Antebellum Slavery/Paternalism

Paternalism Section Reviw 1

Adrian Bacariza

Black Education in Antebellum America

"The white folks feared for niggers to get any religion and education." This was the general consensus when it came to black education. Blacks realized that education was vital to their survival and for their search for equality. There are two major differences within this topic: the difference between the education of slaves and free blacks.

On most plantations blacks were not allowed to educate their children. They spent their leisure time educating their children. Most of the education was concentrated on reading and essential functions for the children to survive. They had to show them how to handle the inhumane acts and degradation by the whites without losing their own spirits. This was the most important thing that they were taught. This started at a young age when they where introduced to gangs to do work in the fields. The other thing that was a major issue to the slaves was respect. They were to respect their parents above anything else. They were punished when they didn’t listen. If the master called you at the same time as a parent they were to come to the parent rather than the master. This had one major problem they were punished by one of the two groups. This caused children to resent both groups. Parents went to extremes to teach their children respect. Most blacks had to take classes behind the backs of their masters. Slave owners were afraid of what education and religion would do to the slaves. They believed that knowledge would lead the slaves to revolt and become hostile. Few slaves rose from their status into the ranks of the slave elite or even less the free black. Slaves gained status among them selves by the work they did for other blacks rather than for their owners. Such work was teaching.

The education of free blacks was much more extensive, but held some of the same prejudice that the slave had to deal with. At first schools taught spelling, reading, writing, and basic arithmetic. The basic idea of school was to instill good character and proper habits. Most schools catered to the better families to put distance between themselves and other blacks. They believed, "Education raises us above the level of slaves." They believed that if they were educated then whites would treat them as equals and that that would be the end of racism. The only problem is that they were being racists themselves. So they evolved into college prep style schools, until most Southern states introduced legislation restricting black schools. Whites were afraid that the free black would attempt to teach the slaves. They also feared blacks asking for civil rights. This caused schools to regress into church school style schools. During the 1840’s though 1850’s, less-affluent blacks where able to join schools though benevolent associations. Trade schools were also started for the lower classes. Woman went to sewing schools, for example. The elite black community went to college prep schools that were underground. Students studied the same curriculum as students at College of Charleston. Most students after high school went to Europe for college. The great majority of students graduated with honors. This shows the high standards of these schools. One school Master was arrested and was told that the only way that they would be allowed to keep his school was that there were to be no slaves and a white person was to be in school during school hours. So he was forced to hire a white man to sit in the school. This shows how the whites were afraid of the effect knowledge would have on blacks. Some parents even sent their kids to white schools. This was quickly stopped and parents that were caught were sent to solitary confinement for 30 days. This shows what parents were willing to do for their childrenšs education.

The black community was very interested in educating their children. They realized that it was the first step to equality. They knew that knowledge would set them free. The only way they would improve their living standards was though education. Whites also realized this and tried to hold down the education of blacks as much as possible. Slaves were at the short end of everyone’s ladder. Free blacks were trying to distance them selves from them while whites were trying to keep them in what they believed was their place.

Works Cited
Drago, Edmund L. Initiative, Paternalism & Race Relations. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1990.