ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Up From Slavery: A Documentary History of Negro Education
Compiled By Rudolph Lewis
The Religious Instruction of Slaves in South Carolina, 1834
A report has been made to the Presbyterian Synod of South Carolina and Georgia on the subject of the religious instruction of the colored population, which advocates in strong terms, not merely its safety hut its importance. They urge that there will be a better understanding of the relation of masters and servants, which will lead to more kindness on the one hand, and more faithfulness on the other; that it will cultivate principles and feelings which will soften the character of the slave, will banish his superstition, and promote the love of peace and industry; that it will promote the morality and religion of the white population, by diminishing and removing those vices which infect all who witness them, while it will furnish the slave with that light and hope, which it is the highest duty of Christians to furnish them. It is with peculiar pleasure that we see such a report, drawn up by men familiar with slaves in the states where their numbers are greatest, and meeting with boldness and triumphant argument the objections which are brought. May their plea be heard!
American Annals of Education, and Instruction, August, 1834, p. 386
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The General Assembly of South Carolina Prohibits Slaves
from Being Taught to Read or Write, 1834
Be it enacted by the Honorable the Senate and House of Representatives, now met and sitting in General Assembly, and by the authority of the same, If any person shall hereafter teach any slave to read or write, or shall aid or assist in teaching any slave to read or write or cause or procure any slave to be taught to read or write; such person, if a free white person, upon conviction thereof, shall, for each and every offence against this act, be fined not exceeding one hundred dollars, and imprisoned not more than six months; or if a free person of color, shall be whipped not exceeding fifty lashes, and fined not exceeding fifty dollars, at the discretion of the court of magistrates, and free holders before which such free person of color is tried; and if a slave, shall be whipped at the discretion of the court, not exceeding fifty lashes: the informer to be entitled to one half of the fine, and to be a competent witness; and if any free person of color or slave, shall keep any school or other place of instruction, for teaching any slave or free person of color to read or write, such a free person of color or slave, shall be liable to the same fine, imprisonment and corporal punishment, as are by this section, imposed and inflicted on free persons of color and slaves, for teaching slaves to read or write.
Acts and Resolutions of the General Assembly of South Carolina Passed in December, 1834, chapter 5.
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The Society of Friends of North Carolina Petitions the Legislature of that State
to Repeal the Restrictive Laws against Negroes, 1834
Memorial and Petition of the Religious Society of Friends, Convened at New Garden, Guilford County, North Carolina, in the Eleventh Month, 1834. To the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina, Respectfully sheweth–That your Memorialists, entertaining a hope that you will be disposed seriously to consider any subject connected with the great principles of Civil and Religious Liberty, affecting every class of citizens, respectfully present this Memorial.
In this enlightened age and country, and before the Assembly to which your Memorialists now appeal, we deem it unnecessary to urge the incontrovertible arguments that might be advanced from reason and Religion, to prove that it is the indispensable duty of the Legislature of a Christian people to enact laws and establish regulations for the literary instruction of every class, within its limits; and that such provisions should be consistent with sound policy, tend to strengthen the hands of Government and promote the peace and harmony of the community at large.
Your Petitioners consider it a high privilege, that they are subjects of a Government, mild in its form and professedly Republican; that the people have annually the choice of their Legislatures-a circumstance that lessens the difficulty and delicacy of petitioning for the repeal of laws enacted by preceding Legislatures and encourages their hope of success.
Your Memorialists are therefore emboldened under a weighty concern of Religious duty, to petition the present General Assembly of North Carolina to repeal all those laws, enacted by preceding Legislatures of this State, against the literary instruction of Slaves, making it a finable offence for any to be found to be teaching them to read. And they respectfully request your consideration of the repeal of the law recently enacted, prohibiting all coloured persons in this State, bond or free, upon the penalty of corporeal punishment, from public preaching, exhorting, &c. in their respective Religious Congregations or Societies. We consider these laws unrighteous, offensive to God and contrary to the spirit and principles of the Christian Religion; and your Memorialists believe, if not repealed, will increase the difficulties and danger they were intended to prevent.
Your Petitioners, so far from using any measures, either publicly or privately, that would tend to increase their discontent with their situation, feel it their indispensable duty, upon all suitable occasions, to encourage slaves to obedience and faithfulness to their masters, as the most probable means of mitigating their sufferings, and ameliorating their present condition. We would exhort them in the language of the Apostle
“Servants be obedient to your Masters”–and we do exhort Masters to be kind to their Slaves, as, we have no doubt, such Christian usage would induce a reciprocity of kindlier feelings between them, and ultimately tend to increase the happiness of both, and also promote the harmony and prosperity of the Civil and Religious community. And may we not believe that the more we live in the spirit and in the practice of the precepts of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the more kind and gentle will be our treatment of every grade of our fellow creatures-for was not the harmonizing and evangelizing of the whole human family, one of the grand purposes for which this Religion was introduced into the world?
And lastly, your Petitioners would respectfully submit to your consideration, not only the repeal of those laws before mentioned, but the enacting of other laws and regulations for the general instruction of Slaves, in the doctrines and precepts of the Christian Religion, and in so much of literary education at least, as will enable them to read the Holy Scriptures, which would undoubtedly tend to the improvement of their general character, and condition, and greatly lessen if not wholly remove, the apprehensions of danger from them.
And may you be influenced by that wisdom which is from above, which is profitable to direct, and which the Apostle says, ~’is first pure, then peaceable, gentle and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits.” That you may be enabled to enact righteous laws, the operation and execution of which may be a terror to evil-doers, an encouragement to those that do well, and to the praise of God; that violence may no more be heard in our land, but that Righteous-ness, which exalteth a nation, may so prevail, that the threatening judgments of Heaven on account of sin (which is a reproach to any people) may be averted; that you may So discharge all your various Legislative duties as to feel that peace that passeth all understanding; and may the Blessing of the Most High rest upon you, and be more signally and generally dispensed on the inhabitants of this highly favoured country. So prayeth your petitioners and peaceable Christian citizens. Signed on behalf, and by direction, of the aforesaid yearly meeting, by
Jeremiah Hubbard, Clerk
Unpublished Legislative Documents, 1834. Given in Charles L.Coon, The Beginnings of Public Education in North Carolina, 1790-1840: A Documentary History (Raleigh: Edwards and Broughton Printing Company, 1908), II, 675-77.
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Sources: Chapter VI. “The Instruction of Negroes.” In Edgar W. Knight. A Documentary History of Education in the South before 1860. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina, 1953
Chapter 10 “Up From Slavery: Educational and other Rights of Negroes.” In Edgar W. Knight and Clifton L. Hall. Readings in American Educational History. New York Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1951.
Many states had laws prohibiting the education of blacks; here black youngsters are turned away at the school door
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A Novel by Jesmyn Ward
On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family thats about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrinas inexorable winds is the voice of Wards narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her familys raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brothers blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt. Her fathers hands are like gravel, while her own hand slides through his grip like a wet fish, and a handsome boys muscles jabbered like chickens. Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isnt usually just metaphor for metaphors sake. She conveys something fundamental about Eschs fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, whats salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.
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By Noam Chomsky
In this urgent new book, Noam Chomsky surveys the dangers and prospects of our early twenty-first century. Exploring challenges such as the growing gap between North and South, American exceptionalism (including under President Barack Obama), the fiascos of Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S.-Israeli assault on Gaza, and the recent financial bailouts, he also sees hope for the future and a way to move forwardin the democratic wave in Latin America and in the global solidarity movements that suggest “real progress toward freedom and justice.” Hopes and Prospects is essential reading for anyone who is concerned about the primary challenges still facing the human race. “This is a classic Chomsky work: a bonfire of myths and lies, sophistries and delusions. Noam Chomsky is an enduring inspiration all over the worldto millions, I suspectfor the simple reason that he is a truth-teller on an epic scale. I salute him.” John Pilger In dissecting the rhetoric and logic of American empire and class domination, at home and abroad, Chomsky continues a longstanding and crucial work of elucidation and activism . . .the writing remains unswervingly rational and principled throughout, and lends bracing impetus to the real alternatives before us.Publisher’s Weekly
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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10 January 2012