Saturday, January 10, 2015

eBook Review: The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861


Carter Godwin WoodsonThe Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 

  • Product Details

    • File Size: 484 KB
    • Print Length: 331 pages
    • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B0084980SI
    • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
    • X-Ray: Enabled
    • Lending: Enabled 
    • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars (4 customer reviews)
    • Price: $0.00 

1. Short review:  *:D big grin    (Amazon rating: 5 out of 5 stars -- I love it.)

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: I read The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 (TEotNPt1861) to answer one question. TEotNPt1861 answered my question convincingly and decisively.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? Neither. TEotNPt1861 is a scholarly treatise. Woodson wrote TEotNPt1861 as a post-doc research paper. Published in 1915, it is an exhaustive treatment of the subject.
It is free to download. It was worth my time to read it.

2.2. What I did not like: My expectations are different for scholarly works. I do not expect to be entertained, but I do expect to be educated. I also expect the author will present his argument logically and persuasively. Woodson did all those things.
     This a long-winded way to say there was nothing I did not like.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: Historians. This is not light reading. You really must have an interest in the subject.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read?  No, with a caveat. The work is inappropriate for any child under 16. No child under 16 has read enough history to comprehend or to appreciate the work. An exceptionally bright 16-year old with a deep interest in history may read TEotNPt1861 to good effect, but such 16-year olds are few.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? Yes. I want to read more of Dr Woodson's work.

2.6. The work in a nutshell:
     TEotNPt1861 is an exhaustive work on the subject of education of Negroes in the United States before the Civil War. The last third of the book is an annotated bibliography. The breadth and depth of primary source materials Woodson used are more than impressive. They are staggering.
     Briefly, black slaves and free Negroes in the South were given sporadic education until 1830. The financial environment changed with the introduction of the cotton economy. Systematic, institutional education ceased in the South. Literacy among slaves and free Negroes plummeted.
     The education of Negroes in the North was spotty. In some places, it was welcomed. In others, it was not. Woodson recounted the destruction of a school for blacks in Canaan, New Hampshire. A mob tore the school building from its foundation and hauled it to a swamp. Keep in mind this was before tractors and bulldozers, which means they did it by muscle and oxen. That means they had five things: 1) a sizable number of men and oxen, 2) a burning desire to destroy the school, 3) a plan of execution, 4) time, and 5) the acquiescence of the local authorities.
     Quakers and Catholics on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line continued to educate Negroes as a matter of conscience. They believed that literacy was necessary for understanding the Gospel and for salvation. Given that belief, how could they not educate Negroes?
     The colonialization movement educated Negroes to provide trained medical and legal professionals to the Liberia colony.

     I read this work to answer one question: How do you keep a man a slave? TEotNPt1861 answered that question convincingly.
     Woodson answered this way: To keep a man a slave, keep him ignorant and illiterate.
     Woodson spent his life educating himself and other black Americans. He knew that ignorance and illiteracy would keep black Americans in bondage long after they had been proclaimed free.

2.7. Other:
Quotes from The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861:
[W]hen it was discovered that many ambitious blacks were still learning to stir up their fellows, it was decreed that they should not receive any instruction at all. Reduced thus to the plane of beasts, where they remained for generations, Negroes developed bad traits which since their emancipation have been removed only with great difficulty.
Slavery was thereby changed from a patriarchal to an economic institution. Thereafter most owners of extensive estates abandoned the idea that the mental improvement of slaves made them better servants. 
The good results of these schools were apparent. In the same degree that the denial to slaves to mental development tended to brutalize them the teaching of science and religion elevated the fugitives in Canada. In fact, the Negroes of these settlements soon had ideals differing widely from those of their brethren less favorably circumstanced. They believed in the establishment of homes, respected the sanctity of marriage, and exhibited in their daily life a moral sense of the highest order. Travelers found the majority of them neat, orderly, and intelligent. 
"An ignorant people . . . can never occupy any other than a degraded place in society; they can never be truly free until they are intelligent. . . ."  --William Lloyd Garrison 
A good trade is better than a fortune, because when once obtained it cannot be taken away. 
Fearing imaginary evils, these modern Canaanites destroyed the [Noyes Academy of Canaan, New Hampshire], dragging the building to a swamp with a hundred yoke of oxen. 
[B]itterly as some white men hated slavery, and deeply as they seemingly sympathized with the oppressed, they were loath to support a policy which they believed was fatal to their economic interests. 
Separate schools were declared illegal by an act of the [New Jersey] General Assembly in 1881. 
Before the close of the Civil War the sentiment of the people of the State of New York had changed sufficiently to permit colored children to attend the regular public schools in several communities. This, however, was not general. It was, therefore, provided in the revised code of that State in 1864 that the board of education of any city or incorporated village might establish separate schools for children and youth of African descent provided such schools be supported in the same manner as those maintained for white children. 
The Negroes, too, had long since been convinced that the white people would not maintain separate schools with the same equipment which they gave their own.  
[W]hen the principal of an academy at Canaan admitted some Negroes to his private institution, a mob . . . broke up the institution . . ., while the officials of the town offered no resistance. 
1853. Then the [Indiana] legislature amended the law authorizing the establishment of schools in townships so as to provide that in all enumerations the children of color should not be taken, that the property of the blacks and mulattoes should not be taxed for school purposes, and that their children should not derive any benefit from the common schools of that State. This provision had really been incorporated into the former law, but was omitted by oversight on the part of the engrossing clerk. 
A resolution of the [Indiana] House instructing the educational committee to report a bill for the establishment of schools for the education of the colored children of the State was overwhelmingly defeated in 1853. 
Before the Civil War the Negroes of Indiana received help in acquiring knowledge from no source but private and mission schools.
Men are not valued in this country, or in any country, for what they are; they are valued for what they can do. It is in vain that we talk of being men, if we do not the work of men. --Frederick Douglass 
The helpless may expect no higher dignity than that of paupers. 
Most instructive.

It is ironic that TEotNPt1861 was published the same year that D W Griffith released his film The Birth of a Nation.

I debated whether I should give this work four stars or five. In the end, I asked myself if I will read it again. I answered 'yes' and gave it five.


2.8. Links: Carter Godwin Woodson

2.9. Buy the book: The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 

1 comment:

  1. "Systematic, institutional education ceased in the South."

    Which makes me wonder, what happened to the level of education for whites in the South during that time? And to what degree did that play a role in the outcome of the Civil War?

    We've started painting society back in the days of slavery and the Civil War in a very black and white way, which is neither accurate nor helpful. It does a bit of harm at least in how it conceals how much progress we've made all over the country.