The Emergence of White Opposition to African American Education

in Schooling Citizens

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780226542492
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226542515 | DOI:
The Emergence of White Opposition to African American Education

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  • History of the Americas


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On April 13, 1827, the African Improvement Society (AIS), a new association dedicated to elevating black people's “moral, intellectual, and religious condition,” was inaugurated in New Haven's North Church. The AIS was made up largely of whites who opposed slavery and championed colonization, and its mission was to uplift people of color. Yet its founders doubted black people's moral and mental capacity. Prior to the late 1820s, whites in New Haven were largely tolerant of African Americans' literary and religious instruction. As radical abolition eclipsed colonization, however, educators began to affirm the African Americans' place in the polity rather than have them deported. In order to understand why white tolerance for black schooling deteriorated in New England around 1830, it is useful to listen to Aristides, the most vocal opponent of the AIS in New Haven. His arguments — his conception of education as a zero-sum game, his conflation of black improvement with citizenship, and his contention that uplift would thwart black removal — would soon become mantras in white diatribes against black schooling.

Keywords: African Improvement Society; education; New Haven; African Americans; whites; slavery; Aristides; citizenship; New England; black schooling

Chapter.  8612 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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