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THE EDUCATION OF THE NEGRO-ITS CHARACTER AND
Though the possibility and the necessity of educating the negro population of the United States have been very thoroughly discussed by legislative and philanthropic bodies and the periodical press, nevertheless there seems wanting a systematic and detailed statement of the facilities for the instruction of colored persons within the Union and of the more general features which characterize their school life. In supplying and in systematizing a body of facts of this description for those interested in or wishing to generalize upon the matter, it will suffice merely to mention its far more interesting and important side.
An attempt is being made to educate a people as a body whose great grandparents were African savages or plantation slaves. This people, if uneducated, is hopelessly at the mercy of a race far more enlightened and numerous than itself, and, if educated, must struggle for existence beside this same more powerful race from which it is unmistakably differentiated on the moral side by the hundreds of years of disciplining freedom it has yet to undergo, and the absence of self-effectuation and selfrestraint, qualities freedom entails, while on the physical side it is still more unmistakably differentiated by the color of its skin. To a people thus lightly ballasted with independent social experience and racial prestige it is apt to seem that everything is a matter of language, and that the ability to talk effectively is an open sesame to every avenue of wealth, power, and consideration enjoyed by the dominant race, and that success in those avenues is obtained by the verbiage of sophistry rather than by patient foresight, and skillful energy. But by those who wish to secure what sanguinary battles and constitutional amendments can not secure, that is to say, the abolition of the slavery of ignorance, far different ideas are held. While the State has endeavored to do its duty, a warmer effort was long ago inaugurated by the missionary enthusiasm of the Christian, and the boundless optimism of the man of commerce, to educate teachers for the schools and ministers for the pulpits of the colored people of the South in order that through their efforts the problems of real life might be comprehended by the descendants of the physically emancipated masses now located in that portion of the Union.
Other than the fact that it is provided for persons of African descent, the education of the negro in several of the United States is characterized by three features: (1) Its cost is borne almost wholly by the white portion of the community; (2) it is almost always elementary; and (3) it is becoming more and more industrial in the sense that it is training its pupils in the village industries of carpentry, wheelwrighting, blacksmithing, and in the possibly less rural vocations of shoemaking and printing.
"These are the resources with which individual human beings are able to procure the satisfaction of their wants and industry comes into being and grows." (Growth of English Industry and Commerce, vol. 1, p. 10. W. Cunningham.)
"I desire to state," says Dr. Haygood in one of his reports, "without qualification and as the result of long-continued and careful investigation, that the children of parents taught in these higher schools in the earlier years of this great movement show at the beginning of their school course marked superiority to the children of untaught parents."
ITS COST IS BORNE BY THE WHITE RACE.
That this is so is natural whether we consider the fact in connection with the schools supported by State or municipal taxation or with those supported by the generosity of churches or wealthy persons. The Southern States are agricultural, and in an agricultural community the great source of revenue is tax upon land. As the land in these States is, from the very nature of things, in the possession of the former masters, it follows that they are taxed to educate the children of their former slaves. Still it would be injustice to the colored race not to go a step farther and inquire by whom the agricultural land in the late slave-holding States is put in value; by whom it is worked that it will support a tax. The answer may be given in a sentence, a universal exodus of the negro would probably not be tolerated in the cotton States. Thus it is apparent that there is only a verisimilitude of injustice in the dominant and land-holding race educating the youth of the laboring population. It must be remembered, however, that the tax is peculiarly onerous, as there is the necessity of supporting two systems of schools. Yet it is only possible to educate colored children in this way and the tax is borne with patience.
But while the Southern States are educating the negro, many persons, under the form or direction of religious or special philanthropic bodies, have founded and supported institutions which in name are plainly intended for the higher education of such colored persons as have the desire to obtain an education of that description. It may therefore be said that potentially the best work for the elevation of the colored race is done in the so-called colored normal schools, in institutions supported by the sale of national lands for the purpose of fostering agriculture and the mechanic arts, and in the upper classes of the numerous "academies," "colleges," and "universities" supported by religious bodies or endowed by private individuals.
As far as known to this Bureau there are 107 of these institutions, of which 105 are situated in the Southern States. In them the charge for instruction is exceedingly low, usually about a dollar or two a month in the normal, academic, and collegiate departments, though frequently it is given without cost. But as low as this charge is, when made, it is paralleled by the extremely low rate at which lodging and food are furnished and the very moderate incidental fees exacted. In general it may be said that the entire expense to the colored student is in the neighborhood of $75 or $100 for a session of nine months. Sometimes it is as low as $50 or $60, sometimes it is as high as $125 or $150. The lowest of course are the minimum figures at which the student can exist. But it must not be supposed that this charge for tuition, lodging, and food covers the cost of the presence of the student at any particular institution. At Claflin University, for instance, where the entire charge to students in the higher grades is about $7.50 a month, it is found "that the small amount paid by the students is not sufficient to meet one-tenth of the expenses of the institution, and it thus appears that every student is aided to the extent of about nine-tenths of his expenses," that is to say, every student costs the institution to instruct, lodge, and feed about $68 a month. At Fisk University "the charges to students do not cover one-half the actual cost of the advantages furnished them."
By whom, then, is the cost of these 107 institutions borne? In the case of Claflin University it is borne by the contributions of the friends of education, through the Freedmen's Aid and Southern Education Society; by the proceeds of the sale of national lands; by the State of South Carolina, and by the John F. Slater and the
"I must yet advert to another most interesting topic-the free schools. In this particular New England may be allowed to claim, I think, a merit of a peculiar character. She early adopted and has constantly maintained the principle that it is the undoubted right and the bounden duty of Govern ment to provide for the instruction of all youth. That which is elsewhere left to chance or charity we assume by law. For the purpose of public instruction we hold every man subject to taxation in proportion to his property, and we look not to the question whether he himself have or have not children to be benefited by the education for which he pays. We regard it as a wise and liberal system of police by which property and life and the peace of society are secured." (Daniel Webster, in discourse on "First Settlement of New England," December 22, 1820.)
2Several not reporting however for 1892-93.
Peabody funds. In the case of Fisk University the deficit is met by contributions of Christian and philanthropic people through the American Missionary Association or given directly to the university. Other bodies interested in the work of educating the negro are the American Baptist Home Mission Society, which supports many institutions; the Presbyterian Church; the Society of Friends; the Congregational churches of the North; the Methodist Episcopal Church South. From these funds of religious corporations; from the proceeds of the invested funds of the Peabody, and especially of the Slater fund; from the fund in some States arising from the sale of lands given by the act of Congress granting lands in 1862, and, in all the States insisting on the separation of the two races, a proportional share of the fund annually given by the act of August 30, 1890-have been supported the independent schools for the education of the negro, with the exception of certain normal schools conducted by the States and State scholarships created in quasi-independent institutions. Lightly, however, as the entire cost of education is made to bear upon the colored student, he seems unable to meet it, and several expedients have been devised, two of which stand forth prominently, at least are of such a nature as to admit of being stated in a general way. These are the creation of scholarships and of labor and student aid funds, and it would seem that almost every institution has a fund at its disposal to help needy students of merit. Frequently the beneficiary is required to perform some kind of service for the amount given, while in some cases, as at Berea College, a rebate of $3 a term is allowed to 73 students of good standing. At Roger Williams and at Fisk universities the student is required to contract that he will labor one hour a day for the institution, or pay $2 in addition to the charge for board and tuition. As an instance of the necessity of the situation, the case of Storer College, at Harpers Ferry, W. Va., may be cited. About fifteen years ago it was suggested that from the beauty of its situation it might be practicable to use it as a summer resort. One of the teachers made a beginning. Visitors came, were charmed by the surroundings, pleased with the bearing of the students who waited on them, and sent for their friends, until several hundred guests came annually. The earnings of the buildings are about $900, besides "bringing into the market certain portions of the school farm." In the same line is the suggestion of the principal of the Alabama State Normal and Industrial School, who, after remarking that meritorious young people who would be willing to exchange their labor for board are turned away daily, observes that "A cotton factory or some other industry established near institutions of this [his] kind could utilize every extra hour of students, and by some humane arrangement could keep running every hour of the day, a source of income to the projectors and an aid to poor students."
The scholarships are mostly in the form of State-supported students, and merely entitle to free tuition and lodging. Others are merely scholarship funds. Such is the King scholarship fund of $5,000, the Cassedy scholarship fund of $10,000, and others of equal or less amount possessed by Atlanta University. Biddle University has a fund of $6,000, raised in Scotland, the interest of which is to be used to aid young men preparing for mission work in Africa.
The difficulty encountered by the colored student in regard to money has been partially overcome by the gift of Daniel Hand, esq., of $1,000,000 for the education of "such colored people as are needy and indigent." The fund is administered by the American Missionary Society, which, in view of the comparatively inadequate sum at its disposal, has felt the necessity of concentrating its resources, as the trustees of the two other great educational funds for the education of the people of the Southern States have felt the necessity of concentrating theirs.
Of 75 institutions reporting their resources of support, there were receiving aid from (some counted twice but some not appearing): American Missionary Association, 19; American Baptist Home Mission Society, 10; Freedmen's Aid Society Methodist Episcopal Church, 9; Methodist Epis. copal Church, South 1; Presbyterian Church, 7; Protestant Episcopal Church, 2; Congregational Church, 2; Friends, 1; endowments, 4; State or municipality, 16.
THE EDUCATION OF THE COLORED RACE IS ALMOST ENTIRELY ELEMENTARY.
The height of the general intellectual development of the masses is conditioned by the affluence or paucity of abstract ideas current among them, at least by the ability to quickly acquire such ideas. Unfortunately for the negro his former condition gave him no opportunity to acquire a great variety of ideas. The relation of master and slave, speaking generally, in a sparcely inhabited country gave no opening to the negro to obtain a higher order of ideas than his condition required. Thus the negro was not trained to take on rapidly that form of enlightenment called culture when the opportunity came. The school days of the negro child are not preceded by centuries of inheritable stimulus derived from racial, and, as a special case, from ancestral exertion, nor is he as yet surrounded by the refining influences of even a commonplace home. Voodoo incantations are his only natural literature and the permanent literature of the English language, still speaking for the body of the race, is without his present sphere. It therefore happens that his education has been elementary.
Many institutions for the education of the negro have high sounding names, but, with several exceptions, they are not appropriate. Prominent among these exceptions is Howard University of Washington City. No school for the colored race has better facilities for higher education. It has a collegiate, and with the exception of the post-graduate, all the professional departments of an American university. But by far the most important advantage it has over other institutions of its kind is that Washington has had for many years a very efficient system of public schools for colored children, which now enroll about 14,000 pupils. It is, therefore, natural to suppose, did any general desire exist among the rising generations of colored persons to secure a higher culture of the mind than that offered by the elementary school, irrespective of any pecuniary advantage to be derived therefrom, that the collegiate department of Howard University would be filled, especially since the tuition is free and the university buildings practically within the city limits. Yet the attendance in the college department of this national university for the African is small, being only 7 per cent of the whole attendance of 517. If any effect has been produced by the city system of public schools upon the curriculum of Howard University, it is shown by the absence of an elementary department in that institution. However it must be noted that, though the collegiate department is so neglected, the professional departments are comparatively well filled. In the normal classes are 36 per cent of the attendance, in the medical 26 per cent, while the departments of theology and law have each more students than the college department proper of this university so well supported by Congress, so well officered, and especially, from the educational side, so well located.1
The same phenomenon is shown by other colleges for the higher education of the colored race, and it seems warrantable to say that even were the race as a body at this moment capable of higher education, its poverty would not permit it, or any considerable portion of it, to spend the time necessary to acquire such an education, and that to educate to a higher degree any considerable portion of the race that portion must be supported as the students in colored theological institutions are supported. In 1885 an inquiry made of 23 of the leading institutions for the colored race developed the fact that fewer than 5 per cent of the students in those institutions were in what is called classical studies, including those preparing for college. An examination of the character of the requisites for admission to many of the more or less grandly named institutions for the education of the colored race shows that practically there are none, except the prerequisite of ability to read in a low grade reader or familiarity with the fundamental operations of arithmetic. The elementary English course, says one university, is a necessity, as the large majority of the students coming to the university have not had the opportunity to ground themselves in the common English branches.
'As far as the law and medical departments are concerned, this remark may be vitiated to some extent, as those departments, it is understood, have white students upon their rosters.
In 75 institutions for the education of the colored race, from which special reports have been received, there are nearly 20,000 students in nonprofessional courses, not quite 4 per cent of whom are reported as being of collegiate grade, 35 per cent as being of secondary grade, and 61 per cent as of elementary grade. It has been remarked above that the absence of an elementary department at Howard University may be attributed to the very efficient work of the system of public colored schools of Washington City; for the constant complaint of the universities and colleges for the colored is that they are obliged to instruct their pupils in the elementary branches, showing that if those pupils have been taught in the public schools they have been poorly taught or have failed to profit by the teaching. The probability is that the child has been poorly taught, and the whole effort of the management of two of the three great funds for the education of the populations of the South is the training of home teachers. If the efforts of the trustees of these great funds are supported by a State system of examination adequate to prevent persons more necessitous than able from being foisted upon the children, the colleges and universities for the colored race may dispense with their elementary classes, though probably with a loss of the moiety, or even more, of their present attendance. However this may be, those who support the higher named institutions for the education of the colored race are fully convinced not only of the negro's desire and of his capacity for culture, but also of the necessity. The only obstacles they can see are illiteracy and poverty, which they are striving to overcome by supporting institutions in the South as shown above.
The great majority of the students at these institutions, though pursuing an clementary course of instruction, have one of two objects in view. These are the desire to become a teacher or a minister of the gospel. In every catalogue of an institution for the higher education of the colored race there is to be found either a normal or a minister's course, most frequently both. As for the so-called normal course, it has been very accurately stated by the Hartshorn College that it is but the beginning of an education, and the instruction in the minister's course is greatly hampered by the lack of a sound elementary education. In the case of the institutions supported by the Baptist Home Mission Society, it was decided in 1892 that the instruction in theology, except in the case of the Richmond Theological Seminary, be restricted to a minister's course especially designed for those lacking an education that would permit them to take up the studies of a theological seminary proper. Yet the catalogue of the Richmond Seminary shows but 27 per cent of its 59 students in the regular theological course. In the Gammon Theological Seminary, with a single curriculum which is lower than the theological course proper of the Richmond Seminary though higher than the minister's course of that institution, about half the students are unclassified or are in special courses.
The best and highest education given the negro, as far as numbers go, is offered in the ubiquitous normal course or department. This course is merely concerned with the elements of a plain English mathematical education. The effort there is to make the student as far as possible catch the principle involved in the subject under consideration rather than to memorize the printed page. Too frequently, perhaps, the carly training of the student has not made him sufficiently familiar with the subject-matter of the elementary branches to enable him to grasp their essence, but, notwithstanding this drawback, a thoroughness is given to the instruction that is elsewhere lacking.
The length of the normal course can not be given with any special accuracy. What is called the normal course generally requires three years of study to complete. Very frequently four years are devoted to the course, and occasionally two. In fact, the arrangement given by the Avery Normal Institute, or Straight University, seems to be practically that of the great majority of the institutions with various names for the education of the colored people. At the Avery Institute the curriculum begins with the fourth grade and the normal course with the ninth grade and continues on through the twelfth and final grade; thus the institution is assimilable to a graded system of public schools. At Straight University the normal