An Old Scholar

May 21, 1870, page 336

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"There is a negro school at Meherrin Station, on the Richmond and Danville Railroad, where the teachers receive scholars of all ages and both sexes.  Mr. Arvine, of Lunenberg, had an old cook, 71 years of age, who took it into her head to learn to speak and write the English language correctly; so she entered the school, and bringing her ten cents per day and regularly paying it over to the teachers, she got along very well until, perhaps, at the end of the second week, she missed her lesson, and was kept in in play time.  The idea!  an old negro seventy-odd years of age kept in in play time"
 -- Danville (Va.) Times


The basis of the joke in this cartoon is the incongruity of an elderly person as an elementary school student and, even more, one kept inside at recess. Underneath the humor, though, is the disheartening fact that an entire segment of the American population—slaves—were prevented from acquiring even a rudimentary education. Both this cartoon and the previous illustration, "Uncle Tom and His Grandchild," point to the great yearning for formal knowledge that pervaded all age groups among the freed people, and to the hope they invested in education.


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