peace of the country. The elimination of the Christian
teachers of the Negro race, and the prevention of the immigration of
workers from the Northern States rendered the blacks helpless
and dependent upon a few benevolent white ministers of the slave
communities. During this period of unusual proselyting among the
whites, these preachers could not minister to the needs of their own
race.[1] Besides, even when there was found a white clergyman who was
willing to labor among these lowly people, he often knew little about
the inner workings of their minds, and failing to enlighten their
understanding, left them the victims of sinful habits, incident to the
institution of slavery.

[Footnote 1: Jones, _Religious Instruction_, p. 175.]

To a civilized man the result was alarming. The Church as an
institution had ceased to be the means by which the Negroes of the
South could be enlightened. The Sabbath-schools in which so many
colored people there had learned to read and write had by 1834
restricted their work to oral instruction.[1] In places where the
blacks once had the privilege of getting an elementary education, only
an inconceivable fraction of them could rise above illiteracy. Most of
these were freedmen found in towns and cities. With the exception of
a few slaves who were allowed the benefits of religious instruction,
these despised beings were generally neglected and left to die
like heathen. In 1840 there were in the South only fifteen colored
Sabbath-schools, with an attendance of about 1459.

[Footnote 1: Goodell, _Slave Code_, p. 324.]

There had never been any regular daily instruction in Christian
truths, but after this period only a few masters allowed field hands
to attend family prayers. Some sections went beyond this point,
prohibiting by public sentiment any and all kinds of religious
instruction.[1] In South Carolina a formal remonstrance signed by over
300 planters and citizens was presented to a Methodist preacher chosen
by a conference of that State as a "cautious and discreet person"[2]
especially qualified to preach to slaves, and pledged to confine
himself to verbal instruction. In Falmouth, Virginia, several white
ladies began to meet on Sunday afternoons to teach Negro children the
principles of the Christian religion. They were unable to continue
their work a month before the local officials stopped them, although
these women openly avowed that they did not intend to teach reading
and writing.[3] Thus the development of the religious education of
the Negroes in certain parts of the South had been from literary
instruction as a means of imparting Christian truth to the policy
of oral indoctrination, and from this purely memory teaching to no
education at all.

[Footnote 1: The cause of this drastic policy was not so much race
hatred as the fear that any kind of instruction might cause the
Negroes to assert themselves.]

[Footnote 2: Olmsted, _Back Country_, pp. 105, 108.]

[Footnote 3: Conway, _Testimonies Concerning Slavery_, p. 5.]

Thereafter the chief privilege allowed the slaves was to congregate
for evening prayers conducted by themselves under the surveillance
of a number of "discreet persons." The leader chosen to conduct the
services, would in some cases read a passage from the Scriptures and
"line a hymn," which the slaves took up in their turn and sang in a
tune of their own suitable to the meter. In case they had present no
one who could read, or the law forbade such an exercise, some exhorter
among the slaves would be given an opportunity to address the people,
basing his remarks as far as his intelligence allowed him on some
memorized portion of the Bible. The rest of the evening would be
devoted to individual prayers and the singing of favorite hymns,
developed largely from the experience of slaves, who while bearing
their burdens in the heat of the day had learned to sing away their

For this untenable position the slave States were so severely
criticized by southern and northern friends of the colored people that
the ministers of that section had to construct a more progressive
policy. Yet whatever might be the arguments of the critics of the
South to prove that the enlightenment of Negroes was not a danger, it
was clear after the Southampton insurrection in 1831 that two factors
in Negro education would for some time continue generally eliminated.
These were reading matter and colored preachers.

Prominent among the southerners who endeavored to readjust their
policy of enlightening the black population, were Bishop William
Meade,[1] Bishop William Capers,[2] and Rev. C.C. Jones.[3] Bishop
Meade was a native of Virginia, long noted for its large element of
benevolent slaveholders who never lost interest in their Negroes. He
was fortunate in finishing his education at Princeton, so productive
then of leaders who fought the institution of slavery.[4] Immediately
after his ordination in the Protestant Episcopal Church, Bishop Meade
assumed the role of a reformer. He took up the cause of the colored
people, devoting no little of his time to them when he was in
Alexandria and Frederick in 1813 and 1814.[5] He began by preaching to
the Negroes on fifteen plantations, meeting them twice a day, and in
one year reported the baptism of forty-eight colored children.[6]
Early a champion of the colonization of the Negroes, he was sent on a
successful mission to Georgia in 1818 to secure the release of certain
recaptured Africans who were about to be sold. Going and returning
from the South he was active in establishing auxiliaries of the
American Colonization Society. He helped to extend its sphere also
into the Middle States and New-England.[7]

[Footnote 1: Goodloe, _Southern Platform_, pp. 64-65.]

[Footnote 2: Wightman, _Life of Bishop William Capers_, p. 294.]

[Footnote 3: Jones, _Religious Instruction_, Introductory Chapter.]

[Footnote 4: Goodloe, _Southern Platform_, p. 64.]

[Footnote 5: _Ibid_., p. 65.]

[Footnote 6: _Ibid_., p. 66.]

[Footnote 7: _Niles Register_, vol. xvi., pp. 165-166.]

Bishop Meade was a representative of certain of his fellow-churchmen
who were passing through the transitory stage from the position of
advocating the thorough education of Negroes to that of recommending
mere verbal instruction. Agreeing at first with Rev. Thomas Bacon,
Bishop Meade favored the literary training of Negroes, and advocated
the extermination of slavery.[1] Later in life he failed to urge
his followers to emancipate their slaves, and did not entreat his
congregation to teach them to read. He was then committed to the
policy of only lessening their burden as much as possible without
doing anything to destroy the institution. Thereafter he advocated the
education and emancipation of the slaves only in connection with the
scheme of colonization, to which he looked for a solution of these

[Footnote 1: Meade,_Sermons of Rev. Thos. Bacon_, p. 2; and Goodell,
_The Southern Platform_, pp. 64, 65.]

[Footnote 2:_Ibid_., p. 65.]

Wishing to give his views on the religious instruction of Negroes, the
Bishop found in Rev. Thomas Bacon's sermons that "every argument which
was likely to convince and persuade was so forcibly exerted, and that
every objection that could possibly be made, so fully answered, and
in fine everything that ought to be said so well said, and the same
things so happily confirmed ..." that it was deemed "best to refer
the reader for the true nature and object of the book to the book
itself."[1] Bishop Meade had uppermost in his mind Bacon's logical
arraignment of those who neglected to teach their Negroes the
Christian religion. Looking beyond the narrow circle of his own sect,
the bishop invited the attention of all denominations to this subject
in which they were "equally concerned." He especially besought "the
ministers of the gospel to take it into serious consideration as a
matter for which they also will have to give an account. Did not
Christ," said he, "die for these poor creatures as well as for any
other, and is it not given in charge of the minister to gather his
sheep into the fold?"[2]

[Footnote 1: Meade, _Sermons of Rev. Thos. Bacon_, pp. 31,32, 81, 90,
93, 95, 104, and 105.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., p. 104.]

Another worker in this field was Bishop William Capers of the
Methodist Episcopal Church of South Carolina. A southerner to the
manner born, he did not share the zeal of the antislavery men who
would educate Negroes as a preparation for manumission.[1] Regarding
the subject of abolition as one belonging to the State and entirely
inappropriate to the Church, he denounced the principles of the
religious abolitionists as originating in false philosophy. Capers
endeavored to prove that the relation of slave and master is
authorized by the Holy Scriptures. He was of the opinion, however,
that certain abuses which might ensue, were immoralities to be
prevented or punished by all proper means, both by the Church
discipline and the civil law.[2] Believing that the neglect of the
spiritual needs of the slaves was a reflection on the slaveholders, he
set out early in the thirties to stir up South Carolina to the duty of
removing this stigma.

[Footnote 1: Wightman, _Life of William Capers_, p. 295.]

[Footnote 2: Wightman, _Life of William Capers_, p. 296.]

His plan of enlightening the blacks did not include literary
instruction. His aim was to adapt the teaching of Christian truth to
the condition of persons having a "humble intellect and a limited
range of knowledge by means of constant and patient reiteration."[1]
The old Negroes were to look to preachers for the exposition of these
principles while the children were to be turned over to catechists
who would avail themselves of the opportunity of imparting these
fundamentals to the young at the time their minds were in the plastic
state. Yet all instructors and preachers to Negroes had to be careful
to inculcate the performance of the duty of obedience to their masters
as southerners found them stated in the Holy Scriptures. Any one who
would hesitate to teach these principles of southern religion should
not be employed to instruct slaves. The bishop was certain that such
a one could not then be found among the preachers of the Methodist
Episcopal Church of South Carolina.[2]

[Footnote 1: _Ibid._, p. 298.]

[Footnote 3: _Ibid._, p. 296.]

Bishop Capers was the leading spirit in the movement instituted in
that commonwealth about 1829 to establish missions to the slaves. So
generally did he arouse the people to the performance of this duty
that they not only allowed preachers access to their Negroes but
requested that missionaries be sent to their plantations. Such
petitions came from C.C. Pinckney, Charles Boring, and Lewis
Morris.[1] Two stations were established in 1829 and two additional
ones in 1833. Thereafter the Church founded one or two others every
year until 1847 when there were seventeen missions conducted by
twenty-five preachers. At the death of Bishop Capers in 1855 the
Methodists of South Carolina had twenty-six such establishments, which
employed thirty-two preachers, ministering to 11,546 communicants
of color. The missionary revenue raised by the local conference had
increased from $300 to $25,000 a year.[2]

[Footnote 1: Wightman, _Life of William Capers_, p. 296.]

[Footnote 2; _African Repository_, vol. xxiv., p. 157.]

The most striking example of this class of workers was the Rev. C.C.
Jones, a minister of the Presbyterian Church. Educated at Princeton
with men actually interested in the cause of the Negroes, and located
in Georgia where he could study the situation as it was, Jones became
not a theorist but a worker. He did not share the discussion of the
question as to how to get rid of slavery. Accepting the institution as
a fact, he endeavored to alleviate the sufferings of the unfortunates
by the spiritual cultivation of their minds. He aimed, too, not to
take into his scheme the solution of the whole problem but to appeal
to a special class of slaves, those of the plantations who were left
in the depths of ignorance as to the benefits of right living. In this
respect he was like two of his contemporaries, Rev. Josiah Law[1] of
Georgia and Bishop Polk of Louisiana.[2] Denouncing the policy of
getting all one could out of the slaves and of giving back as little
as possible, Jones undertook to show how their spiritual improvement
would exterminate their ignorance, vulgarity, idleness, improvidence,
and irreligion; Jones thought that if the circumstances of the Negroes
were changed, they would equal, if not excel, the rest of the human
family "in majesty of intellect, elegance of manners, purity of
morals, and ardor of piety."[3] He feared that white men might cherish
a contempt for Negroes that would cause them to sink lower in the
scale of intelligence, morality, and religion. Emphasizing the fact
that as one class of society rises so will the other, Jones advocated
the mingling of the classes together in churches, to create kindlier
feelings among them, increase the tendency of the blacks to
subordination, and promote in a higher degree their mental and
religious improvement. He was sure that these benefits could never
result from independent church organization.[4]

[Footnote 1: Rev. Josiah Law was almost as successful as Jones in
carrying the gospel to the neglected Negroes. His life is a large
chapter in the history of Christianity among the slaves of that
commonwealth. See Wright, _Negro Education in Georgia_, p. 19.]

[Footnote 2: Rhodes, _History of the U.S_., vol. i., p. 331.]

[Footnote 3: Jones, _Religious Instruction_, p. 103.]

[Footnote 4: Jones, _Religious Instruction_, pp. 106, 217.]

Meeting the argument of those who feared the insubordination of
Negroes, Jones thought that the gospel would do more for the obedience
of slaves and the peace of the community than weapons of war. He
asserted that the very effort of the masters to instruct their slaves
created a strong bond of union between them and their masters.[1]
History, he believed, showed that the direct way of exposing the
slaves to acts of insubordination was to leave them in ignorance and
superstition to the care of their own religion.[2] To disprove the
falsity of the charge that literary instruction given in Neau's school
in New York was the cause of a rising of slaves in 1709, he produced
evidence that it was due to their opposition to becoming Christians.
The rebellions in South Carolina from 1730 to 1739, he maintained,
were fomented by the Spaniards in St. Augustine. The upheaval in New
York in 1741 was not due to any plot resulting from the instruction
of Negroes in religion, but rather to a delusion on the part of the
whites. The rebellions in Camden in 1816 and in Charleston in 1822
were not exceptions to the rule. He conceded that the Southampton
Insurrection in Virginia in 1831 originated under the color of
religion. It was pointed out, however, that this very act itself was
a proof that Negroes left to work out their own salvation, had fallen
victims to "ignorant and misguided teachers" like Nat Turner. Such
undesirable leaders, thought he, would never have had the opportunity
to do mischief, if the masters had taken it upon themselves to
instruct their slaves.[3] He asserted that no large number of slaves
well instructed in the Christian religion and taken into the churches
directed by white men had ever been found guilty of taking part in
servile insurrections.[4]

[Footnote 1: _Ibid_., pp. 212, 274.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., p. 215.]

[Footnote 3: Jones, _Religious Instruction_, etc., p. 212.]

[Footnote 4: Plumer, _Thoughts_, etc., p. 4.]

To meet the arguments of these reformers the slaveholders found among
laymen and preachers able champions to defend the reactionary policy.
Southerners who had not gone to the extreme in the prohibition of the
instruction of Negroes felt more inclined to answer the critics of
their radical neighbors. One of these defenders thought that the
slaves should have some enlightenment but believed that the domestic
element of the system of slavery in the Southern States afforded
"adequate means" for the improvement, adapted to their condition and
the circumstances of the country; and furnished "the natural, safe,
and effectual means"[1] of the intellectual and moral elevation of the
Negro race. Another speaking more explicitly, said that the fact
that the Negro is such per se carried with it the "inference or the
necessity that his education--the cultivation of his faculties, or the
development of his intelligence, must be in harmony with itself." In
other words, "his instruction must be an entirely different thing from
the training of the Caucasian," in regard to whom "the term education
had widely different significations." For this reason these defenders
believed that instead of giving the Negro systematic instruction he
should be placed in the best position possible for the development of
his imitative powers--"to call into action that peculiar capacity for
copying the habits, mental and moral, of the superior race."[2] They
referred to the facts that slaves still had plantation prayers and
preaching by numerous members of their own race, some of whom could
read and write, that they were frequently favored by their masters
with services expressly for their instruction, that Sabbath-schools
had been established for the benefit of the young, and finally that
slaves were received into the churches which permitted them to hear
the same gospel and praise the same God.[3]

[Footnote 1: Smith, _Lectures on the Philosophy and Practice of
Slavery_, pp. 228 _et seq_.]

[Footnote 2: Van Evrie, _Negroes and Negro Slavery_, p. 215.]

[Footnote 3: Smith, _Lectures on the Philosophy of Slavery_, p. 228.]

Seeing even in the policy of religious instruction nothing but danger
to the position of the slave States, certain southerners opposed it
under all circumstances. Some masters feared that verbal instruction
would increase the desire of slaves to learn. Such teaching might
develop into a progressive system of improvement, which, without any
special effort in that direction, would follow in the natural order of
things.[1] Timorous persons believed that slaves thus favored would
neglect their duties and embrace seasons of religious worship for
originating and executing plans for insubordination and villainy. They
thought, too, that missionaries from the free States would thereby
be afforded an opportunity to come South and inculcate doctrines
subversive of the interests and safety of that section.[2] It would
then be only a matter of time before the movement would receive such
an impetus that it would dissolve the relations of society as then
constituted and revolutionize the civil institutions of the South.

[Footnote 1: Jones, _Religious Instruction_, p. 192; Olmsted, _Back
Country_, pp. 106-108.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid_., p. 106.]

The black population of certain sections, however, was not reduced
to heathenism. Although often threatening to execute the reactionary
laws, many of which were never intended to be rigidly enforced,
the southerners did not at once eliminate the Negro as a religious
instructor.[1] It was fortunate that a few Negroes who had learned the
importance of early Christian training, organized among themselves
local associations. These often appointed an old woman of the
plantation to teach children too young to work in the fields, to say
prayers, repeat a little catechism, and memorize a few hymns.[2] But
this looked too much like systematic instruction. In some States it
was regarded as productive of evils destructive to southern
society and was, therefore, discouraged or prohibited.[3] To local
associations organized by kindly slaveholders there was less
opposition because the chief aim always was to restrain strangers and
undesirable persons from coming South to incite the Negroes to servile
insurrection. Two good examples of these local organizations were
the ones found in Liberty and McIntosh counties, Georgia. The
constitutions of these bodies provided that the instruction should be
altogether oral, embracing the general principles of the Christian
religion as understood by orthodox Christians.[4]

[Footnote 1: This statement is based on the testimonies of ex-slaves.]

[Footnote 2: Jones, _Religious Instruction_, pp. 114, 117.]

[Footnote 3: While the laws in certain places were not so drastic as
to prohibit religious assemblies, the same was effected by patrols and

[Footnote 4: The Constitution of the Liberty County Association for
the Religious Instruction of Negroes, Article IV.]

Directing their efforts thereafter toward mere verbal teaching,
religious workers depended upon the memory of the slave to retain
sufficient of the truths and principles expounded to effect his
conversion. Pamphlets, hymn books, and catechisms especially adapted
to the work were written by churchmen, and placed in the hands of
discreet missionaries acceptable to the slaveholders. Among other
publications of this kind were Dr. Capers's Short Catechism for the
Use of Colored Members on _Trial in the Methodist Episcopal Church in
South Carolina; A Catechism to be Used by Teachers in the Religious
Instruction of Persons of Color in the Episcopal Church of South
Carolina_; Dr. Palmer's _Cathechism_; Rev. John Mine's _Catechism_;
and C.C. Jones's _Catechism of Scripture, Doctrine and Practice
Designed for the Original Instruction of Colored People._ Bishop Meade
was once engaged in collecting such literature addressed particularly
to slaves in their stations. These extracts were to be read to them
on proper occasions by any member of the family.[1]

[Footnote 1: Meade, _Sermons of Rev. Thomas Bacon_, p. 2.]

Yet on the whole it can be safely stated that there were few
societies formed in the South to give the Negroes religious and moral
instruction. Only a few missionaries were exclusively devoted to work
among them. In fact, after the reactionary period no propaganda of
any southern church included anything which could be designated as
systematic instruction of the Negroes.[1] Even owners, who took
care to feed, clothe, and lodge their slaves well and treated
them humanely, often neglected to do anything to enlighten their
understanding as to their responsibility to God. [Footnote 1:
Madison's Works, vol. in., p. 314; Olmsted, _Back Country_, p. 107;
Birney, _The American Churches_, etc., p. 6; and Jones, _Religious
Instruction_, etc., p. 100.]

Observing closely these conditions one would wonder little that many
Negroes became low and degraded. The very institution of slavery
itself produced shiftless, undependable beings, seeking relief
whenever possible by giving the least and getting the most from their
masters. When the slaves were cut off from the light of the gospel by
the large plantation system, they began to exhibit such undesirable
traits as insensibility of heart, lasciviousness, stealing, and lying.
The cruelty of the "Christian" master to the slaves made the latter
feel that such a practice was not altogether inhuman. Just as the
white slave drivers developed into hopeless brutes by having human
beings to abuse, so it turned out with certain Negroes in their
treatment of animals and their fellow-creatures in bondage. If some
Negroes were commanded not to commit adultery, such a prohibition did
not extend to the slave women forced to have illicit relations with
masters who sold their mulatto offspring as goods and chattels. If the
bondmen were taught not to steal the aim was to protect the supplies
of the local plantation. Few masters raised any serious objection to
the act of their half-starved slaves who at night crossed over to some
neighboring plantation to secure food. Many white men made it their
business to dispose of property stolen by Negroes.

In the strait in which most slaves were, they had to lie for
protection. Living in an environment where the actions of almost any
colored man were suspected as insurrectionary, Negroes were frequently
called upon to tell what they knew and were sometimes forced to say
what they did not know. Furthermore, to prevent the slaves from
cooeperating to rise against their masters, they were often taught to
mistreat and malign each other to keep alive a feeling of hatred. The
bad traits of the American Negroes resulted then not from an instinct
common to the natives of Africa, but from the institutions of the
South and from the actual teaching of the slaves to be low and
depraved that they might never develop sufficient strength to become a
powerful element in society.

As this system operated to make the Negroes either nominal Christians
or heathen, the anti-slavery men could not be silent.[1] James G.
Birney said that the slaveholding churches like indifferent observers,
had watched the abasement of the Negroes to a plane of beasts without
remonstrating with legislatures against the iniquitous measures.[2]
Moreover, because there was neither literary nor systematic oral
instruction of the colored members of southern congregations, uniting
with the Church made no change in the condition of the slaves. They
were thrown back just as before among their old associates, subjected
to corrupting influences, allowed to forego attendance at public
worship on Sundays, and rarely encouraged to attend family prayers.[3]
In view of this state of affairs Birney was not surprised that it
was only here and there that one could find a few slaves who had an
intelligent view of Christianity or of a future life.

[Footnote 1: Tower, _Slavery Unmasked_, p. 394.]

[Footnote 2: Birney, _American Churches_, p. 6.]

[Footnote 3: _Ibid_., p. 7.]

William E. Charming expressed his deep regret that the whole lot of
the slave was fitted to keep his mind in childhood and bondage. To
Channing it seemed shameful that, although the slave lived in a land
of light, few beams found their way to his benighted understanding. He
was given no books to excite his curiosity. His master provided for
him no teacher but the driver who broke him almost in childhood to the
servile tasks which were to fill up his life. Channing complained that
when benevolence would approach the slave with instruction it was
repelled. Not being allowed to be taught, the "voice which would speak
to him as a man was put to silence." For the lack of the privilege
to learn the truth "his immortal spirit was systematically crushed
despite the mandate of God to bring all men unto Him."[1]

[Footnote 1: Channing, _Slavery_, p. 77.]

Discussing the report that slaves were taught religion, Channing
rejoiced that any portion of them heard of that truth "which gives
inward freedom."[1] He thought, however, that this number was very
small. Channing was certain that most slaves were still buried in
heathen ignorance. But extensive as was this so-called religious
instruction, he did not see how the teaching of the slave to be
obedient to his master could exert much power in raising one to the
divinity of man. How slavery which tends to debase the mind of
the bondman could prepare it for spiritual truth, or how he could
comprehend the essential principles of love on hearing it from the
lips of his selfish and unjust owner, were questions which no defender
of the system ever answered satisfactorily for Channing. Seeing then
no hope for the elevation of the Negro as a slave, he became a more
determined abolitionist.

[Footnote 1: _Ibid._, p. 78.]

William Jay, a son of the first Chief Justice of the United States,
and an abolition preacher of the ardent type, later directed his
attention to these conditions. The keeping of human beings in heathen
ignorance by a people professing to reverence the obligation of
Christianity seemed to him an unpardonable sin. He believed that the
natural result of this "compromise of principle, this suppression
of truth, this sacrifice to unanimity," had been the adoption of
expediency as a standard of right and wrong in the place of the
revealed will of God.[1] "Thus," continued he, "good men and
good Christians have been tempted by their zeal for the American
Colonization Society to countenance opinions and practices
inconsistent with justice and humanity."[2] Jay charged to this
disastrous policy of neglect the result that in 1835 only 245,000 of
the 2,245,144 slaves had a saving knowledge of the religion of
Christ. He deplored the fact that unhappily the evil influence of the
reactionaries had not been confined to their own circles but had to a
lamentable extent "vitiated the moral sense" of other communities.
The proslavery leaders, he said, had reconciled public opinion to the
continuance of slavery, and had aggravated those sinful prejudices
which subjected the free blacks to insult and persecution and denied
them the blessings of education and religious instruction.[3]

[Footnote 1: Jay, _An Inquiry_, etc., p. 24.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid._, p. 25.]

[Footnote 3: Jay, _An Inquiry_, etc., p. 26.]

Among the most daring of those who censured the South for its
reactionary policy was Rev. John G. Fee, an abolition minister of
the gospel of Kentucky. Seeing the inevitable result in States where
public opinion and positive laws had made the education of Negroes
impossible, Fee asserted that in preventing them from reading God's
Word and at the same time incorporating them into the Church as
nominal Christians, the South had weakened the institution. Without
the means to learn the principles of religion it was impossible for
such an ignorant class to become efficient and useful members.[1]
Excoriating those who had kept their servants in ignorance to secure
the perpetuity of the institution of slavery, Fee maintained that
sealing up the mind of the slave, lest he should see his wrongs, was
tantamount to cutting off the hand or foot in order to prevent his
escape from forced and unwilling servitude.[2] "If by our practice,
our silence, or our sloth," said he, "we perpetuate a system which
paralyzes our hands when we attempt to convey to them the bread of
life, and which inevitably consigns the great mass of them to unending
perdition, can we be guiltless in the sight of Him who hath made us
stewards of His grace? This is sinful. Said the Saviour: 'Woe unto you
lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not
in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered."'[3]

[Footnote 1: Fee, _Antislavery Manual_, p. 147.]

[Footnote 2: _Ibid._, p. 148.]

[Footnote 3: Fee, _Antislavery Manual_, p. 149.]



Discouraging as these conditions seemed, the situation was not
entirely hopeless. The education of the colored people as a public
effort had been prohibited south of the border States, but there was
still some chance for Negroes of that section to acquire knowledge.
Furthermore, the liberal white people of that section considered these
enactments, as we have stated above, not applicable to southerners
interested in the improvement of their slaves but to mischievous
abolitionists. The truth is that thereafter some citizens disregarded
the laws of their States and taught worthy slaves whom they desired to
reward or use in business requiring an elementary education. As these
prohibitions in slave States were not equally stringent, white and
colored teachers of free blacks were not always disturbed. In fact,
just before the middle of the nineteenth century there was so much
winking at the violation of the reactionary laws that it looked as if
some Southern States might recede from their radical position and let
Negroes be educated as they had been in the eighteenth century.

The ways in which slaves thereafter acquired knowledge are
significant. Many picked it up here and there, some followed
occupations which were in themselves enlightening, and others learned
from slaves whose attainments were unknown to their masters. Often
influential white men taught Negroes not only the rudiments of
education but almost anything they wanted to learn. Not a few slaves
were instructed by the white children whom they accompanied to school.
While attending ministers and officials whose work often lay open to
their servants, many of the race learned by contact and observation.
Shrewd Negroes sometimes slipped stealthily into back streets, where
they studied under a private teacher, or attended a school hidden from
the zealous execution of the law.

The instances of Negroes struggling to obtain an education read like
the beautiful romances of a people in an heroic age. Sometimes Negroes
of the type of Lott Carey[1] educated themselves. James Redpath
discovered in Savannah that in spite of the law great numbers
of slaves had learned to read well. Many of them had acquired a
rudimentary knowledge of arithmetic. "But," said he, "blazon it to the
shame of the South, the knowledge thus acquired has been snatched from
the spare records of leisure in spite of their owners' wishes and
watchfulness."[2] C.G. Parsons was informed that although poor masters
did not venture to teach their slaves, occasionally one with a thirst
for knowledge secretly learned the rudiments of education without any
instruction.[3] While on a tour through parts of Georgia, E.P. Burke
observed that, notwithstanding the great precaution which was taken
to prevent the mental improvement of the slaves, many of them "stole
knowledge enough to enable them to read and write with ease."[4]
Robert Smalls[5] of South Carolina and Alfred T. Jones[6] of Kentucky
began their education in this manner.

[Footnote 1: Mott, _Biographical Sketches_, p. 87.]

[Footnote 2: Redpath, _Roving Editor_, etc., p. 161.]

[Footnote 3: Parsons, _Inside View_, etc., p. 248.]

[Footnote 4: Burke, _Reminiscences of Georgia_, p. 85.]

[Footnote 5: Simmons, _Men of Mark_, p. 126.]

[Footnote 6: Drew, _Refugee_, p. 152.]

Probably the best example of this class was Harrison Ellis of Alabama.
At the age of thirty-five he had acquired a liberal education by his
own exertions. Upon examination he proved himself a good Latin and
Hebrew scholar and showed still greater proficiency in Greek. His
attainments in theology were highly satisfactory. _The Eufaula
Shield_, a newspaper of that State, praised him as a man courteous in
manners, polite in conversation, and manly in demeanor. Knowing how
useful Ellis would be in a free country, the Presbyterian Synod of
Alabama purchased him and his family in 1847 at a cost of $2500 that
he might use his talents in elevating his own people in Liberia.[1]

[Footnote 1: _Niles Register_, vol. lxxi., p. 296.]

Intelligent Negroes secretly communicated to their fellow men what
they knew. Henry Banks of Stafford County, Virginia, was taught by
his brother-in-law to read, but not write.[1] The father of Benedict
Duncan, a slave in Maryland, taught his son the alphabet.[2] M.W.
Taylor of Kentucky received his first instruction from his mother.
H.O. Wagoner learned from his parents the first principles of the
common branches.[3] A mulatto of Richmond taught John H. Smythe when
he was between the ages of five and seven.[4] The mother of Dr. C.H.
Payne of West Virginia taught him to read at such an early age that
he does not remember when he first developed that power.[5] Dr. E.C.
Morris, President of the National Baptist Convention, belonged to a
Georgia family, all of whom were well instructed by his father.[6]

[Footnote 1: Drew, _Refugee_, etc., p. 72.]

[Footnote 2: Ibid., p. 110.]

[Footnote 3: Simmons, _Men of Mark_, p. 679.]

[Footnote 4: Ibid., p. 873.]

[Footnote 5: Ibid., p. 368.]

[Footnote 6: This is his own statement.]

The white parents of Negroes often secured to them the educational
facilities then afforded the superior race. The indulgent teacher of
J. Morris of North Carolina was his white father, his master.[1]
W.J. White acquired his education from his mother, who was a white
woman.[2] Martha Martin, a daughter of her master, a Scotch-Irishman
of Georgia, was permitted to go to Cincinnati to be educated, while
her sister was sent to a southern town to learn the milliner's
trade.[3] Then there were cases like that of Josiah Settle's white
father. After the passage of the law forbidding free Negroes to remain
in the State of Tennessee, he took his children to Hamilton, Ohio,
to be educated and there married his actual wife, their colored

[Footnote 1: This is based on an account given by his son.]

[Footnote 2: _The Crisis_, vol. v., p. 119.]

[Footnote 3: Drew, _Refugee_, p. 143.]

[Footnote 4: Simmons, _Men of Mark_, p. 539.]

The very employment of slaves in business establishments accelerated
their mental development. Negroes working in stores often acquired
a fair education by assisting clerks. Some slaves were clerks
themselves. Under the observation of E.P. Burke came the notable case
of a young man belonging to one of the best families of Savannah. He
could read, write, cipher, and transact business so intelligently
that his master often committed important trusts to his care.[1] B.K.
Bruce, while still a slave, educated himself when he was working at
the printer's trade in Brunswick, Missouri. Even farther south where
slavery assumed its worst form, we find that this condition obtained.
Addressing to the New Orleans _Commercial Bulletin_ a letter on
African colonization, John McDonogh stated that the work imposed on
his slaves required some education for which he willingly provided. In
1842 he had had no white man over his slaves for twenty years. He had
assigned this task to his intelligent colored manager who did his work
so well that the master did not go in person once in six months to see
what his slaves were doing. He says, "They were, besides, my men of
business, enjoyed my confidence, were my clerks, transacted all my
affairs, made purchases of materials, collected my rents, leased my
houses, took care of my property and effects of every kind, and
that with an honesty and fidelity which was proof against every
temptation."[2] Traveling in Mississippi in 1852, Olmsted found
another such group of slaves all of whom could read, whereas the
master himself was entirely illiterate. He took much pride, however,
in praising his loyal, capable, and intelligent Negroes.[3]

[Footnote 1: Burke, _Reminiscences of Georgia_, p. 86.

Frances Anne Kemble gives in her journal an interesting account of her
observations in Georgia. She says: "I must tell you that I have been
delighted, surprised, and the very least perplexed, by the sudden
petition on the part of our young waiter, Aleck, that I will teach him
to read. He is a very intelligent lad of about sixteen, and preferred
his request with urgent humility that was very touching. I will do it;
and yet, it is simply breaking the laws of the government under which
I am living. Unrighteous laws are made to be broken--perhaps--but
then you see, I am a woman, and Mr.---- stands between me and the
penalty--. I certainly intend to teach Aleck to read; and I'll teach
every other creature that wants to learn." See Kemble, _Journal_, p.

[Footnote 2: McDonogh, "Letter on African Colonization."]

[Footnote 3: Olmsted, _Cotton Kingdom_, vol. ii., p. 70.]

White persons deeply interested in Negroes taught them regardless
of public opinion and the law. Dr. Alexander T. Augusta of Virginia
learned to read while serving white men as a barber.[1] A prominent
white man of Memphis taught Mrs. Mary Church Terrell's mother French
and English. The father of Judge R.H. Terrell was well-grounded
in reading by his overseer during the absence of his master from
Virginia.[2] A fugitive slave from Essex County of the same State was
not allowed to go to school publicly, but had an opportunity to learn
from white persons privately.[3] The master of Charles Henry Green, a
slave of Delaware, denied him all instruction, but he was permitted
to study among the people to whom he was hired.[4] M.W. Taylor of
Kentucky studied under attorneys J.B. Kinkaid and John W. Barr, whom
he served as messenger.[5] Ignoring his master's orders against
frequenting a night school, Henry Morehead of Louisville learned to
spell and read sufficiently well to cause his owner to have the school
unceremoniously closed.[6]

[Footnote 1: _Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed._, 1871, p. 258.]

[Footnote 2: This is based on the statements of Judge and Mrs.

[Footnote 3: Drew, _Refugee_, p. 335.]

[Footnote 4: Ibid., p. 96.]

[Footnote 5: Simmons, _Men of Mark_, p. 933.]

[Footnote 6: Drew, _Refugee_, p. 180.]

The educational experiences of President Scarborough and of Bishop
Turner show that some white persons were willing to make unusual
sacrifices to enlighten Negroes. President Scarborough began to attend
school in his native home in Bibb County, Georgia, at the age of six
years. He went out ostensibly to play, keeping his books concealed
under his arm, but spent six or eight hours each day in school until
he could read well and had mastered the first principles of geography,
grammar, and arithmetic. At the age of ten he took regular lessons in
writing under an old South Carolinian, J.C. Thomas, a rebel of the
bitterest type. Like Frederick Douglass, President Scarborough
received much instruction from his white playmates.[1]

[Footnote 1: Simmons, _Men of Mark_, p. 410.]

Bishop Turner of Newberry Court House, in South Carolina, purchased
a spelling book and secured the services of an old white lady and a
white boy, who in violation of the State law taught him to spell as
far as two syllables.[1] The white boy's brother stopped him from
teaching this lad of color, pointing out that such an instructor was
liable to arrest. For some time he obtained help from an old colored
gentleman, a prodigy in sounds. At the age of thirteen his mother
employed a white lady to teach him on Sundays, but she was soon
stopped by indignant white persons of the community. When he attained
the age of fifteen he was employed by a number of lawyers in whose
favor he ingratiated himself by his unusual power to please people.
Thereafter these men in defiance of the law taught him to read and
write and explained anything he wanted to know about arithmetic,
geography, and astronomy.[2]

[Footnote 1: Bishop Turner says that when he started to learn there
were among his acquaintances three colored men who had learned to read
the Bible in Charleston. See Simmons, _Men of Mark_, p. 806.]

[Footnote 2: Ibid., p. 806.]

Often favorite slaves were taught by white children. By hiding books
in a hayloft and getting the white children to teach him, James W.
Sumler of Norfolk, Virginia, obtained an elementary education.[1]
While serving as overseer for his Scotch-Irish master, Daniel
J. Lockhart of the same commonwealth learned to read under the
instruction of his owner's boys. They were not interrupted in their
benevolent work.[2] In the same manner John Warren, a slave of
Tennessee, acquired a knowledge of the common branches.[3] John
Baptist Snowden of Maryland was secretly instructed by his owner's
children.[4] Uncle Cephas, a slave of Parson Winslow of Tennessee,
reported that the white children taught him on the sly when they came
to see Dinah, who was a very good cook. He was never without books
during his stay with his master.[5] One of the Grimke Sisters taught
her little maid to read while brushing her young mistress's locks.[6]
Robert Harlan, who was brought up in the family of Honorable J.M.
Harlan, acquired the fundamentals of the common branches from Harlan's
older sons.[7] The young mistress of Mrs. Ann Woodson of Virginia
instructed her until she could read in the first reader.[8] Abdy
observed in 1834 that slaves of Kentucky had been thus taught to read.
He believed that they were about as well off as they would have
been, had they been free.[9] Giving her experiences on a Mississippi
plantation, Susan Dabney Smedes stated that the white children
delighted in teaching the house servants. One night she was formally
invited with the master, mistress, governess, and guests by a
twelve-year-old school mistress to hear her dozen pupils recite
poetry. One of the guests was quite astonished to see his servant
recite a piece of poetry which he had learned for this occasion.[10]
Confining his operations to the kitchen, another such teacher of this
plantation was unusually successful in instructing the adult male
slaves. Five of these Negroes experienced such enlightenment that they
became preachers.[11]

[Footnote 1: Drew, _Refugee_, p. 97.]

[Footnote 2: Ibid., p. 45.]

[Footnote 3: Ibid., p. 185.]

[Footnote 4: Snowden, _Autobiography_, p. 23.]

[Footnote 5: Albert, _The House of Bondage_, p. 125.]

[Footnote 6: Birney, _The Grimke Sisters_, p. 11.]

[Footnote 7: Simmons, _Men of Mark_, p. 613.]

[Footnote 8: This fact is stated in one of her letters.]

[Footnote 9: Abdy, _Journal of a Residence and Tour in U.S.A._,
1833-1834. P. 346.]

[Footnote 10: Smedes, _A Southern Planter_, pp. 79-80.]

[Footnote 11: Ibid., p. 80.]

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