The American Experience in Education

By John Barnard; David Burner | Go to book overview

6
THE EDUCATION OF NEGROES BEFORE THE CIVIL WAR

Howard K. Beale

The history of the education of blacks in America largely remains to be written, despite recent interest in the subject. Whether slave or free, blacks have been a challenge to the sincerity of the often proclaimed American faith in opportunity for all through education. In antebellum America, the education of slaves was primarily used to encourage acquiescence in a subordinated economic and social position. Many of the white Americans most closely involved, however, were haunted by the possibility that any attempt at education would stimulate discontent and provide opportunities for its organization into rebellion. Education for blacks, then, meant many different things. It usually consisted only of primitive oral instruction in religion and social duties. Occasionally there were opportunities to learn to read and write, or to learn a trade.

Howard K. Beale discusses the history of the education of blacks in the South and the North before the Civil War. Other writings include Horace M. Bond, The Education of the Negro in the American Social Order ( New York: Prentice-Hall, 1934); Leon Litwack, North of Slavery ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961); and Carter G. Wood son , The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 ( Washington, D.C.: Associated Publishers, 1915).

In the first place, teachers were generally not permitted to instruct Negroes. Difficulties first arose in colonial days, when missionaries

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