The Struggle for African American Education in Antebellum America
While white residents of antebellum Boston and New Haven forcefully opposed the education of black residents, their counterparts in slaveholding Baltimore did little to resist the establishment of African American schools. Such discrepancies, Hilary Moss argues, suggest that white opposition to black education was not a foregone conclusion. Through the comparative lenses of these three cities, she shows why opposition erupted where it did across the United States during the same period that gave rise to public education.
As common schooling emerged in the 1830s, providing white children of all classes and ethnicities with the opportunity to become full-fledged citizens, it redefined citizenship as synonymous with whiteness. This link between school and American identity, Moss argues, increased white hostility to black education at the same time that it spurred African Americans to demand public schooling as a means of securing status as full and equal members of society. Shedding new light on the efforts of black Americans to learn independently in the face of white attempts to withhold opportunity, Schooling Citizens narrates a previously untold chapter in the thorny history of America’s educational inequality.
“In Schooling Citizens Hilary Moss makes a splendid contribution to the history of race relations in the antebellum period. Case studies of episodes in New Haven, Baltimore, and Boston illuminate crucial relationships between schooling, citizenship, and race. The cases require careful analysis because they defy easy generalizations about the legacy of slavery or regional differences. The result is a nuanced view of the attitudes that swirled around white opposition to black education in these years; what conditions, in contrast, fostered black education; and what was at stake for African Americans. The case-study approach lends itself to a wedding of intellectual history with turbulent social confrontation and thus animates this important study.”
“I cannot think of any other book that is like Schooling Citizens, which makes an important contribution both to the historiography of African Americans and to the history of education in America. Well-written and well-argued, this book is an original contribution to scholarship.”--Shane White, University of Sydney