Subordination or Liberation? The Development and Conflicting Theories of Black Education in Nineteenth Century Alabama

By Robert G. Sherer | Go to book overview

4
WILLIAM HOOPER COUNCILL -- LIBERAL AND INDUSTRIAL EDUCATION

William Hooper Councill, head of the Huntsville normal school, never completely embraced liberal arts education for his school as did Paterson nor did he totally endorse industrial training as did Booker T. Washington. Councill was born a slave in Fayetteville, North Carolina on July 12, 1848. In 1857 his master sold the Councill family to slave traders who took them to Huntsville, Alabama and sold them to Judge David C. Humphreys. 1 Humphreys took the Councills to Stevenson, Jackson County, Alabama where Councill worked in the corn and cotton fields until emancipation. 2

When Councill later described the hardships of slavery, he focused on the poor clothes and housing he had to endure. 3 Despite the hardships of slavery, Councill found time to raise his own corn, cotton, and vegetables and take them to his mother nineteen miles away to sell. He also made baskets and brooms out of wheat straw and horse collars and foot mats out of the shucks of corn. His master also allowed him to raise his own hogs. 4

Although he could not receive formal education as a slave, Councill studied "grasses, weeds, trees and other things of my world. I knew the variegated colors of the pebbles and stones." Councill also had a chance to look at some books when he served as a baby's nurse. With one hand he rocked the baby; with the other hand he "turned the pages of an old magazine, showing to my unlettered mind, combats between men and animals."

Slavery, itself, awakened an intense desire for education in the hearts and minds of slaves like Councill by holding one idea always before them, the division of society into "the master and the slave. . . . To us, everything that

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