Antebellum Education

Length: 1647 words

North Carolina was the first colony to enact legislation tempting to prevent the education of slaves in 1740, imposing a 100 pound fine on anyone caught teaching one how to write. This type of legislation was passed in many colonies (mostly southern). It was enacted primarily by white slaveholders and landowners who feared rebellion and insurrection In hopes that lacking the ability to write and communicate would cut slaves off from one another, preventing organized fighting. It was not until 1837, with the founding of Cheney university In Pennsylvania by Richard Humphreys, that ex-slaves and freemen had a place to study higher education.

I am interested in what type of African-Americans attended early schools like this one (runaways, freedmen, born free), what advantages it gave them, and how it affected their upward social mobility. I hypothesize that those who attended these institutions were largely free-born, northern blacks from the northeast United States, and that higher education was the only tangible method of breaking away in any capacity from the racism, prejudice, and depressed social status of blacks in American society at the time.

In order to understand education’s effect on a minority race however, I must first look at statistics

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and data related to the legislation between higher education and the majority, whites. After seeing what opportunities It provided to an undeterred race It will then give my research appropriate context and a better gauge of the effects and benefits It had on a tethered one. In summation, my research goals will focus primarily on two questions. To what extent did higher education affect African-Americans’ social status as individuals and as a race? And what were the interracial implications of higher education?

Did it, and if so, to what extent, stratify the African-American race along lines of gender? Through my current research, it would seem that education was valuable tool, but often still not enough to improve social standing against the gradient of racism, and that the suppression of women in this period ensured a social gap between black men and black women involving education and gender. Hillary J. Moss’ Schooling Citizens: The Struggle for African American Education In Antebellum America examines three case studies Intended to display the failures, successes, and consequences of antebellum education for African-Americans.

Moss places herself In a very complex position on the subject, as she examines three aired and at times contradictory case studies. The case study I drew the most from to attend a higher institution. What I found here was that blacks attempting to earn acceptance were usually turned away due to lack of high school transcripts and preparation, and those that did have adequate marks to attend university were usually not accepted (Moss 45).

This vicious circle created a situation in which it was impossible for most blacks to achieve upward class mobility due to the lack of prior social status that would allow them to reach the next level of education. Many tried to meliorate this problem through the creation of black universities and colleges, and although many places of higher learning began developing at an increased rate going into the sass’s, increased racial tension in the years leading up to the civil war caused many instances of regression and destruction at the hands of nervous whites. By expelling a proposed African college from New Haven and demolishing an integrated academy in Canaan, New Hampshire, white northerners exposed their profound discomfort with African American efforts to claim citizenship in the context f a society still marked by slavery (Moss 191). ” Accounts such as these inform us that many whites were simply not mentally resolved to accept blacks as anywhere near socially equal, and they looked at their fledgling educational institutions as a threat to their established social hierarchy.

In the Encyclopedia of African-American Education includes an entire section dedicated to the gender differences in antebellum African- American higher education. It states that since African-American women found themselves in two categories of social subordination, higher education was generally to an option at all, and when it was, the available opportunities/benefits garnered from a degree were dismal if not non-existent largely until the first quarter of the 20th century. Many black institutions of higher learning had white presidents, a high proportion of white male and female faculty, few black male teachers, and a very small number of black females” (AWE 182), creating a situation in which the majority of black women did not have the opportunity of higher learning. This furthered not only the social divide between men and women, but also created a visible interracial operation between African-American men and women.

This struck me as odd being that this source also references the higher overall literacy rate in favor of African- American women, and led me to conclude that the differences in social status within the African-American race were more numerous and stark than I had previously thought (182). It seems to me that there were essentially four interracial levels of social status; uneducated black women, uneducated black men, educated black women, and at the pinnacle, educated black men.

From this I determine that the Geiger literacy rate among African-American women may have been sufficient in some cases to advance educated black women to a higher social level than uneducated black men. This text also suggests some interracial identification between white women and black women being that both faced sexism in educative pursuits (180). In an article in the February 18th, 1848 printing of The North Star, columnist Henry Bibb details the story of an African-American student who has Just graduated the Berkshire Medical Institution at Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

The piece tells of a Liberia man named Henry Roberts’ denial of admission due to one lavender’s objection to his admittance despite the other 1 50 or so students general willingness to accept Roberts. According to Bibs, “The public press and slaveholder], as well as upon the institution” (Bibb AAA). This uproar led to the institution’s reevaluation and consequently acceptance of Roberts’ application. This leads me to two assumptions.

Being that the piece describes Roberts as being highly gifted in his medical studies, it would seem that he occupied a social level not only high enough to warrant his acceptance by fellow white students, but to also provoke hem to emphatically admonish a white slaveholder’s will for educational segregation. Secondly, it may be that Roberts being from Liberia (being African and not African-American) gave him elevated status over what whites perceived as American blacks at that time.

Essentially, it is possible that his education combined with his seemed separation from the American social and racial hierarchies of that time lent him an improved social position in the eyes of Caucasians. This would be massively consequential to my research as it would contradict scholars like Moss’ emphasis on color as an educative inhibitor, and corroborate the Ease’s evidence of a highly complex racial social hierarchy, extending the criteria for interracial social levels to include heritage and nationality as factors that could increase upward mobility.

In the Encyclopedia of African-American Education includes an entire section dedicated to the gender differences in antebellum African-American higher education. It states that since African-American women found themselves in two categories of social subordination, higher education was generally not an option at al, and when it was, the available opportunities/benefits garnered from a degree were dismal if not non-existent largely until the first quarter of the 20th century.

Mishandles states that “black women – like like black men – were considered docile, indolent, and ignorant. Like white women, they were supposed to sublimate their needs and wants to those of men. Like white women and black men, they were expected to serve their lord and master. Unlike white women, black women did not receive the protection of the pedestal; instead, they were blamed for the sexual liaisons of the slave quarters. The consequence of such antebellum stereotyping was a denigration of black women’s intellectual and moral faculties” (Mishandles 453).

This stereotype not only displays the interconnectedness of various social levels of race and gender, but also shows ideas about race and gender roles that would greatly prevent upward mobility, acceptance higher education, and increase interracial divides. In her article Racially integrated education: the antebellum thought of Mary Ann Shad Cary and Frederick Douglass author Carol B. Conway uses the story and thoughts of Shad Cary, an African-American, female abolitionist Ritter, to amalgamate first hand deliberations of the then future of black education.

She details various class distinctions between African-Americans in regards to higher education, proffering that “middle- and upper-middle-class blacks already were poised to take advantage of an intellectual education comprising the humanities rather than vocational education” (Conway 86). Conway also analyzes arguments for higher education curriculum made by Frederick Douglass, and these two abolitionist make it clear that the various sects of African-Americans and various evils of knowledge made it difficult to achieve excellent higher education due to the widespread unconformity of curriculums.

This seems to have further divided blacks educational goals and curriculums could have advanced the race as a whole instead of leaving many behind. This source corroborates Moss’ book in that it always displays the often perceived futility of higher education, noting that leaders like Frederick Douglass “strongly advocated racial integration in every aspect of American life, including education. Like other black leaders, he believed that education was the enchain of racial uplift and equality.

However, Douglass also was realistic about the power of white racism in the United States and elsewhere. What good would even the finest education be, if racism continued to deny blacks their rightful place in any occupation, professional or vocational? ” Conway (88). It will be imperative that I found more sources involving the inequalities created amongst the black race created by education. I also intend to incorporate more works involving women’s studies as to further connect the gender differences that I began to characterize and connect to my research thoughts.

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