Excerpt from History of Schools for the Colored Population: I. District of Columbia; II. States
After the Bell school-house had been used several years as a dwelling, it was in 1818 again taken for educational purposes, to accommodate an association organized by the leading colored men of the city, and for the specific purpose of promoting the education of their race. The courage of these poor men, nearly all of whom had but a few years previously emerged from bondage and could not read a syllable, cannot be justly estimated without recalling the fact, that at that period the free colored people were considered everywhere in the south as a nuisance, and very largely so through the north. The Savannah Republican newspaper, in [817, in a carefully prepared article on the subject, said: The free people of color have never conferred a single benefit on the country. They have been and are a nuisance, which we wish to get rid of as soon as possible, the filth and offal of society and this article was copied approvingly into leading, temperate northern journals. It will be seen from the announce ment that this school was established upon the principle of receiving all colored children who should come, tuition being exacted only from such as were able to pay that it was more nearly a free school than anything hitherto known in the city. The announcement of this school, which appeared in the columns of the Daily National Intelligencer, August 29, 1818, is full of interest. It clearly indicates, among other things, the fact that at that period there were some slave owners in this District who were recognized by the colored people as friendly to the educa tion of their slaves; a sentiment, however, which, in the gradual prostitution of public Opinion on the subject, was very thoroughly eradicated in the succeeding forty years. But what is of special significance in this remarkable paper is the humble language of apology in which it is expressed. It is plainly manifest in every sentence that an apology was deemed neces sary from these poor people for presuming to do anything for opening to their offspring the gates of knowledge which had been barred to themselves. The document reads as follows.
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