Literary Examinations of Young Colored Folks

July 3, 1866


A public school in D.C. for young freedmen is criticized by white Southerners who ridicule the students' lack of knowledge and inability to name any of the Senators who are pushing for their rights and education.


The numerous public schools of Washington city are now being examined, and also the freedmen's schools. A good story is told of the private secretary of Senator Sumner, who attended one of these institutions for teaching the contraband idea how to shoot, and was invited to propound some questions. " Children," said he, in a grave tone, " what Senator can you name ?" There was a pause, and then the bright boy of the class exclaimed, "Abrum Lincum!" "No," said the young gentleman, " I mean what Senator in Congress do you know, or have you heard of?" Another pause, and then a young specimen of ebony and ivory timidly suggested, "Andy Johnson." "He's not a Senator, either." Just then another pupil was inspired, and exclaimed, "General Washington!" Poor little ignorant colored boys- at school under the shadow of the capital, and didn't know the name of a Senator (especially Sumner), when Senators are doing so much for them.
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Brooke Beam




“Literary Examinations of Young Colored Folks,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed June 1, 2023,