Into Slavery: Racial Decisions in the Virginia Colony

By Joseph Boskin | Go to book overview

2
The Education

"So through remissness or ignorance on the part of parent and teacher, the minds of children may never be awakened to a consciousness of having, within themselves, blessed treasures of innate and noble faculties, far richer than any outward possessions can be; they may never be supplied with any foretaste of the enduring satisfactions of knowledge; and hence, they may attend school..."

Horace Mann, First Annual Report, On the Education of Free Men, 1837


Perpetuating Englishness

If the Indian could not be extricated from the ways of barbarism, what hope was there for the African? They were brought to the colonial shores stripped of name, family, community, and tribal identity, and virtually unable to communicate their past, worth, and status. To the English, they were the unknown quantity, related only to a heathen background. The problem posed by the tribal Indian was one of sharing contiguous lands and hunting areas while retaining separate identities. The problem posed by the presence of the tribal African was more demanding and complex; it was one involved with all the intricacies and subtleties attending relationships. Unlike the Indian who would live apart from the English, the African had to be accommodated to or assimilated into a culture which possessed a highly developed sense of ethnocentrism and images about others (Alternative 1). It was therefore an educative process on the part of both the English and the African.

Moreover, this accommodation had to take place within a relatively unstable, disorderly environment. The overriding, complementary objectives of the first two generations in the colonies -- the generations which would ultimately decide the positions of the Indian and African -- were survival and the perpetuation of English culture. Not only was the harshness of the environment with its attendant dangers to be overcome, but individual relationships within the taut and confining communities had to be ameliorated and harmonized. The accommodative difficulties within the familial group were extensive. "In tight quarters of the seventeenth century," observed Oscar Handlin, "large families had to learn to live with one another, and also with the Negroes and other strange servants. Emotional strains were inevitable and weak community discipline sometimes led to violence, desertion, or criminality."1

-18-

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