By Charles L. Glenn (auth.)
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Extra resources for African-American/Afro-Canadian Schooling: From the Colonial Period to the Present
Slaves trained as artisans to meet the many needs of the largely self-sufficient plantations, or hired out in towns, often needed to have some basic reading and arithmetic skills to do their work. As one former slave told an interviewer, “Dey try not to let de chilluns come up so ign’nant. ” 34 More generally, however, some slave children gained literacy through the “play schools” that grew out of the sociable relations maintained with their owner’s children. 35 Perhaps “the most common avenue to literacy for Blacks was instruction by a White 30 ● African-American/Afro- Canadian Schooling person who considered it their religious duty to teach their slaves how to read Scripture .
7 An early history of the SPG, in 1730, Enslaved and Free Blacks before 1862 ● 25 reported optimistically that most of the slaves were “very capable of receiving instruction. ”8 There were missionary efforts in the South to educate free Blacks as well, often through catechetical classes held at different hours than those for White children. ” 9 Quakers maintained a school for Blacks in Alexandria, Virginia by 1764,10 as well as a number of free schools for Blacks in the North. 11 In Charleston, the Anglican SPG purchased two slaves, trained them to teach, and built a schoolhouse where, from 1744 to 1764, they taught children during the day and adults in the evening.
As English evangelist George Whitefield wrote in a 1740 pamphlet directed to slave owners, “Blacks are just as much, and no more, conceived and born in Sin, as White Men are. ”14 There is extensive evidence that both enslaved and free Blacks responded eagerly to this message; and paradoxically, the abandonment of the Anglican and Presbyterian strategy of developing literacy as a prelude to conversion, under the inf luence of the Great Awakening, led to a greater eagerness to learn to read on the part of Blacks after conversion, as a means of studying the Bible and devotional works.