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The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 A History of the Education of the Colored People of the United States from the Beginning of Slavery to the Civil War   By: (1875-1950)

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The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861

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


C.G. Woodson.



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

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

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

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

C.G. Woodson.

Washington, D.C. June 11, 1919.



I. Introduction

II. Religion with Letters

III. Education as a Right of Man

IV. Actual Education

V. Better Beginnings

VI. Educating the Urban Negro

VII. The Reaction

VIII. Religion without Letters

IX. Learning in Spite of Opposition

X. Educating Negroes Transplanted to Free Soil

XI. Higher Education

XII. Vocational Training

XIII. Education at Public Expense

Appendix: Documents



The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861



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

The history of the education of the ante bellum Negroes, therefore, falls into two periods. The first extends from the time of the introduction of slavery to the climax of the insurrectionary movement about 1835, when the majority of the people in this country answered in the affirmative the question whether or not it was prudent to educate their slaves... Continue reading book >>

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