Missing Works Cited
Black Education in New York City during the 1830s
An 1831 editorial in The Liberator made the perceptive observation that “a line, almost impassable, [was] drawn between the two races.”One might say that the “problem of the color line” had actually been identified over seventy years before W. E. B. Du Bois diagnosed it in 1903.The same editorial continued, “by law, or by custom, in much . . . of the country, [blacks] are in a great measure deprived of the lessons of education.In most . . . states they cannot vote, or be chosen to office.If aliens, they cannot be naturalized. . . . [Blacks] cannot mingle in society with . . . whites.”[i]Blacks were treated as second-class citizens.However, by the early 1830s northern blacks were deciding, whether it was in Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, or New York City, to actively challenge the racism within American society institutionally and lay claim to all the privileges of American citizenship.Various factors made the 1830s the decade when blacks would organize around education in an attempt to redraw the parameters of American citizenship.Among these were: emancipation in New York State in 1827, the founding of African American newspapers, abolition, and a strong commitment to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the U. S. Constitution.
The emergence of a more militant abolitionist movement early in the decade refocused the northern antislavery struggle on the desire for immediate abolition and enlarged the arena for blacks to participate in civil society.However, in addition to participating in white antislavery organizations, such as William Lloyd Garrison’s American Anti-Slavery Society, black leaders advanced their own case for abolition through independent educational efforts.They knew that the main argument against ending slavery and making blacks full citizens, besides the belief that the United States was—and should remain—“a white man’s country,” was that African Americans were “unprepared” to be citizens.By acquiring as much education possible, community leaders contended that blacks would demonstrate their true mental capacity and shed the degradation of enslavement.Educated blacks would be living testimonies for the judiciousness of abolition, morality, and full citizenship for all men.As the nation was grappling with questions of democracy; who should vote, and who should not, free blacks in northern cities were organizing in order to strengthen their “citizenship resume,” in a manner of speaking.Sensing an opportunity to establish a stronger foothold in civil society, black Americans established primary and secondary schools, literary societies, debating clubs, and libraries.
Even though many of the societies were short lived and their educational activities even more brief, collectively they represented a movement among free blacks, unprecedented to that time, to better their lives and achieve a more complete freedom[ii] through education.While...