Slavery and the Education of Blacks in Spanish Florida and New Orleans/Ispanyol Floridasi Ve New Orleans'taki Siyahlarin Egitim Ve Kolelik Durumlari

Article excerpt

Introduction

It is generally assumed that Whites have been the primary actors in slave trades throughout history--that they persecuted and forced the Blacks to work under harsh conditions. Black people were forcibly exported from their homelands by these white aggressors. Therefore, it is not an uncommon sentiment for Blacks in Africa, to perceive Whites as oppressive and with mistrust. For instance, during the eighteenth century, slaves in Haiti were struggling against France. Ros (1994) asserts that Jean Francois, who was one of the most important leaders of the slaves during the "Night of Fire", had a famous motto regarding this: "If you shake hands with a Frenchmen, you must make sure that you always have a knife in your other hand, behind your back." This expression represents a prevalent attitude of Black slave anger towards white owners.

Contrary to this attitude, the experience of slaves in Spanish Florida seems quite different. They could demand their rights more effectively. The case of Philip Edimboro--a slave who demanded his rights from his owner, merchant Francis Xavier Sanchez--is one such case. (1794) Edimboro was seeking freedom; however, his owner was reluctant to set him free. Therefore, he appealed to the governor in order to buy his own freedom, and he succeeded. As a free man, then, he could buy lands and even slaves. With regard to this incident, Landers (1976) asserts that Spanish laws and institutions enabled blacks to become free. Black slaves therefore came to see Spanish Florida as a place of salvation. Many slaves attempted to escape to Spanish Florida in order to be afforded this type of autonomy. It is important to remember that enslavement in Spanish Florida differed from slavery in New Orleans. Roberts (2003) asserts that one resident declared, "this is a country which, to the shame of France be it said, is without religion, without justice, without discipline, without order, and without police." In order to escape from slavery, Black people had to convert to Christianity. As a result, they were forced to be baptized in order to gain their freedom. The Spanish implemented their 1693 fugitive slave policy and set 250 slaves free who accepted conversion to Christianity. West (2008) contends that many of the Blacks set free were skilled craftsmen, barbers, and butchers. Blassinga-me (1973) contends that similar to the Blacks in Spanish Florida, slaves in New Orleans worked as domestic servants, and many of them were highly skilled. They worked as draymen, carpenters, masons, bricklayers, wheelwrights, tinners, cabinetmakers, bakers, barbers, coopers, and millers. They worked in iron foundries, hospitals, railroad companies, while Catholic convents owned most of the unskilled labourers.

The present study fills a void in the literature on these matters. No study I am aware of has yet compared the situation of slavery and education in New Orleans and Spanish Florida. In addition, no study has made the distinction I am making between the education with a capital "E", and education with lower case "e" as it relates to Black people in Spanish Florida and in New Orleans. In this study, I aim to provide a comparable look at the slavery and education of Blacks in Spanish Florida and New Orleans in order to determine the type of education that Black people received in New Orleans. Furthermore, I will examine the contribution of the church to the education of Black people in these states. In the sections that follow, first, I will examine under different titles the slavery, education, and the role of church on education of Blacks in Spanish Florida. Second, I will address the same issues in the context of New Orleans. Third, I will compare the findings for both states. Lastly, I offer a conclusion involving the limitations and advantages of this study, along with recommendations for further studies.

Slavery in Spanish Florida

When Spaniards explored the South Atlantic and the Gulf Coast, Blacks helped the Spaniards found St. …

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