The Education of the Negroes

September 21, 1866


Realizing that something must be done about educating the African American population of the South, the paper suggests a few possibilities. Most of them center around churches and lack government oversight. Though conceding that African Americans should be educated, the editor stresses the importance of keeping them separate and below the white Southerners.


The Education of the Negroes Petersburg, September 19, 1866. A gentleman of this city is authorized by a northern association to employ Southern teachers, male or female, to organize and take charge of colored schools in Petersburg and the vicinity, in preference to continuing the pupils under the instruction of northern teachers. As similar propositions have been doubtless made in other places, it becomes an interesting subject of inquiry, how should it be received? The experience of the past year developed the fact that a strong antipathy existed between our white population and the Yankee teachers. So different are their respective habits and modes of thought that there is no probability that this antipathy will or can be removed for years to come, even by exemplary conduct on the part of the latter. But unfortunately they were guilty of many indiscretions, well calculated to produce ill feeling. There is reason to believe that very few of those who taught here the last session will be willing to return, but there are thousands who have not tried the experiment that ill be glad to occupy their places. So that from year to year the South will be visited by a new set, each as radical as its predecessor; and none remaining long enough to learn anything from experience. In advance of public opinion it cannot be expected that our young men and maidens, or even those of more sober years, will engage in the occupation of instructing negro children. And yet, if harmonious relations are to be perpetuated between the two races, the proper education of the blacks becomes a matter of absorbing interest. To refuse to take the burden on our own shoulders, and leave it to be borne by strangers and aliens to all our traditions is impolitic in the extreme. If there were persons of their own color qualified to teach, it would be manifestly proper that the task of instruction should devolve upon them. But it is doubtful whether a corps of efficient teachers can be organized of such material. Colored pupils learn to read and write with facility, but whether they can become sufficiently grounded even in the elementary branches of education as to make successful teachers, is exceedingly doubtful. The time has fully arrived it is believed when public opinion should begin to take form and shape on this question. And on whom does the duty of taking the lead devolve with so much force as on the Christian churches? If they would adopt active measures, establish Sunday schools for colored children, and show an interest in promoting their moral and intellectual advancement, their efforts could not fail to be crowned with success. Combined action on the part of the several churches would tend more than anything else to popularize the work and to remove the barriers which now separate the two races into two alien and antagonistic classes. All this might be done without levelling the social distinctions which have always prevailed and must continue to prevail for the mutual benefit of both classes. The colored people do not look for social equality. They prefer to have an aristocracy of their own; at the same time a resect for the whit men, under kind treatment in imprinted deeply on their minds. Snowden.
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Nat Berry




“The Education of the Negroes,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed June 1, 2023,