Up From Slavery

Up From Slavery


ChickenBones: A Journal

for  Literary & Artistic African-American  Themes




Up From Slavery: A Documentary History of Negro Education

Compiled By Rudolph Lewis


Founders of Freedom’s Journal (1828): Left–Rev. Samuel Cornish and Right–John B. Russwurm



The Intellect of the Negro Is  Discussed, 1835


It is the popular opinion, both at the north and south, that the negro is inferior in intellect to the white man. This opinion is not, however, founded upon just experience. The African intellect has never been developed. Individuals, indeed, have been educated, whose acquirements certainly reflect honour upon the race. Uneducated negroes have also exhibited indications of strong intellectual vigour. And because, in both instances, the negro has shown himself still inferior to the white man, he is unhesitatingly pronounced an inferior being, irremediably so, in the estimation of his judges, by the operation of organic laws.

That the African intellect, in its present state, is inferior to that of the European, is undeniable: but that, by any peculiarity in his organized system, a necessary inferiority ensues, will not so readily be admitted. Physiologists have agreed, that physical peculiarities may be communicated from generation to generation; and it is no less certain that mental talents may thus be transmitted also. 

Dr. King, in speaking of the fatality which attended the house of Stuart, says, “If I were to ascribe their calamities to another cause” (than evil fate), “or endeavour to account for them by any natural means, I should think they were chiefly owing to a certain obstinacy of temper, which appears to have been hereditary, and inherent in all the Stuarts, except Charles the second.” The Brahmins are much superior in intellect to all the other castes in Hindostan; and it is mentioned, says Combe, by the missionaries, as an ascertained fact, that the children of the Brahmins are naturally more acute, intelligent, and docile, than those of the inferior castes, age and other circumstances being equal. 

“Parents,” says Dr. Gregory, “frequently live again in their offspring. It is certain that children resemble their parents, not only in countenance and in the form of the body, but in mental dispositions and in their virtues and vices. The haughty ‘gens Claudia’ transmitted the peculiar mental character of its founder through six centuries, and in the tyrannical Nero again lived the imperious Appius Claudius.” If this theory be correct, there is something more to be done before African intellect can be fairly developed. 

If culture will expand the intellect of the untutored negro–take one of the present generation for instance–according to this theory, which experience proves to be true, it is certain that he will transmit to his offspring an intellectual organization, so to speak, superior to that which was transmitted to himself by his parent; the mind of the offspring will be a less rude soil for mental cultivation than was his father’s; and when his education is commenced, he will be one step in the scale of intellect in advance of his parents at the same period. When he arrives at maturity, he will, under equal circumstances, be mentally superior to his progenitors at the same period of their lives. His offspring will be superior to himself, and their offspring yet a grade higher in the scale of intelligence, and standing, perhaps, upon the very line drawn between human and angelic intellect. His mind will bear comparison with that of the white man; and, morally and intellectually, he will stand beside him as his equal.

This is mere theory, but it is theory based upon the operation of laws whose general principles cannot be controverted: and when the negro, by the emancipation of his species, has opportunity for the culture of his own mind-which, if he is disposed to neglect, the philanthropist will nor be-a few generations will leave no traces of those mental shackles, which, like chains loaded upon the body, have so long borne him down to a level with the brute. Till time proves this original equi-mental organization of the white man and the negro, which opinion fact has been strengthening for two or three generations in individual instances, it is due, both to philanthropy and justice, to suspend the sentence which condemns him as a being less than man.

The South-West. By a Yankee [Joseph Holt Ingraham] (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1835), II, 198-200.

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Provision for Schools for Colored Children in New York, 1841 

A school for colored children may be established in any city or town of this state, with approbation of the commissioners or town superintendent of such city or town, which shall be under the charge of the trustees of the district in which such school shall be kept; and in places where no school districts exist, or where from any cause it may be expedient, such school may be placed in charge of trustees to be appointed by the commissioners or town superintendent of common schools of the town or city, and if there be none, to be appointed by the state superintendent. 

Returns shall be made by the trustees of such schools to the town superintendent at the same time and in the same manner as now provided by law in relation to districts; and they shall particularly specify the number of colored children over five and under sixteen years of age, attending such school from different districts, naming such districts respectively, and the number from each. 

The town superintendent shall apportion and pay over to the trustees of such schools, a portion of the money received by them annually, in the same manner as now provided by law in respect to school districts, allowing to such schools the proper proportion for each child over five and under sixteen years of age, who shall have been instructed in such school at least four months by a teacher duly licensed, and shall deduct such proportion from the amount that would have been apportioned to the district to which such child belongs; and in his report to the state superintendent, the town superintendent shall specially designate the schools for colored children in his town or city.

Statutes at Large of the State of New York, III, pp 446-47

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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

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s 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 Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s 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 family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “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 isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s 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, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—


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Hopes and Prospects

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 forward—in 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 world—to millions, I suspect—for 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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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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10 January 2012




Home TableEdHistNegro 

Related files: The Negro Press in the United States

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