The Education of Blacks in the South 1860-1935 bu James D. Anderson
"The history of American education abounds with themes that represent the inextricable ties between citizenship in a democratic society and popular education. It is critical for an understanding of American educational history, however, to recognize that within American democracy there have been classes of oppressed people and that there have been essential relationships between popular education and the politics of oppression. Both schooling for democratic citizenship and schooling for second-class citizenship have been basic traditions in American education.
These opposing traditions were not, as some would explain, the difference between the mainstream of American education and some aberrations or isolated alternatives. Rather, both were fundamental American conceptions of society and progress; occupied the same time and space, were fostered by the same governments, and usually were embraced by the same leaders..."
To the legislature of Virginia in 1787 Jefferson proposed a popular educational system that would offer three years of public schooling to every white child of the commonwealth and then send the brightest male youngsters on to grammar school and college at public expense. But what of the enslaved children who constituted about 40 percent of the total number of Virginia's children and who along with enslaved adults formed the basis of wealth for Jefferson, as well as for the state of Virginia? It was believed that Virginia's peace, prosperity and "civilization" depended as much, if not more, on the containment and repression of literate culture among its enslaved population as it did on the diffusion of literate culture among its free population..."
"Blacks emerged from slavery with a strong belief in the desirability of learning to read and write. This belief was expressed in the pride with which they talked of other ex-slaves who learned to read and write in slavery, and in the esteem in which they held literate blacks. It was expressed in the intensity and the frequency of their anger at slavery for keeping them illiterate. "There is one sin that slavery committed against me," professed one ex-slave, "which I will never forgive. It robbed me of my education..."
"This underlying force represented the culmination of a process of social class formation and development that started decades before the Civil War. "Emancipation," as Herbert Gutman showed, "transformed an established and developed subordinate class, allowing ex-slave men and women to act on a variety of class beliefs that had developed but been constrained during several generations of enslavement." Hence the South's postbellum movement for universal education is best understood as an expression of the ex-slaves beliefs and behavior. External assistance not withstanding, the postwar campaign for free schooling was rooted firmly in the beliefs and behavior of former slaves. W.E.B. DuBois was on the mark when he said: "Public education for all at public expense was, in the South, a Negro idea."
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