We Must Lean From Our Mistakes – They Did

From 1936 to 1938 the federal government instituted the Federal Writers’ Project which sent interviewers out to gather the stories of former slaves and to learn from those stories.

“Dis livin’ on liberty is lak young folks livin’ on love after they gits married. It just don’t work. No, sir, it las’ so long and not a bit longer. Don’t tell me! It sho’ don’t hold good when you has to work, or when you gits hongry. You knows dat poor white folks and niggers has got to work to live, regardless of liberty, love, and all them things.” Ezra Adams, 83, emancipated in South Carolina

In 1865 the government established the Freedmen’s Bureau, however, “. . . due to a shortage of funds and personnel, along with the politics of race and Reconstruction. In 1872, Congress, in part under pressure from white Southerners, shut the bureau. Another leading opponent was President Andrew Johnson (1865-1869), who assumed office in April 1865 following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln (1861-65). . . Johnson’s actions, which included pardoning many former Confederates and restoring their land, as well as removing bureau employees he thought were too sympathetic to blacks, served to undermine the bureau’s authority.”

Encyclopedia of Slave Resistance and Rebellion, Volume 1 edited by Junius P. Rodriguez in 2007 and available in Google Books is an important document that notes that education became a major aspect of how freed slaves defined themselves.

Rodriguez posits that the Freedmen’s Bureau, a government constructed institution concerned with teaching obedience, respect, honesty, and the value of industry, met the economic needs of Southern plantation owners, not the educational needs of freed slaves.

Many freed slaves resisted Freedman’s education and sent their children to a Black operated school.

African-Americans successfully fought for and achieved free public education in the South which led to the reconstructed States’ Constitutions promising public education.

Rodriguez outlines the role of educated African Americans in subverting the master-slave relationship and that educational opportunities provided the skills necessary to be freed from that relationship.

Education was a leading factor in the rebellion of slaves. Is there any wonder why education is failing today?

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