Former slaves built schoolhouse whites never did

“Throughout the South, blacks in 1865 and 1866 formed societies and raised money among themselves to purchase land, build schoolhouses, and pay teachers’ salaries. Some communities voluntarily taxed themselves, while in others black schools charged tuition, although often a certain number of the poorest families were allowed to enroll their children free of charge….

“Contemporaries could not but note the contrast between white families seemingly indifferent to education and blacks who ‘toil and strive, labour and endure in order that their children “may have a schooling.” ‘ As one Northern educator remarked: ‘Is it not significant that…  one hundred and forty-four years since the settlement [of Beaufort, North Carolina], the Freedmen are building the first public school-house ever erected here?’ ”

— From “Reconstruction, America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877” by Eric Foner (2002)


One thought on “Former slaves built schoolhouse whites never did”

  1. This is a fascinating excerpt from Foner’s work. I suppose not having had access to education previously made blacks more eager to embrace it once it became legal for them to do so. It’s ironic that a sizeable segment of today’s population, both black and white, do not seem to understand that until relatively recently education, whether because of law or economics, was a privilege, rather than a right.

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