Dere warn't no school for niggers den, and I ain't never been to school a day in my life. These are the words of Georgia Baker about her life as a slave, growing up on a Georgia plantation before the Civil War. Both the land and her body were owned Alexander H. Stephens, a planter who became vice-president of the Confederate States of America. Arnold Gragston told of his master in Macon County, Kentucky.
Throughout the colonial era, reading instruction was tied to the spread of Christianity, so it did not suffer from restrictive legislation until much later. Bledsoe, Caroline H. The University of Dayton School of Law. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Johnson, F. One day, my mistress hap- pened to come into my room, when my materials were about; and she told her father Fortunately for me, one day as I was sitting on the piazza endeavoring to learn some lesson, a woman entered the gate and approached me with Information on pit schools in slavery book in her hand. From the very pir importation of blacks into the British colonies, initially as indentured servants but slqvery as slaves, education of this servile class was both feared and forbidden.
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All of them were learning to read for the first time. So, on July 23,Colyer established the first school for Information on pit schools in slavery people in North Carolina. Understanding — What would happen if Rosa and her mother were caught going to the pit school? Rosa learns quick and Calculate cycle day first menstrual always eager to go to the next session in hopes of learning how to read and write words. Patrols were appointed to go and break it up the next Sabbath. Ingormation 19, Diane rated it really liked it Shelves: read-inpicture-bookshistorical. He helped establish schools for freed people in Wilmington and, after the war, decided to stay in North Carolina. Other Editions 1. In addition, slaves used storytelling, music, and crafts to pass along cultural traditions and other information. Fredrick Douglass states in his biography that he slaveru the pathway from slavery to freedom and it was to have the power to read and write. This book is an excellent addition to studies Forigen chick slavery and how people knew that knowledge and reading were Information on pit schools in slavery to being truly free. Jefferson and many other patriots believed slavery should be abolished in the new American nation. There was a Miss Davies, a poor white girl, who offered to teach a Sabbath School for the slaves.
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- In the 18th century there were no schools in the southern states of America that admitted black children to its free public schools.
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- During the era of slavery in the United States , the education of African Americans, enslaved and free , was often discouraged, except for religious instruction, and eventually made illegal in many of the Southern states.
Dere warn't no school for niggers den, and I ain't never been to school a day in my life. These are the words of Georgia Baker about her life as a slave, growing up on a Georgia plantation before the Civil War. Both the land and her body were owned Alexander H. Stephens, a planter who became vice-president of the Confederate States of America.
Arnold Gragston told of his master in Macon County, Kentucky. Tabb was a pretty good man," Arnold said. But some slaves took the risk of beatings or amputations. Mandy Jones described the way that slaves in Mississippi would educate themselves. The children of slave owners sometimes became the teachers of slave children.
Too much learning, however, could give a slave the tools to escape from bondage. William Johnson told the story of a "smart slave" on his Virginia plantation, a coachman named Joe Sutherland. In fact, Joe got so good that he learned how to write passes for the slaves.
Master's son, Carter Johnson, was clerk of the county court, and going around the court every day Joe forged the county seal on these passes and several slaves used them to escape to free states. Freedom finally came for the slaves, first announced the Emancipation Proclamation in Only a handful of slaves could read that document, but those who could spread the news to others.
Mary Bell talked about her father, Spotswood Rice, who supervised his owner's tobacco plantation in Missouri. These stories of former slaves, recorded in the s interviewers from the Federal Writers' Project, tell in poignant words of the struggle for education of people the Supreme Court described in its Dred Scott decision of as "beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race.
The full impact of depriving blacks of education can only be measured against the historical record of slavery and segregation. From the very first importation of blacks into the British colonies, initially as indentured servants but soon as slaves, education of this servile class was both feared and forbidden.
The Virginia legislature enacted a law in that prohibited gatherings of blacks for any reason, punishable "Twenty Lashes on the Bare Back well laid on," a law designed to keep slaves from holding clandestine schools as well as meeting to plot rebellion against their masters. In , Maryland imposed a fine of one thousand pounds of tobacco on teachers who instructed blacks. As time passed, other states followed suit. South Carolina made it a crime in for anyone "who shall hereafter teach, or cause any Slave or Slaves to be taught to write, or shall use or employ any Slave as a Scribe in any manner of writing, whatsoever.
The legal bans on teaching slaves to read and write did not completely prevent all blacks from becoming literate, at least at a basic level. On many plantations, trusted and favored slaves acted as overseers of "field slaves" and needed to keep records of who worked, became ill, or was injured. One former slave recalled that his master had a "special slave" who could "read and write and figger.
Christian missionaries sent teachers among the slaves, particularly in cities like Charleston, South Carolina, with support from their owners. And as Mandy Jones recalled of his early life in slavery, white children on plantations often taught the black children of "house slaves" to read and write as they did their lessons.
The successful revolution against British rule, and the adoption of the Constitution the newly independent states, did nothing to alter the system of slavery. The "Great Compromise" that kept the slave states from bolting the Constitutional Convention included three provisions in the final charter that explicitly recognized the lawfulness of slavery: the clause that counted slaves as "three fifths" of a person in apportioning House seats; the "fugitive slave" clause that required northern states to return escaped slaves to their masters; and the clause that prohibited Congress from banning the further importation of slaves before But the winds of freedom and independence that blew across the new nation stirred the yearnings of some slaves for their own freedom from bondage.
When Auld learned of this schooling, he snatched books and newspapers from the boy's hands and ordered his wife to end the lessons. But Frederick snuck from his master's house whenever he could and enlisted white children in the neighborhood to continue his education. After one attempt to escape from slavery was foiled, Douglass finally put on a sailor's uniform and fled from Maryland to New Bedford, Massachusetts, at the age of twenty-one. After his escape from slavery, Douglass spread his knowledge to other blacks, teaching them in Sunday schools, despite the hostility of whites who broke up his classes with rocks and clubs.
The connection between literacy and slave uprisings was not an imaginary one. Nat Turner and Denmark Vesey, who organized slave revolts that failed but that terrified many whites, were both literate; after Turner's bloody rebellion was crushed in , black children were expelled from the white Sunday schools in Washington, D.
One prominent defender of slavery asked in "Is there any great moral reason why we should incur the tremendous risk of having our wives and children slaughtered in consequence of our slaves being taught to read incendiary publications? Opposition to educating blacks was not limited to the South. In , Prudence Crandall, a white Quaker, admitted Sarah Harris, the daughter of a respected black farmer, to her school in Canterbury, Connecticut.
Led a local politician, Andrew Judson, who later served as a federal judge, townspeople objected loudly and passed a resolution that educating black girls would damage "the persons, property, and reputations of our citizens. They are an inferior race of beings, and never can or ought to be recognized as the equals of the whites.
Fueled Judson's rhetoric, Canterbury's white residents refused to trade with Miss Crandall, threw filth into her well, hurled rocks and rotten eggs at her home, and set fire to her schoolhouse.
The Connecticut legislature then passed an act making it illegal to teach blacks and whites in the same school, and a defiant Prudence Crandall was arrested, convicted, and jailed, although the state supreme court later quashed her indictment and she returned to her school. Finally, a mob attacked the schoolhouse with iron bars and virtually wrecked the building. Miss Crandall decided not to risk her students' lives and reluctantly closed her school in The next year, after the Noyes Academy in New Hampshire opened its doors to black students, "a mob of several hundred men and nearly a hundred yoke of oxen dragged the seminary to a swamp, left it there in ruins, and drove the teacher from town.
One of the white teachers, Miss Miner, asked a mob member, "What good will it do to destroy my school-room? I shall only get another and go right on. The ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment in , three years after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery, conferred state and national citizenship on the former slaves and promised a federal guarantee of "the equal protection of the laws. Several of these constitutions provided for systems of free public education, and black children began attending school in large numbers.
In Mississippi, for example, the legislature-controlled black members and their white Republican allies-established a school system in that enrolled , black children the following year, 39 percent of the school-age black population. Even under Reconstruction and black rule, Mississippi's public schools were segregated, because white parents refused to pay taxes for integrated schools. Close to a century passed before the first black child in Mississippi attended school with whites.
The South Carolina constitution, written black legislators, required that all schools be racially mixed, and black and white children attended classes together in many communities. The state also established an integrated teachers college, which trained many black teachers. Other southern states, however, experienced serious problems with public education, largely because many white voters refused to pay taxes to support black education.
Even in states that funded black schools, the lack of qualified black teachers made it difficult to maintain academic standards.
Many of the schools for black children that did exist in the South during the Reconstruction period had been established the Freedmen's Bureau, the federal agency created Congress to provide aid and services to former slaves, to help them purchase land, farming equipment, and supplies, and to give them enough schooling to read, write, and keep books. One female teacher in northern Virginia, just across the Potomac River from the nation's capital, abandoned her job after being shunned every white person in the community.
Captain James McCleery, the Freedmen's Bureau superintendent of education in Texas and northwestern Louisiana, barely escaped a band of night riders in Louisiana hiding in a swamp all night. One of his teachers in Henderson County, Texas, was grabbed a white mob, stripped naked, covered with tar and cotton, and given two minutes to run before he faced a volley of rifle fire. Teachers who ignored the hostility and threats often lost their schools to violence.
Black schools were burned and pillaged throughout the South. Seven schools were burned in Georgia in ; three schools were burned that year in Texas. A school at Orangeburg, South Carolina, was fired into; the black school in Hardinsburg, Kentucky, was blown up on Christmas Eve in Despite the efforts to drive them from the South, the vast majority of the Freedmen's Bureau teachers stuck with their schools and their black students.
Northern missionary groups also sent teachers into southern states, and black churches set up schools for their children. All together, these public and private groups offered schooling to perhaps one of every five black children in the South, which meant that four out of five black children received no education at all during the Reconstruction period and remained illiterate, as their parents had during slavery.
The small minority of black children who did attend school during Reconstruction had an obvious zest for learning. One white teacher in Mississippi reported that when her students turned in their slates or copybooks, "my face was eagerly watched, to find therein approval or disapproval they were quick to read the human countenance and if a word of praise fell from my lips, a look of triumph would light up their sable faces as to make even them look beautiful.
The learning of black children was clearly hindered the fact that virtually all came from families with illiterate parents, who could not help their children with lessons. Cut off from the written word, southern blacks had retained the oral traditions of their African roots, which they adapted to their churches and communities, where everyone joins in calling out verses and children's rhymes.
Even in crowded classrooms, children enjoyed chanting in unison as they went through letters, numbers, and verses.
Past the primary level, however, teachers expressed frustration at the inability of black children to master arithmetic and composition. Part of the problem lay in textbooks designed for northern white students. A black child on a Mississippi farm was unlikely to associate a picture of Xerxes with the letter X or to know that a "newsboy" was an n word.
One scholar of black education has noted this problem of Reconstruction schools: "In the world of the rural black schoolchild, very little of what was taught and of its presentation had much relationship to daily existence. Children were not allowed to count on their fingers, or given problems that dealt with real objects like apples, chickens, or cotton bales. There were additional barriers to effective learning that came from outside the schoolhouse.
The need for black children to plant, hoe, and harvest crops cut weeks and even months from already short school years; many children lived miles from school and could not walk on dirt roads when it rained; children got sick or injured and had no medical care; and because hostile whites sometimes ran teachers out of town or burned schools, even when children arrived at school, it was not always staffed or even standing.
What is remarkable about the Reconstruction period is not that so few black children got so little good education, but that teachers and students alike persevered in the face of such enormous odds. One former slave, Charles Whiteside, was told his master that he would remain in slavery " 'cause you got no education, and education is what makes a man free.
It was worth all the labor "to make them free," he said. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Books 'Jim Crow's Children'. Log In. We are continually improving the quality of our text archives.
A version of this article appears in print on of the National edition with the headline: 'Jim Crow's Children'.
What is slavery? Their spirit now may be estimated somewhat, when I tell you that three walk a distance of four miles, each morning, to return after the five hours session. Even on plantations, the regular practice of hiring out slaves helped spread literacy. I told them it was a very short notice, and I did not know. Their school is literally a hole in the ground, where they and other slaves of all ages gather to form letters out of sticks, scratch letters in the dirt, and pronounce their sounds in whispers. Anderson, James D.
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Similarly, they have left a legacy of valuable educative skills that schools today often undervalue. But his essential characteristic was his ability to get the better of bigger and stronger animals. To the slave in his condition the theme of weakness overcoming strength through cunning proved endlessly fascinating Bontemps ix.
We are not going to share modern civilization just by deserving recognition. We are going to force ourselves in by organized far- seeing effort—by outthinking and outflanking the owners of the world today who are too drunk with their own arrogance and power successfully to oppose us, if we think and learn and do W. Du Bois quoted in Butchart Surely such people would use education to craft an alternative destiny for themselves and their children.
Indeed, this has remained the case. But critical thinking was certainly well-developed in the Quarter as the following passage from the planter- preacher, Reverend Charles C.
I was preaching to a large congregation on the Epistle of Philemon: and when I insisted upon fidelity and obe- dience as Christian virtues in servants and upon the authority of Paul, condemned the practice of running away, one half of my audience deliberately rose up and walked off with themselves, and those that remained looked anything but satisfied, either with the preacher or with his doctrine.
On this occasion, at least, Jones was forced to recognize he was dealing with intelligent well-informed, thoroughly dissatisfied people. He chose simply to proceed in his interactions with the enslaved as if these qualities did not exist; however, he also took them seriously enough to warn other whites of the threat they posed.
They also left much of the care of white children to black caretakers and companions who in turn carefully gathered snippets of schooled knowl- edge from their charges. Possibilities and constraints such as these interconnected African Americans despite differences in circumstance; they also linked African Americans with a pool of others who were provisionally recruitable into educative networks: white abolitionists, children, drinkers, drunkards, and missionaries; as well the higher powers of God and the Spirit.
This paper peers into some of the holes where seeds of transformation took root, including some literal ones. Education proliferated under- neath and within the stuff of everyday life, like traffic in and out of the root cellars enslaved people dug beneath the hearths and floors of their quarters to secrete everything from ancestral altars to diet supplementing foods to buttons, beads and spelling books Edwards-Ingram Varying from plantation to plantation, agricultural slavery also offered a wide range of opportunities for the alert amid stark days of toil.
Given such diversity and the excellent publications that examine aspects of African American education in and out of school in great detail Woodson , , Bullock , Anderson , Morris , Rachal , Rose , Webber , this paper aims for suggestive- ness rather than comprehensiveness. Newcomers from west and central Africa also brought resources with them that contributed to these processes. For example, schooled per- sons routinely had to hide their accomplishments or risk abuse, a trend that persisted through Segregation and into the present.
Much circumspection and improvisation also went into obtaining resources for curriculum and instruction. Fortunately for me, one day as I was sitting on the piazza endeavoring to learn some lesson, a woman entered the gate and approached me with a book in her hand.
After I had acquired this ability I introduced geogra- phy and map-reading into my school Payne Two types of education were especially double-edged in relation to enslavers and their opponents, and cutting-edge for initiatives toward change: literacy and skilled trades.
Walker was a skilled printer and author who had escaped to Boston where he tapped into networks of fel- low abolitionists and coastal sailors to distribute his work. The rebellion led by literate Nat Turner in pushed the balance of white opinion over the top, leading to immediate anti-literacy legislation across the South and closure of virtually all schooling for blacks by Yet closing and forbidding schools were about as effective at stopping education as the outlawing of drums that followed the Stono Rebellion of Wood was for halting long-distance communication and the call to resist: just as many alternative means of percussion and com- munication were found, so too modes of education.
Such documents were simultaneously protests and de facto primers and instruction manuals for self-liberation, educating the enslaved as to potential escape routes along with the informational potentials of print. Mandy Jones of Harrison County, Mississippi, recalled during an FWP interview in the s: De slaves would run away sometimes, an hide out in de big woods.
While schools like this seem to have been uncommon, but who could know for certain? While the general significance of this research has been appreciated, it is well also to remember that the Vai were important brokers in the illegal slave trade to the Carolinas and that enslavement of neighboring peoples in Liberia and Sierra Leone such as the Temne and Mende is well documented Holsoe Secrecy was and is an integral aspect of communication and religious practice throughout West and Central Africa.
Scholars such as Beryl Bellman , Lancy , , Studsill and Akinnaso have claimed that in various African societies, initiation and div- ination systems provided instruction that resembled formal education in Western schooling. Lancy has shown that secret society-like procedures appeared to carry over from the Poro Society into the Liberian public schools The Poro society for men and Sande society for women crosscut ethnic lines in forest regions of Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the predations of the slave trade still linger in memory Shaw In other words, although the insti- tution of American slavery was in itself a necessary and sufficient reason for hidden education, Africans also arrived on these shores well schooled to orchestrate hidden education on their own foundations, for their own ends.
The tip of the iceburg of this legacy endures in wordplay, indirec- tion, and a host of proverbs concerning the cultural appropriateness of layered mediated access to information: Do not cast pearls before swine.
You knew it was a snake when you picked it up. Tell only half of what you know. Monday, June 9 . Just after dinner we saw the people assembling at their burying-place and H. Uncle Sam followed us, book in hand and spectacles on nose, reading as he walked. As we grew near to the grave we heard all the children saying their A,B,C through and through again, as they stood waiting around the grave for the rest to assemble and for Uncle Sam to begin.
Each child had his school-book or picture-book Mr. This vignette consists of children in the Sea Islands performing the ABCs at the funeral of one of their schoolmates Raboteau , Cornelius points out that sometimes blue-back spellers were used interchangeably with the Bible, and some preachers even con- ducted marriages with the speller in hand Harriet Ware inter- preted this as evidence that the children saw educational activity as spiri- tually efficacious Ware According to Daniel Littlefield, between 30 and 40 percent of the African descended population of the southern Atlantic coast came from Congo-Angola, about the same num- ber from Liberia and Sierra Leone— the latter being especially favored because of their expertise in rice cultivation,—and the remainder from other areas such as the Gold Coast and the Bight of Biafra, with a scatter- ing of Muslims among all of them Littlefield —21, —; Wood —, — The former residents of Sierra Leone and Liberia either lived in or passed through the very areas where Poro and Sande societies were active Creel —78, 90— Yet, even without necessarily drawing on such transatlantic associations, the Blue Back speller could also take on significance akin to an heirloom or ancestral relic because of the depth of effort and familial connection associated with it.
They let him come once a week to see us. I was always glad for him to come because he could read a little and he taught me about all I ever learned out of the Blue Back Speller. Once in a while my mistress would let me and my cousin go over to the adjoining plantation where my father was. I got around them and asked so many questions they had to stop and tell me something.
In this way I learned a little something and by the time I was sold I had covered fifteen pages in the Blue Back Speller Rawick vol. He promised to do it and he did. Keep it with you as long as it lasts and when it wears out buy another one. White children bartered bits of schooled education for apples, oranges or marbles.
White adults sometimes traded instruction for liquor or cash. When play- ing school white children usually assumed the role of the teacher, passing along basic skills.
From that point on African American learners pro- ceeded rapidly on their own. As an antebellum white traveler through the South noted: I was much pleased with the account I got of a 1641egro black- smith in this neighborhood [Mobile], whose passion for learning made him allure the white boys into his smithy, as they passed to and from the school.
The boys wrote on the blackened wall the alphabet, and taught him the sound of the letters. Thence he proceeded to syllables and words, under the same youthful instructors. The sum of eighteen hundred dollars was raised The liberty of himself and family was purchased, and he was sent out to Liberia It has often been pointed out that in African American history the con- cepts of literacy and freedom intertwine Raboteau , Dalton —92, Parker — In the words of Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
In real life, one such person was C. But as William L. Literate skill was also practical; it allowed African Americans to write passes and transit documents to gain freer movement on the roads and better opportunities to escape slavery altogether.
James Wiggins, inter- viewed in Maryland, described his father to an FWP interviewer: [A] carpenter by trade, he was hired out The process by which the narrator acquired literacy formed an impor- tant part of autobiographies.
James Fisher told an interviewer in I I copied every scrap of writing I could find, and thus learned to write a tolerable hand before I knew what the words were that I was copying.
At last I met with an old man who, for the sake of money to buy whiskey, agreed to teach me the writing alphabet I spent a good deal of time trying to improve myself; secretly, of course. One day, my mistress hap- pened to come into my room, when my materials were about; and she told her father He replied that if I belonged to him, he would cut my right hand off Blassingame Byrnes of Titusville, Florida] was five or six years of age [on a plantation near Charleston, South Carolina] he was Although he never received any education, Byrnes was quick to learn.
He could tell the time of day and distinguish one newspaper from another. He recalled an incident which happened when he was about eight years of age which led him to conceal his precociousness. Mistress Plowden called him and told him that if he were caught writing again his right arm would be cut off.
From then on his precociousness vanished Rawick , Florida, vol. Despite the hopes and educational efforts focused on literacy, the enslaved did not regard reading and writing as always good but rather fraught with the duplicity rife in the other contexts of their lives.
As Ellen Butler, enslaved in Louisiana, told her interviewer: When the white folks go off they writes on the meal and flour with they fingers. Then they know if us steals meal. That the way us larn how to write Rawick vol. Cornelius has drawn attention to stories of miraculous lit- eracy acquisition and their relationship to African traditions of spirit pos- session, reinterpreted in a Christian context, excerpting a remarkable passage from the Federal Writers Project Alabama narratives.
He dreamed that some one came in and wrote the alphabet on the wall in large printed letters, and began to teach him every letter, and when he awoke he had learned every letter, and as early as he could get a book, he obtained one and went hard to work Rawick supp.