Black Education in New York City during the 1830s

analytical Essay
3713 words
3713 words

An 1831 editorial in The Liberator made the perceptive observation that “a line, almost impassable, [was] drawn between the two races.”One might say that the “problem of the color line” had actually been identified over seventy years before W. E. B. Du Bois diagnosed it in 1903.The same editorial continued, “by law, or by custom, in much . . . of the country, [blacks] are in a great measure deprived of the lessons of education.In most . . . states they cannot vote, or be chosen to office.If aliens, they cannot be naturalized. . . . [Blacks] cannot mingle in society with . . . whites.”[i]Blacks were treated as second-class citizens.However, by the early 1830s northern blacks were deciding, whether it was in Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, or New York City, to actively challenge the racism within American society institutionally and lay claim to all the privileges of American citizenship.Various factors made the 1830s the decade when blacks would organize around education in an attempt to redraw the parameters of American citizenship.Among these were: emancipation in New York State in 1827, the founding of African American newspapers, abolition, and a strong commitment to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the U. S. Constitution. The emergence of a more militant abolitionist movement early in the decade refocused the northern antislavery struggle on the desire for immediate abolition and enlarged the arena for blacks to participate in civil society.However, in addition to participating in white antislavery organizations, such as William Lloyd Garrison’s American Anti-Slavery Society, black leaders advanced their own case for abolition through independent educational efforts.They knew that the main argument against... ... middle of paper ... ...ed people” could see only African colonization as the solution for racial animus and black elevation.And African Americans were largely denied the opportunity to pursue education beyond the primary level.Middle-class blacks that did attempt to integrate themselves into the larger society were rebuffed at almost every turn, as they were often not accepted into white benevolent organizations, schools, or literary societies. The black community in New York City did not simply accept the current state of affairs with resignation.They believed that they, too, were included in the covenants that were the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.As white political elites sold the widened electorate rhetoric of egalitarianism, black leaders took the claims of the equality of all humanity to heart and attempted to put the moral conscience of the nation to the test.

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that the "problem of the color line" was identified over seventy years before w. e. b. du bois diagnosed it in 1903.
  • Explains that the emergence of a more militant antislavery movement early in the decade refocused the northern anti-slavery struggle and enlarged the arena for blacks to participate.
  • Explains that while many societies were short-lived, they represented a movement among free blacks, unprecedented to that time, to better their lives and achieve freedom through education.
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