New York African Free Schools and Their Convention Legacies

Education at the Conventions

Education was early identified as a major concern of the National Colored Conventions, and several graduates of New York African Free School #2, such as Alexander Crummell, George T. Downing, Henry Highland Garnet, Charles L. Reason, and James McCune Smith, played substantial roles in shaping the direction of education in the antebellum conventions. Much energy focused on the commendation and creation of schools that hinged upon the “Manual Labor” or “Industrial” model, both of which combined literary and scientific education with practical pursuits. Most convention delegates thought this mode of education best, since it prepared students’ minds and hands, thus positing their places as both educated citizens and skilled workers. Other debates in the conventions revolved around the education of both African American men and women, whether African American youth should seek to enter schools traditionally restricted to white students, or whether they should study at schools created expressly for Black students.

The timeline below exhibits the progression of the conversation about education throughout the course of the antebellum National Colored Conventions from 1831 to 1855. The tabs to the right explore in further depth a particular establishment, trend, or case study that figures significantly in that conversation.


Researched, written, and created by Alyssa Amaral and Amanda M Greenwell. Edited by Simone Austin


Colored National Convention Minutes (1831-1855, inclusive)., accessed November 15, 2016,

Irvine, Russell W., and Donna Zani Dunkerton. “The Noyes Academy, 1834-35: The Road to the Oberlin Collegiate Institute and the Higher Education of African- Americans in the Nineteenth Century.” The Western Journal of Black Studies, vol. 22, no. 4, 1998.

Moss, Hilary J. “Education’s Inequity: Opposition to Black Higher Education in Antebellum Connecticut.” History of Education Quarterly, vol. 46, no. 1, 2006, pp. 16-35.

Strane, Susan. A Whole-Souled Woman : Prudence Crandall and the Education of Black Women. WW Norton, 1990.

“Students at Prudence Crandall’s School for African-American Women 1833-1834.”, May 2005, Accessed 20 Oct. 2016.

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