|"Education In The Southern States"|
|Harper's Weekly, November 9, 1867, page 706 (Editorial)|
In the New York Tribune of October 18 there
is a very valuable communication upon education in the South. It is not possible to
overstate the importance of this subject in the present condition of the country, for if it were essential that the freedmen should be enfranchised, which is indisputable, it is not less necessary that they should be educated.
Moreover, as their enfranchisement came from the free States so must their education come. To
abandon them to the class which lately held them enslaved, which is the policy of the
Democratic party, is not only to leave them without any safeguards of civil rights, but it is to
condemn them to hopeless ignorance.
The article of which we speak truly states the situation of the country in this respect at the beginning of the rebellion. Of the 8,000,000 Southern whites in 1860 only 300,000 owned slaves, and only 90,000 of the owners had more than 10 slaves, each. Other small slaveholders and a few hundred thousand merchants and professional men of some wealth were the adherents of the great slaveholders who controlled the 7,000,000 poor whites and 4,000,000 blacks. Thus 1,000,000 men, owning the land and capital and monopolizing the education in their section, ruled 11,000,000 laborers without property or education, and, by the abject subservience of the Democratic party of the Northern States, governed the Union. The two chief methods by which the despotism at the South was maintained were the discouragement of education both among the poor whites and the blacks, and the fostering of prejudice and hatred between these two classes. The free schools of the South educated one in every thirteen of the population; the free States one in every four and four-fifths. The slave States also especially encouraged the high-priced academies, which only the children of the oligarchy attended. From the last census it appears that Alabama gave about $60,000 to colleges and academies which were untaxed, and no endowment to the public schools. Virginia did not tax her higher academies and colleges, which was a good thing, but she gave only $446 to her public schools. The fourteen slave States, excluding Delaware and including Missouri, which in 1860 was fast ceasing to be a slave State, and contributed $41,525 of the whole amount, gave only $136,251 in endownments to free schools. This tells the story. The alphabet is an abolitionist. If you would keep a people enslaved refuse to teach them to read. When the British Reform Bill passed Mr. Robert Lowe, who had strenuously opposed it, said, bitterly: "And now, Mr. Speaker, let us entreat our masters to learn their letters," showing that he, at least, knew that the people had not been taught them before.
The despotic spirit which instinctively disliked free schools also sought to exclude books
and newspapers except for the aristocracy. It actually proposed a "Southern literature," for the literature of all modern Christendom was incendiary to slavery. It struck also at the tongue. It abhorred free speech. It knew that knowledge is power, and it trembled. The article of which we are speaking traces the means by which mutual hostility was inflamed between the poor whites and the blacks. But nothing could save the slave region from Christianity, a real Democracy, and the nineteenth century; and the war "has resulted in the emancipation of 11,000,000 of deceived Democracy from the rule of the aristocracy." But the danger of the Southern section is in the still pernicious influence of the former aristocracy. It ruled through ignorance, from which spring hatred and prejudice; and if we can strike at that ignorance we wound the tap-root of all the national sorrow and suffering. This is now our great duty. It must be, under the circumstances, simultaneous and co-operative with political action.
Our author gives most striking and interesting facts upon the present condition of the movement for the education of the freedmen. The chief superintending agency is the Freedmen's Bureau. On the 1st of January, 1867, there were 1496 schools, 1737 teachers, and 95, 167 colored and 470 whites scholars actually in school, besides those studying elsewhere. "Many of my pupils," writes a teacher in Southern Virginia, "teach white children at home who are too prejudiced to come to our school." The colored people are wholly alive to the importance of the work. In Georgia they have organized 175 private schools. In 1860, within an area of twenty miles around Chattanooga, there was no school of any kind whatever. Now Chattanooga has six colored school besides others, and there are numerous others in the neighborhood. Near Corinth, in Mississippi, and old gentleman says: "My little contrabands have been picking up bullets on the battlefield, and have sent them to me to buy spellingbooks." The reports of the capacity, as well as the ardor of the new scholars are most encouraging.
Now what is the duty of an honest man who wishes peace, and good order, and good feeling in this country? Is it to be forever idiotically roaring about the inferiority and barbarism of "niggers," and "nigger equality," and "nigger supremacy," or to reflect that there is a very large ignorant population in the country, who can not be expelled nor exterminated, and who must therefore be educated, that they may be more valuable citizens? The demagogue at the North who was the former political ally of the slaveholder will pursue the slaveholder's policy of encouraging hostility of race and the ignorance of the laborer. But the man who believes with Washington that the security of this Government is in "the virtue and intelligence of the people" will strive to promote that intelligence and develop that virtue. Fraternal feeling among the citizens is the surest bulwark of the State. Who encourages that feeling? Those who denounce a part of the population as "niggers," or those who treat all men as men? Those who would leave the recovered States sunk in ignorance, or those who would set a school-house at every cross-road?
|Harper's Weekly, November 9, 1867, page 706 (Editorial)|
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