FAE Paper #1 - Leigh Gershman Professor Overton Wells 102-7...

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Leigh Gershman Professor Overton Wells 102-7 Reflective Essay #1 Trends in African-American Education in the 19 th Century South The need for literacy and technical skills has played a critical role in African American culture since the beginning of American enslavement in the early 18 th century. African American slaves and freedmen alike struggled to learn to read, a strength so valuable that it was forbidden in the southern states in 1820 (Davis, 1983). Through their struggle in the 1800’s to be educated, female teachers played a key part in setting up schools as part of the Northern teacher groups and as the grass roots of black public school teachers. Women were forerunners in the establishment of black schools. After the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 issued by President Lincoln was put into effect the Afro-American communities prioritized educating children and illiterate adults over the development of their new towns. The progress made to build and develop schools for the isolated agrarian communities of the South and recruit teachers and establish a decent crowd of normal school bound scholars was swifter than the reforms of some public schools in the Northern cities. By 1890, 60 years after the beginning of furtive classrooms for slaves (developed by Ms. Myrtilla Miner [Davis, 1983]), urban public schools for black students were staffed by black teachers and the scarce numbers of black normal schools were bringing out numerous teachers. The precedence to be educated was of concern to blacks as early as the 1820’s while enslaved. The enslaved African community in the U.S. had a determination to read as a means to be free. “The widespread notion of black intellectual inferiority was one of the
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earliest justifications for slavery, so blacks placed a high priority on education in their attempts to dispel this belief,” writes Perkins in The History of Blacks in Teaching (Perkins, 1989). Literacy ensured that one would be able to leave the owner’s land and find a way to a free state by road signs and maps. It also entailed a step up to setting up a business and taking part in American society as a free person. The African American and white groups alike understood that literacy as well as knowing technical skills meant the ability to earn money and step up in America’s renown meritocracy. As Charlotte Forten recalls in her diaries (Forten, 1864), adults and children alike attended school as a means to learn as much as possible in order to be successful. She describes mothers with babies and grandmothers in their sixties learning along side the children in her school, trying hard to learn how to read. As teacher Fanny Jackson Coppin noted from the night class she taught “‘It was deeply touching to see old men painfully following the simple words
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This note was uploaded on 04/09/2008 for the course INTRO TO L Wells 102 taught by Professor Overton during the Spring '04 term at Wells.

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FAE Paper #1 - Leigh Gershman Professor Overton Wells 102-7...

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