The Early Case for a National Black Press
The Report from the Convention’s Education Committee
In its first issue, North Star published the education committee’s debate and its outcome, but readers had to wait until the January 21 issue of 1848 to read the committee’s official report. The Committee of Education’s report tackled what it would mean for the future of Black communities to have young people educated. This was no small debate and no small report. The stakes were high: the first steps to create an equal educational opportunity for Blacks.
The committee stated that education is the link between potential and spiritual, civic and civil responsibility. They concluded that by giving everyone intellectual ability, God signified the intention for each individual to develop their power for potential. “There is no waste,” wrote the committee, “No superfluity in the economy of god.” Education was defined as a necessary responsibility that combined spiritual gifts with active social participation.
The committee acknowledged that to reach a position of equality, there could be no chance for inferiority – education would eliminate inferiority. Steps had been taken to create general high schools in urban areas like Cincinnati and New York, and they then set their sights higher: colleges. The committee felt that while young men had prepared for college, financial struggles often keep them from completing their studies, and needed to be addressed.
Having established the stakes for education, the current situation, and the urgency of improvement, the committee restated that schools advanced both civilization and the individual and that Black men had been kept from an equal educational opportunity. Education would advance aspirations. The committee considered how education should be advanced and promoted for Black youth. The committee acknowledged the scope of learning must challenge expectations of simplicity and should include classical learning along with broad areas of study. They believed what was at stake for education was identity and personal wholeness. The committee stated, “Man is a compound being, a being of mind, soul and body.” For any individual to be well-rounded, they had to develop their mind, heart, and soul – all goals of education. Slavery offered nothing but physical development through mindless manual labor, giving no time or space for an individual to truly become themselves.
The committee resolved that education was vital to the goals of the convention: “to present an early generation of scholars, capable of treating the platform of science, erudition and learning, with as much conscious ability, as any men in the land.”
The committee resolved that a college must be founded on a manual labor plan. This means that students could, in part, pay for their education by working on school property. As a final step, the committee established a second committee of twenty-five individuals to further develop the plan, to find a place to build a school, and to begin to make arrangements. They were to report their progress at the next convention.
The excitement of a brand new college was catching. When it came down to a vote, the move to start a college passed with 26 Yeas and 17 Nays.
Written by Melanie Berry. Taught by Benjamin Fagan, Auburn University, Fall, 2016.
Edited by Sarah Patterson.