Decision Activity: Stephen Blucke Toms River, New Jersey, March, 1782
My name is Stephen Blucke. I am a leader of the “Black Pioneers” and the Captain of an elite group of guerrilla fighters known as the “Black Brigade.” The “Black Brigade” consists of black loyalists who have operated independently and alongside the Queen’s Rangers in Monmouth County, New Jersey for the past seven years. Respected and feared for our effective raids and kidnappings of Patriot leaders, our reputation precedes us throughout New Jersey. Our combat unit gained notoriety under the command of Colonel Tye, whose valor and courage on the battlefield made us one of the most feared fighting forces in New Jersey. Colonel Tye was killed in action during a military operation to seize Colonial leader Joshua Huddy. While the “Black Brigade” took down Huddy after a long standoff, New Jersey Militia attacked our men, freeing Huddy, and in the process, mortally wounding Colonel Tye. When he died, I was asked to take his place, commanding the “Black Brigade.” This great honor bestowed upon me is a reflection of my dedicated service to the Crown and the “Black Pioneers.” I joined the “Black Pioneers” early in the American Revolution. While I am from Barbados and was never enslaved, I was inspired by Dunmore’s Proclamation and the Crown’s promise to free all enslaved persons who fought against the Colonists. Colonel Tye died two years ago, having failed his final mission. But his memory continues to inspire his men. We are also inspired by the thought that his killer, Joshua Huddy, remains at large. We have received intelligence that Joshua Huddy is commanding a small contingent of New Jersey militiamen in Toms River, guarding a salt factory. The “Black Brigade” has the opportunity to take control of the salt factory and also take down Joshua Huddy. We have over one hundred men and Huddy has twenty-five. While we outnumber him four to one, Huddy has escaped similarly challenging situations. Where Colonel Tye failed, I must succeed.
As he prepares his troops, what should Stephen Blucke do?
Be sure to provide reasoning for your response.
Use numerical superiority to overwhelm Huddy and his men and quickly take control of the salt factory, even if that means Huddy may be killed in the fighting.
Surround the salt factory to preclude the possibility of Huddy escaping, and send elite soldiers to apprehend Huddy alive. Taking Huddy as a prisoner is more important than capturing the salt factory.
After making your decision complete the following extension activity:
Write a letter from Stephen Blucke, explaining which option you chose and what occurred after your military action in Toms River.
Below is a map of New Jersey around the time of Blucke’s attack on Toms River.
Use this map to answer the following:
1. Locate Toms River on the map using prior knowledge or maps online.
2. Stephen Blucke and the “Black Brigade” were stationed in “Refugeetown” in Sandy Hook over the course of the American Revolution. Locate Sandy Hook on the map.
Teaching Tye: Slavery, Self-Emancipation, and the Black Brigade
By Bill Smith
Colonel Tye represented much of the inchoate American spirit that the United States would one day embody, even though he fought against the Colonists as a commander working with the British during the American Revolution. Enslaved in Monmouth County, Colonel Tye self-emancipated one day after the promulgation of Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation, freeing all enslaved persons who escaped and fought alongside the British.
Like many enslaved and formerly enslaved persons who participated in the American Revolution, Colonel Tye left very few written records, leaving historians to rely on historical texts sourced mostly from local legends. Colonel Tye first appears in the historical record in a runaway advertisement from November 8, 1775, after self-emancipating from John Corlis, an enslaver and disowned Quaker from Shrewsbury, New Jersey. Tye may have traveled south to Virginia after self-emancipating, joining the famed Ethiopian Regiment, though this possibility lacks corroborating documentary evidence. Colonel Tye then made his way back to New Jersey, likely to Sandy Hook, termed “Refugee town,” by the many free blacks or formerly enslaved persons who lived there. In “Refugee town,” Tye joined the Black Brigade and eventually became the regiment’s commander.
Teachers using these documents can also inform students about the dearth of sources regarding enslaved and formerly enslaved persons during the Revolutionary period while also empathizing how local traditions can become the accepted historical canon without corroborating documentary evidence. Aside from his birthdate and the location where he was enslaved, almost nothing is known from Tye’s early years. However, from his self-emancipation in 1775 until his violent death in 1782, Tye appears in the historical record, most often in local newspapers. Historians, teachers, and students can use these documents to learn about the lived experience of Tye’s early twenties and the outsized impact he had on Revolutionary New Jersey.
On November 8, 1775, Colonel Tye enters the historical record for the first time in a runaway advertisement. Using his footprints as ink, Tye wrote himself into history by self-emancipating from his enslaver John Corlis. From this runaway advertisement, teachers and students can be introduced to the future Colonel Tye, referred to in the advertisement as “Titus.” Teachers can use Colonel Tye’s runaway advertisement to introduce students to the concept of reading archival sources “against the grain,” otherwise known as “counter-reading the archives.” It is imperative for teachers to add context when using sources such as runaway advertisements to teach about the history and lived experiences of enslaved persons. The runaway advertisement for “Titus” reveals important biographical information about Colonel Tye. However, teachers must make students aware that this historical document was written and paid for by his enslaver in an attempt to recapture him. While using runaway advertisements in the classroom, teachers can use Colonial Williamsburg’s useful and accessible “How to” guide.”
While John Corlis paid for runaway advertisements in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, some historians conjecture that “Titus” took the name “Tye” and headed south to Williamsburg, Virginia, where he served in the Ethiopian Regiment. For the next two years, Tye disappears from official sources before reemerging at the Battle of Monmouth, where according to historian Graham Russell Hodges, he took on the title “Colonel Tye.” After the Battle of Monmouth, Colonel Tye established himself as the leader of the “Black Brigade,” an elite combat unit comprised of black loyalists who led a series of devastating raids in Monmouth County over the last three years of the American Revolution.
From 1779 until his death in 1782, Colonel Tye and the Black Brigade repeatedly appear in historical sources as New Jersey newspapers documented their attacks on Jersey shore communities. Teachers can use these newspaper accounts, sourced from throughout the state, to reconstruct the actions of Colonel Tye while also using the primary sources as a lens through which their students can view the experiences of the Black Brigade and the communities they impacted. Focusing on the summer of 1780, teachers can use two newspaper accounts, published within two weeks of one another, to compare the scale of the attacks, the types of supplies taken by the Black Brigade, as well as the response and tone of the primary source authors. For these sources and numerous others, teachers and their students can rely on Documents Relating to the Revolutionary History of the State of New Jersey, a collection of newspaper articles related to the American Revolution. Compiled and published in the early twentieth century, this extremely valuable collection of documentary evidence of the American Revolution has now been digitized.
For a life remembered as nothing short of remarkable, Colonel Tye’s somewhat nebulous death reads like an afterthought. Indeed, a footnote rather than a coda in a well-deserved symphony of life. Tye and the Black Brigade laid siege to the Colts Neck Inn, hoping to capture Joshua Huddy, a well-known Monmouth Militia leader infamous for the extralegal hangings of loyalists. After capturing Huddy following an hours-long siege, Tye and the Black Brigade rowed their prisoner across the Shrewsbury River when they were ambushed by the Monmouth Militia attempting to rescue Huddy. During the fight with the Monmouth Militia, or perhaps during the initial siege, Colonel Tye was shot in the wrist. Teachers can bring the death of Colonel Tye to life by having students examine a letter written by Nathaniel Scudder, in which he describes Tye’s injury.
Tye died shortly after sustaining the gunshot wound, likely succumbing to tetanus, though no documentary evidence survives. While the few remaining extant sources on Colonel Tye present opportunities for teachers and students to critically examine and contextualize part of his life, teachers can offer students secondary source readings from historians when discussing the legacy of Colonel Tye, such as Franklin Ellis, who wrote: “Like our forefathers, he fought for his liberty, which our ancestors unfortunately refused to give him.”
 For recent works that have examined Colonel Tye, see Douglas R. Egerton, Death of Liberty: African Americans and Revolutionary America, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009); James J. Gigantino, The Ragged Road to Abolition: Slavery and Freedom in New Jersey, 1775-1865, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014); Joseph E. Wroblewski, “Colonel Tye: Leader of Loyalist Raiders and Runaway Slave,” Journal of the American Revolution, (2021); and Graham Russell Hodges, Root and Branch: African Americans in New York and East Jersey, 1613-1863, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 1999). Hodges has also written a local history of Monmouth County that investigates Colonel Tye. See Graham Russell Hodges, Slavery, and Freedom in the Rural North: African Americans in Monmouth County, New Jersey, 1665–1865, (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1997).
 Wroblewski, “Colonel Tye: Leader of Loyalist Raiders and Runaway Slave.”
 Hodges, Slavery, and Freedom in the Rural North, 92.
 For further elaboration on “Refugee town,” see Hodges, Slavery, and Freedom in the Rural North, 98-100.
 For more on the “Black Brigade,” see Jonathan Sutherland, African Americans at War: An Encyclopedia, Volume 1, (Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2004), 420-421.
 Philip Papas, That Ever Loyal Island: Staten Island and the American Revolution, (New York: NYU Press, 2009), 97-98.
 The New Jersey History Partnership transcribed a copy of the runaway advertisement, “John Corlies’ Ad for Runaway Slave Titus, a.k.a. Col. Tye, 12 November 1775,” New Jersey History Partnership. While this transcription and some other sources uses the spelling “Corlies,” the runaway advertisement uses the spelling “Corlis.” Tye is referred to as “Titus” in this runaway advertisement, however, this article will use his chosen name of “Tye.”
 On “counter-reading” the archives as a historical methodology and the issue of archival silences, see Stephanie E. Smallwood, “The Politics of the Archive and History’s Accountability to the Enslaved,” History of the Present, Vol. 6, No. 2 (2016); Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History, (Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press Books, 1995); and Marisa J. Fuentes, Dispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Archive, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016).
 For differing accounts, see Hodges, Slavery and Freedom, 104; Wroblewski, “Colonel Tye: Leader of Loyalist Raiders and Runaway Slave;” Sutherland, African Americans at War, 421; and Papas, That Ever Loyal Island, 97.
 Wroblewski, “Colonel Tye: Leader of Loyalist Raiders and Runaway Slave.”
 Franklin Ellis, The History of Monmouth County, New Jersey, (Philadelphia: R.T. Peck & Co., 1885), 114, in Wroblewski, “Colonel Tye: Leader of Loyalist Raiders and Runaway Slave.”
In a book dedicated to Wilfred Ferguson, the son of Charles Ferguson, teacher and historian Christopher Verga resurrects the story of two Roosevelt, New York brothers killed by a Freeport police officer in 1946. Verga opens The Ferguson Brothers Lynchings on Long Island: A Civil Rights Catalyst with an account of the long history of racism on Long Island and in the Freeport area including Ku Klux Klan activity. The background to the 1946 killings takes up the first third of the book. The book is well researched and referenced with extended quotes from official court documents and newspaper accounts. It is available from Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.
On February 5, 1946, two African American men, brothers, were shot and killed by a white probationary police officer in Freeport, New York. The officer claimed that the men were part of a group of four, all brothers, who were using “abusive and threatening language” and that one of the men he shot had stated that he had a .45 and was going to use. The officer’s first shot struck 27-year old Charles Ferguson, a World War II veteran, in the heart and killed him instantly. The second shot wounded Joseph Ferguson, aged 20, and then struck Alphonso Ferguson, aged 25, in the head. Charles and Joseph Ferguson were both wearing military uniforms when they were shot. Alphonso Ferguson was taken to Meadowbrook Hospital in East Hempstead where he died. The fourth brother, Richard Ferguson, also a veteran, was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to 100 days in jail, but his conviction was overturned on appeal. Military tribunals later cleared the brothers of any blame in the incident. Charles Ferguson was buried at the Long Island National Cemetery with full military honors.
At the time of the shootings, Freeport was a segregated town. There were no Black police officers there or teachers in the Freeport school system and Black children were all zoned to attend one elementary school regardless of where they lived.
After Nassau County District Attorney ruled that the shootings were justified, the New York Committee for Justice in Freeport, the American Jewish Congress, and Congressional Representative Vito Marcantonio of Manhattan demanded that Governor Thomas E. Dewey authorize a new investigation. In July, Dewey appointed Lawrence S. Greenbaum, as a special investigator to hold hearings and examine witnesses. Greenbaum, a lawyer, was a member of the NAACP. A petition to Governor Dewey condemned the Nassau County District Attorney for “not properly and without prejudice carry out his duties in the presentation to the February grand jury” and the Freeport Village Board for prejudicing the proceedings by exonerating the white officer before the grand jury had heard the case. The petition also asserted that the brothers were not drunk as the police claimed, and that the incident had been precipitated when the operator of a lunch counter had refused to serve the men because they were Black. Legendary folk singer and activist Woodie Guthrie wrote a song, “The Ferguson Brothers Shooting,” to support the campaign for justice for the Ferguson family.
The cop said that we had insulted the joint man.
He made us line up with our faces to the wall;
We laughed to ourselves as we stood there and listened
To the man of law and order putting in his riot call.
The cop turned around and walked back to young Charlie
Kicked him in the groin and then shot him to the ground;
This same bullet went through the brain of Alonzo
And the next bullet laid my brother Joseph down . . .
The town that we ride through is not Rankin, Mississippi,
Nor Bilbo’s Jim Crow town of Washington, D.C.
But it’s greater New York, our most fair-minded city
In all this big land here and streets of the brave.
At the hearing, held in Manhattan, the two surviving brothers testified that the police officer first kicked Charles and Joseph Ferguson and then drew his pistol and lined the four brothers against a wall. The police produced witnesses to support the accused officer, including an African American by-passer, and no cross-examination of witnesses was permitted. The officer repeated his accusation that Charles Ferguson claimed to have a weapon, and that he shot Alfonso Ferguson when Ferguson was charging at him. The officer and the other police witnesses admitted that they never saw a gun and no gun was found at the scene. A spokesperson for the New York Committee for Justice on Freeport charged that the investigation was a “white-wash” and an “unvarnished fraud’ because witnesses were not cross-examined. At the final inquiry session on July 23, most of the audience walked out in protest.
After the special investigator’s report was released on August 2 and exonerated the police officer and the Nassau County District Attorney’s office, Governor Dewey closed the inquiry. The report claimed that the police officer acted because he believed his life was in danger and there was reason to believe he would have acted differently if “the four men before him had been white and not colored.”
The killing of the African American men in Freeport became an issue in the November 1946 gubernatorial election as Dewey, a Republican, campaigned for reelection. Democratic party candidate James M. Mead charged that the shooting was a lynching and accused Dewey of endorsing Southern-style racism. However, once Dewey was reelected, the Freeport case dropped out of the news.
A side story in the book is the role of the American left including the Communist Party in the push for the special investigation into the killings and for justice for the Ferguson family. While the NAACP also called for the inquiry, it avoided being too closely associated with the left groups, and being branded as communist or communist directed. State and federal law officials investigated communist influence in the campaign, perhaps more carefully than they investigated the actual incident. In Nassau County and in Freeport supporters of the police officer used left involvement in the campaign as a way to discredit the specific charges and deny underlying racism in the area.
Verga concludes the book by examining a similar story about an African American veteran attacked and gravely injured by police in South Carolina and other incidents of racism in the United States and on Long Island after World War II including the notorious racial covenant banning African Americans from purchasing or renting Levittown homes. Verga note that at least demographically, Freeport and Long Island have changed since the deaths of Charles and Alponso Ferguson at the hands of a police officer in 1946.
Rev. Calvin Cornelius Fairbank was born November 3, 1816 in Pike, Wyoming County, NY. He began his academic studies at a seminary in Lima, Livingston County, NY, and became a licensed preacher in 1840. In 1842 he was ordained an elder in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and he graduated Oberlin College in Ohio two years later. At Oberlin he met John Mifflin Brown (1817-1893), a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and an Underground Railroad activist.
Fairbank was a radical abolitionist who not only spoke out against slavery, but actively worked to free as many enslaved people as he could. “Forty-seven slaves I guided toward the North Star, in violation of the state codes of Kentucky and Virginia,” he wrote. “I piloted them through the forests, mostly by night, – girls fair and white, dressed as ladies; men and boys, as gentlemen or servants – men in women’s clothes, and women in men’s clothes; on horseback, in buggies, in carriages, common wagons, in and under loads of hay, straw, old furniture, boxes and bags; crossed the Jordan of the slave, swimming, or wading chin deep, or in boats, or skiffs, on rafts, and often on a pine log. And I never allowed one to be recaptured. For aiding these slaves to escape from their bondage, I was twice imprisoned, – in all seventeen years and four months; and received… thirty-five thousand, one hundred and five stripes from a leather strap…”
Fairbank helped free an enslaved person for the first time in 1837. While piloting a lumber raft down the Ohio River he ferried a slave across the river into free territory. He often guided escaped slaves to Levi Coffin who helped arrange further transportation north for thousands of people.
Fairbank was arrested for helping to transport Lewis Hayden, his wife Harriet and Harriet’s son Joseph by carriage to freedom in Ohio. He was tried in 1845 and sentenced to 15 years, five years for each of the slaves he helped free. Serving his sentence in the Kentucky State Penitentiary in Frankfort, he was pardoned in 1849 using money raised by Hayden from his new neighbors in Boston. Two years later he was arrested again for helping an enslaved man named Tamar escape Kentucky to Indiana. In November 1851, marshals from Kentucky, with the help of the sheriff of Clark County, Indiana and Indiana Governor Joseph A. Wright, abducted Fairbank and took him back to Kentucky. In 1852, he was again sentenced to 15 years. While imprisoned in the Frankfort Penitentiary he was the victim of harsh treatment, including being frequently whipped (he believed he had received some 35,000 lashes while imprisoned). From 1844 to 1870, Kentucky imprisoned at least 44 people for helping to free enslaved people. The last man was released in 1870, five years after the end of the Civil War. Eight of those imprisoned died prisoners.
Late in the Civil War, in 1864, Fairbank was pardoned by Acting Kentucky Governor Richard T. Jacob. He later wrote a memoir, published in 1890, Rev. Calvin Fairbank During Slavery Times: How He “Fought the Good Fight” to Prepare “the Way.” He died in near-poverty in Angelica, Allegany County, NY. Rev. Calvin Cornelius Fairbank was inducted to the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in Peterboro, New York in October 2022.
Rev. Calvin Fairbank During Slavery Times (1890) (Excerpts)
“I took license to preach in 1840, and in 1842 was ordained an elder in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and closed my course of study, graduating in 1844. One incident, more than anything else outside of my organization, controlled and intensified my sentiments on the slavery question. It was this: I went with my father and mother to Rushford to quarterly meeting when a boy, and we were assigned to the good, clean home of a pair of escaped slaves. One night after service I sat on the hearthstone before the fire, and listened to the woman’s story of sorrow. It covered the history of thirty years. She had been sold from home, separated from her husband and family, and all ties of affection broken. My heart wept, my anger was kindled, and antagonism to slavery was fixed upon me. “Father,” I said, on going to our room, “when I get bigger they shall not do that;” and the resolve waxed stronger with my growth.”
I grew to manhood with a positive, innate sense of impartial liberty and equality, of inalienable right, without regard to race, color, descent, sex or position. I never trained with the strong party simply because it was strong. From the time I heard that woman’s story I felt the most intense hatred and contempt for slavery, as the vilest evil that ever existed; and yet I supposed the institution provided for and protected by the United States Constitution, and legally established by every slave state; and when, previous to investigation, I repeatedly aided the slaves to escape in violation of law, I did it earnestly, honestly, in all good conscience toward God and man.
Coming within the influence of active anti-slavery men at Oberlin, Ohio, I was led to examine the subject in the light of law and justice, and soon found the United States Constitution anti-slavery, and the institution existing in violation of law. My conclusion in regard to the anti-slavery character of the Constitution of the United States was based on common law, on its interpretation by the whole civilized world, and the recognition of self-evident truth as the basis of that interpretation, viz.: “Where rights are infringed, where fundamental principles are overthrown, where the general system of the law is departed from, the legislative intention must be expressed with irresistible clearness, in order to induce a court of justice to suppose a design to effect such object.”
This conclusion enabled me to act without misgiving, as to my obligation to the General Government. I was no longer under obligation to respect the evil institution as protected by the Government, but was free to condemn slavery and the slave code, — free to follow the promptings of duty.
Finding, then, the diabolical institution unprovided for — finding it positively prohibited—finding it to be a conceded fact by our best statesmen, North and South, that not a state in the Union had slavery established by law, I concluded, upon the highest authority in the universe, that slavery was chronic rebellion, and that I was not only justified, but bound by the “higher law,” to oppose it in defense of an oppressed people. From that time I never allowed an opportunity to aid the fugitives to pass unimproved; but when men and women came to me, pleading the “Fatherhood of God,” and the brotherhood of man, I did all in my power to set them free, subjecting myself to imprisonment and the deepest suffering.
Forty-seven slaves I guided toward the North Star, in violation of the state codes of Virginia and Kentucky. I piloted them through the forests, mostly by night, — girls, fair and white, dressed as ladies; men and boys, as gentlemen, or servants, — men in women’s clothes, and women in men’s clothes; boys dressed as girls, and girls as boys; on foot or on horseback, in buggies, carriages, common wagons, in and under loads of hay, straw, old furniture, boxes, and bags; crossed the Jordan of the slave, swimming, or wading chin deep, or in boats, or skiffs, on rafts, and often on a pine log. And I never suffered one to be recaptured. None of them, so far as I have learned, have ever come to poverty, or to disgrace. I have visited a score of those families, finding them all industrious, frugal, prosperous, respectable citizens.
For aiding those slaves to escape from their bondage, I was twice imprisoned — in all seventeen years and four months; and received, during the eight years from March first, 1854, to March first, 1862, thirty-five thousand, one hundred and five stripes from a leather strap fifteen to eighteen inches long, one and a half inches wide, and from one-quarter to three-eighths of an inch thick. It was of half-tanned leather, and frequently well soaked, so that it might burn the flesh more intensely. These floggings were not with a rawhide or cowhide, but with a strap of leather attached to a handle of convenient size and length to inflict as much pain as possible, with as little real damage as possible to the working capacity.
In what decade did Calvin Fairbank become a member of the clergy?
What “incident’ convinced Rev. Fairbank to organize his life to oppose slavery?
Rev. Fairbank believed in a “positive, innate sense of impartial liberty and equality, of inalienable right, without regard to race, color, descent, sex or position.” In which foundational American document(s) do those ideas appear?
What was his initial view of the United States Constitution?
How did his view of the Constitution and the government change?
How many freedom seekers did Fairbank assist on the Underground Railroad?
What happened to Fairbank as a result of his activity on the Underground Railroad?
Rev. Calvin Fairbank was recently inducted into the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in Peterboro, New York. In your opinion, did he merit this honor? Explain.
The Revolt that Changed Everything:The Haitian Revolution’s Immediate Effect on the United States
The year is 1804, and the New World is functioning as it had for the past thirty years since the American Revolution. After the war, a new constitution, and three presidential administrations, America had begun to find its footing as a new nation. With this, many Americans began to get used to their existence as a small democratic nation. However, whether the American people knew it or not, their world was about to drastically change. 1,888 miles south of the US, another revolution had been fought and won on the island of Saint-Domingue. The rebels, much like the US patriots, were able to cast off the yoke of a powerful European empire and establish the second democracy in the Western Hemisphere. However, this rebellion was much different than the one that occurred back in 1776. Unlike the US driving out the British and establishing a new government, the rebels of 1804 were living under much harsher oppression. These rebels were slaves who were living on Saint-Domingue under French colonial rule. In 1791, the slaves revolted against the French starting a twelve year bloodbath that would end in the abolition of slavery on the island and the establishment of the Empire of Haiti.
The United States, though in theory should be very pleased with another democracy emerging nearby, were none too happy about this development. This mostly stemmed from the fact that the Haitian government were all freed slaves. This idea of a successful African rebellion was so foreign to the American government. The success of a slave revolt also flew in the face of the then legal practice of slavery in the United States. This caused the US to avoid recognizing Haiti as a nation until the start of the Civil War. However, despite all of this, the US was greatly affected by the Haitian Revolution as well as their early interactions with the new nation. First, the Louisiana Purchase, which was caused due to the French needing money after the war’s economic devastation on the nation. This exchange doubled the US’ size and allowed it to begin expanding as a nation, taking its first steps to becoming a world power. But even beyond the Louisiana Purchase, the Haitian Revolution and its aftermath still affected the US greatly in terms of trade, foreign policy, and thoughts on how to deal with the issue of slavery.
Sadly, the Haitian Revolution as well as its profound impact on the United States is often not talked about when discussing how America became what it is today. It is very important that these effects be discussed and understood by a broader audience. There is a lack of awareness in terms of the connections between the Haitian Revolution and the growth of America. This proposal aims to answer the question of just how the Haitian Revolution impacted the United States in its immediate aftermath. Ultimately, through qualitative research this paper attempts to explain that the Haitian Revolution affected the United States in a way that caused it to grow into a far more powerful nation.
Teaching this event is an undertaking, as there are many ins and outs in regards to this revolution. Educating students based on the historiographic data found in this paper can actually prove to be a superior style as opposed to an ordinary lesson. With the information gleaned from the historians that are cited in this essay, students can achieve a much deeper understanding of the Haitian Revolution as well as its impact that it had on the United States.
Beyond just simply understanding the events, impact, and significance of certain episodes in history, there is a much deeper understanding one can acquire when studying certain key events. In the craft of historiography, a deeper analysis of history is made, where instead of reading for the information about a topic, the purpose is to understand how historians wrote and by extension, felt about said topic. In the case of the Haitian Revolution and its immediate effect of the United States, scholars range in their specific takes on the topic. Scholarship on the topic also has numerous areas of interest that different authors focus on. While some focus on the economic implications, others focus on the racial statements that the revolution made to the US. Other scholars fixate on the level of coverage the Haitian Revolution receives and how it reflects a larger issue with how history is written. These numerous points of focus often shed light on the historians who are behind them, as educators it is important to look past what the author is saying and think about why they are saying it.
However, all of these scholars touch on specifics that merely scrape the surface in regards to correlation of the Haitian Revolution to the US. But what is not touched on is how these numerous aspects and results of the conflict helped jumpstart the US into becoming the powerhouse it is today. This fact is often overlooked in classrooms, hence why many teachers breeze through the Revolution during lessons or just omit it from their courses entirely. Upon deeper inspection, many sources about the Haitian Revolution fail to elaborate on just how significant the slave insurrection was when it comes to paving the way for America to expand. While many authors like to praise and critique many aspects of the Revolution’s significance they often ignore how their many points of interest come together to reveal a much grander impact on America. A plethora of sources that has been compiled helps shed light on the absence of scholarship on this matter. Moreover, this will show why further research into how the Haitian Revolution molded America is certainly necessary and lastly how more teaching on this subject is also important.
Most scholars see the Haitian Revolution as a landmark event in terms of the fight against slavery. However, certain authors tend to lean more towards how the fight against racism was affected by the revolution. For example, Philippe Girard notes how after only two years into the Haitian Revolution, the First French Republic declared slavery an abolished practice. Girard discusses this in his piece, “Making Freedom Work: The Long Transition from Slavery to Freedom during the Haitian Revolution.” and goes on to explain how racism was talked about much more after the revolution. He backs this up by going through the long history of the fight against different forms of slavery and racism that were seen during the years during and after the revolution.
Mitch Katchun builds off of Girard’s focus on racism in his own work, “Antebellum African Americans, Public Commemoration, and the Haitian Revolution: A Problem of Historical Mythmaking.”. In Katchun’s piece, he elaborates on how the revolution had an effect on the fight against slavery and racism, but specifically in Antebellum America. Katchun complements the ideas of Girard but goes deeper when discussing how the revolution specifically started conversations about racism in enslaved African American circles. Citing the 1811 slave march in Louisiana led by Charles Deslondes, the author puts a lot of emphasis on how the events in Haiti inspired the fight against slavery to be expanded but in a more tangible way, such as another revolution. This facet of the impact of the revolution is one of the most widely discussed, however it can be expanded upon in numerous ways as shown by other scholars. It must also be noted that accounts such as this are valuable for teachers. This showcases how the Haitian Revolution influenced the slaves in the southern United States and was an early seed that was planted in their minds that would eventually grow into slave revolts within the US.
Numerous other authors chime in on the discussion of the Haitian Revolution’s impact (racially speaking) on the US. Tim Matthewson dives into this racial layer with his piece “Abraham Bishop, ‘The Rights of Black Men,’ and the American Reaction to the Haitian Revolution.”. In his writing, Matthewson discusses Abraham Bishop, an American man who wrote three pieces regarding the Haitian Revolution in the 1790s. Bishop supported the revolution and urged America as a whole to get behind the rebel’s cause. He stated how the US supported the French Revolution and also staged their very own revolution as well. With that said, Bishop argued that the US should support the similar cause in Haiti, but stated that it was due to the issue of slavery that prevented the US from doing that. Unlike the previous two scholars, Matthewson uses Bishop’s writings to showcase how white people were affected by the events in Haiti and started to defend the black people in the US. Overall, this subset of scholarship on the Haitian Revolution’s impact on the US was heavily focused on race which played a large role in the narrative of the event. However, other scholars attempt to break away from the ever prominent racial aspect and focus on other areas such as economic and political effects.
When looking at how the Haitian Revolution changed the US economically and politically, certain authors touch on a bevy of policy changes, and repercussions during and after the war. An example of this comes in the form of Robin Blackburn, a scholar who in her piece “Haiti, Slavery, and the Age of the Democratic Revolution.” touches on how the US had to begin forming its own international policies. One such policy was its refusal to recognize Haiti. This included an embargo on the new nation, despite it being a massive trading partner when under French control. This changed the US’s treatment of other nations when it came to trade as it set a precedent with Haiti that essentially states that the US will not trade with another nation and ignore what’s beneficial for itself if it does not support the government of that nation. This stems from the statement made by the success of the slave rebels.
This is focused on by Blackburn who infuses the issue of race and slavery but adds an economic/political spin to it. She notes how the US put itself in a bizarre situation by supporting other democratic revolutions (Like the French) but not ones such as Haiti. This is due to the fact that the US would be forced to admit (in a sense) that the black slaves were capable trading partners, which flies in the face of the notion that black people were sub-human and deserved to be nothing more than slaves. And as Blackburn points out, it only became worse when Haiti survived for decades after the revolution. So the US opted to simply not recognize the island nation, something that would continue up until 1862. This is interesting for educators as it can be used by teachers to explain two layers of the issue that the US was faced with during this time. The US’ problem was not just a racial one, it was an economic one as well. Author Tim Matthewson brings up how the US immediately reacted to the revolution and what he states is very telling. In his piece “George Washington’s Policy Towards the Haitian Revolution ” the author states that under the first presidential administration in the US, American merchants actually were allowed to aid the French with supplies and even men. This was in hopes to defeat the slaves, showing that the US had been willing to help squash all slave revolts in the name of maintaining the practice. Matthewson uses this little known fact to highlight the idea that the US was very much a pro slavery nation, and that even before the revolution had been won, the US had already been trying to put it down.
Another scholar adds to the discussion by way of citing the particular benefits and unintentional problems that the rebellion had on America. This scholar is Jim Thomson, author of “The Haitian Revolution and the Forging of America.”
In his piece, Thompson adds to the discussion of the Haitian Revolution’s effect on the US by highlighting a few results of the conflict. One was how France had to sell the Louisiana Territory to the US to get money to fund Napoleon’s conquest of Europe. This important moment for the US, a moment that doubled its size was caused by the Haitian Revolution’s economic impact on France. This dent in the already fragile economy of France caused Napoleon to work with the US which resulted in the monumental Louisiana Purchase.
These particular scholars prefer to highlight why Haiti changed the United States’ political and economic status in the world. Whereas previous authors focused on race, this group, specifically Thompson who really hones in on that aspect of the relationship between Haiti and America. Blackburn is different as she focuses on the impacts politically and economically, however she infuses a bit of race into her point of study. Citing how the political relationship between the two nations was tense due to the issues of race and slavery, Blackburn connects what the previous scholars have noted about the revolution with her own part of the conversation. This blends the two areas of study together and actually shows how these different impacts (racial, political, economic) did not exist apart from each other but rather built off each other to make a much larger impact on the United States.
The final area of study that scholars seem to focus on, is the historiography of this tense relationship between Haiti and the United States. Many scholars often go into why the revolution has not been noted as a larger event historically and why the aforementioned impacts it had on other nations (specifically the US) have often been downplayed. John E. Baur makes mention of this in his piece “International Repercussions of the Haitian Revolution.”. In it Baur states that there has never been a full scale study of the impacts of the Revolution and just rather numerous articles and pieces about certain aspects of it and its impact. This gets at exactly what this proposal aims to achieve, putting those pieces together to create a full scale study on the topic of Haiti’s impact on the US. With more study into this topic, teachers can better utilize this monumental moment from history by implementing it into their curriculums.
This historiographical aspect to the topic is unique as it explains why the topic of the revolution and its effects has not been given the recognition it deserves. Thomas Reinhardt answers this question in his piece “200 Years of Forgetting: Hushing up the Haitian Revolution.”. In his work, Reinhardt states that the authors who wrote about the revolution spoke of it in a demeaning manner. The brutality of the insurrection was what most scholars used as their rationale for why black people are barbaric and without Western guidance they will act savagely as they did back in Africa. Reinhardt notes how the success of the rebellion and establishment of the Haitian nation was completely undercut by these writers who simply wanted to discredit black people. Reinhardt asserts that writings like those were why many people did not pay much attention to the Haitian Revolution and its significance.
Adding to the idea that there was a concerted effort to diminish the importance of the Haitian Revolution is author Manuel Barcia. Barcia agrees with the ideas of Reinhardt in that white historians were made uncomfortable by the success of the uprising. In his piece “Comment: From Revolution to Recognition: Haiti’s Place in the Post-1804 Atlantic World.” Barcia particularly takes note of what the success of black people meant for the rest of the world. Barcia notes that acknowledging the fact that the Haitian rebels won and were able to run a sustainable nation would mean that one would have to acknowledge the fact that black people were just as skilled as anyone else. This of course threatened the status quo of white people dominating black people in society, which Barcia says is why it has not been touched upon by mainstream history. One interesting point made by the author is how the US in particular would trade with Haiti (covertly) but still not recognize them as a nation. This, according to Barcia, helped justify the lack of coverage writers gave Haiti as it was not recognized by the US until decades after the revolution.
The final historian being examined is Shannon Marie Peck-Bartle. In her piece “Toussaint L’Ouver-Who? An Anthropological Approach to Infusing the African Diaspora into Caribbean History.” Peck-Bartle adds to the discussion on the lack of recognition the rebellion has received. The piece pushes that the reason why the impact of Haiti has not fully been appreciated is because the Western world has spun a Eurocentric narrative of the events since 1804. This is to say that the West essentially took credit for Haiti’s success by asserting that without their European philosophies and culture, the Haitians could never have been able to successfully stage an insurrection and maintain a stable society for as long as they did. Peck-Bartle challenges this notion by pushing that rather than European culture creating the revolution, it was African culture that actually helped unite the Haitian rebels to be able to succeed. This information is valuable for teachers as it offers the opportunity to look at what is being taught in schools and see how culturally imbalanced the material is. The Eurocentric nature of most classes is unfortunate but also a very real thing and topics like the Haitian Revolution and its historiography help show teachers that there is not a lot of representation for numerous cultures around the world.
This third subsection of scholarship on the Haitian Revolution is unique as it focuses on the historiography of the event. Different scholars discuss different avenues of why this topic isn’t explored as often as it should. While people like Baur point out how there has been no full scale look into this event and its impact, people like Reinhardt and Barcia provide the reasons why. With Reinhardt asserting that the West simply went out of its way to paint the revolution in a bad light and Barcia explaining that this was because the alternative was to acknowledge the fact that black people were capable of both freeing and governing themselves. Peck-Bartle actually veers from this and states that actually the West chose to take credit for the Haitian’s success instead of outright ignoring or demonizing it. Overall, these scholars helped explain why the revolution doesn’t get as much attention and just why its impact on the US is not highlighted as often as it should.
Upon review of all ten sources it is quite clear that they all have their merits and add to the discussion about Haiti’s revolution and its impact on the US. The sources focusing on race helped explain why the US had such an awkward relationship with the new nation. Girard and Katchun particularly provided strong arguments that supported their theses. The economic/politically based scholars helped pinpoint what changes occurred in the US because of the revolution. Blackburn is the most prominent of these scholars as she mixes both the racial component previously discussed along with the political components. She successfully adds to the discussion and links two different areas of study. The final section is the historiographical section that hones in on why the impacts of the Haitian Revolution aren’t discussed as much as they should be. Again, these scholars connect the two other areas of study, the racial and economic/political by explaining why racism and Eurocentrism created a historiography that neglects the Haitian Revolution’s impact. This section seems to have the most debate over the truth behind why Haiti has been neglected. While Reinhardt and Barcia seem to agree with Peck-Bartle that race plays a major role in the downplaying of Haiti’s significance, they disagree with her when she says the West took credit for Haiti’s success and impact.
With the exception of the historiographical section, the scholarship on Haiti and its impact on the US is rather cohesive. The scholars mostly agree with each other and some of the different subsets actually blend well with each other, creating a clearer image of what the effects the Haitian Revolution had on the US were. The biggest issue these authors have is that they do not go deeper with their claims. They state that the revolution impacted the United States and list examples of how it did so. They also explain why there hasn’t been much research done on the topic. But the scholarship lacks one major point of focus, and that is how all of these subsets come together. What this proposal attempts to explore is how the Haitian Revolution immediately affected the United States. Furthermore, upon answering that question, this proposal aims to show how this impact absolutely molded the US into the world power that it is today. By infusing the three most prominent areas of study in regards to the revolution, this proposal will expand upon what has already been stated. The large scale implications for the United States brought on because of the Haitian Revolution and its success will be uncovered and ultimately show how a seemingly insignificant slave revolt changed the trajectory of a country that would become one of the most powerful nations on Earth.
The Haitian Revolution serves as a historic reminder of the triumphs of African people. It also serves as an interesting point of study when examining its relationship with the United States. The revolution’s mere existence shed light on the US’ own issues with slavery as well as early signs of the nation’s hypocrisy. The issues of racism and slavery are interconnected to the revolution; these two topics envelop the history of the modern west and cannot be ignored. With this said, these topics can be showcased through lessons about the Haitian Revolution as well as the island nation’s relationship with the United States.
The beauty of this topic is that it goes even deeper than that as it can also be used as a way to examine the historiography of the subject, something that is often overlooked in classes today. Examining how people have written history helps show students how people viewed a certain topic back then as well as how they view it now. These are valuable for both students and educators alike. Lastly, the study into the Haitian Revolution helps show how the US became the nation that it is today. Looking at the success of the US through the lens of the Haitian Revolution can help expand students’ understanding of the success of other people outside of the US. It can also showcase some of the inspiration for change in the US, namely the fight to end slavery. Overall, the educational value of the Haitian Revolution stretches far beyond its use as a fun and exciting historic episode. Through its links to race relations, slavery, economics and historiography, the Haitian Revolution truly makes for a great area of focus for educators who want to make their students better and more well-rounded scholars in the field of history.
Barcia, Manuel. “Comment: From Revolution to Recognition: Haiti’s Place in the Post-1804 Atlantic World.” American Historical Review 125, no. 3 (June 2020): 899–905. doi:10.1093/ahr/rhaa240.
Girard, Philippe. “Making Freedom Work: The Long Transition from Slavery to Freedom during the Haitian Revolution.” Slavery & Abolition 40, no. 1 (March 2019): 87–108. doi:10.1080/0144039X.2018.1452683.
Kachun, Mitch. “Antebellum African Americans, Public Commemoration, and the Haitian Revolution: A Problem of Historical Mythmaking.” Journal of the Early Republic 26, no. 2 (2006): 249–73. http://www.jstor.org/stable/30043409.
Matthewson, Tim. “Abraham Bishop, ‘The Rights of Black Men,’ and the American Reaction to the Haitian Revolution.” The Journal of Negro History 67, no. 2 (1982): 148–54. https://doi.org/10.2307/2717572.
The Forgotten Lessons: The Teaching of Northern Slavery
In the winter of 2021, a dark discovery took Rider University by storm and sparked a revelation amongst many of the students in attendance. After over a century of being hidden in the darkness, the secret that Rider University was once a slave-owning plantation was revealed to the world. A place of advanced education and diversity was once an institution of oppression. The university has since changed the name of the building from the name of the slave owner, Van Cleve, to the Alumni House. It is important that history not be forgotten, but instead brought to the forefront. The university will not erase the history but rather use it as a way to teach about the complicated history of slavery in the state of New Jersey. To many of the students attending the university, this came as a surprise. The students who were history majors were astonished by the fact that slavery occurred in the state of New Jersey, let alone on Rider University’s property. The reason for this lack of information stems from the collective lack of education on the subject.
With a basic understanding of American history, one would be led to believe that slavery was a southern issue and continues to be a contentious history when taught in those states. The reality was that slavery was a nationwide institution. Though schools in the south are vocal about the unwillingness to teach the subject, schools in the north are silent. There is continuous hypocrisy in deflecting all discussions of the matter to the south while ignoring what happened in their own backyards. Walking through any school teaching U.S. history, one may hear a line like “The north were free states and the south were slave states.” Similarly, worded statements can be found within schools in New Jersey all across the state. It implies that Northern states had no slaves at the time of the civil war and were actively fighting the good fight. When the 14th Amendment comes into discussion, one may have the impression that it directly pertained to the freeing of enslaved people in the south, rather than the north as they were already free. This simplification of the issue is far from the truth. To this day, many students will never learn that slavery took place in the north at all, let alone that New Jersey was the last state to abolish the practice. The nation now celebrates Juneteenth to “commemorate an effective end of slavery in the United States”. The stark reality is that slavery persisted after Juneteenth in the state of New Jersey legally for almost a full year, and illegally for another year. That dark history is often forgotten within classrooms throughout the state of New Jersey and the nation.
The lack of national attention to this critical issue does beg the question of how it happened. Many historians argue that the lack of discussion on the institution of northern slavery was due to the racist beliefs of historians in the 19th and 20th centuries. The voices of those early historians often get blamed for creating the view that slavery was only relevant when discussing the civil war as it was undeniably a major cause. As time progressed, one would assume the material on northern slavery would become more prevalent, however, that is not the case. As the discussion both in the classroom and by historians on the institution of slavery has expanded, northern slavery still remains for the most part absent. The question remains: did this critical part of the establishment of the nation go untaught? The only way to answer that question is by examining the teaching of slavery in New Jersey and the Tri-state area. This will open that gateway to a deeper understanding of how this history could be erased from the collective memory.
Before proceeding, it is imperative to understand what the discussion of the education on northern slavery has been. Though the discussion on northern slavery began in the late 1940s alongside the civil rights movement, the conversation about its absence in the classroom does not begin until 1991 due to a shocking discovery in Manhattan, New York. As the federal government was constructing a 275 million dollar project, they stumbled upon “the largest and oldest collection of colonial-era remains of free and enslaved Africans in the United States, according to the National Park Service”. This discovery of the cemetery caused massive protests to fight the city to halt the construction and the removal of the bodies from the site. Following this event, the New York City public schools began to look for a way to incorporate the material into the class and teach this reality that was just revealed to them. This started a growing push from schools across the nation to try to incorporate this reality.
The conversation on northern slavery would continue over a decade later when Professor Alan Singer of Hofstra University would guest teach in New York City public schools. When teaching less than a mile away from the enslaved African cemetery, most of the students were completely oblivious to the reality that not only were slaves in New York but how the reality of slavery was visible in their own community. Though many decisions on how to tackle such an issue were made to teach this material, over a decade later the students still had no idea about northern slavery. The discussions on the material did not translate into the classroom to a sufficient extent. The debate on how to successfully teach northern slavery in the classroom ensued and ultimately lead to the discussion on how to teach this history appropriately.
The content of northern slavery required a restructuring in order to successfully teach the material. Previously, slavery was only taught at the establishment of European colonies in the New World and before the American Civil War. What this divide does is creates the material into another unit, a separate event rather than a continuous struggle. The 2016 book Understanding and Teaching American Slavery by Bethany Jay and Cynthia Lyerly attempt to illustrate the best organization for discussing the topic and the history of the institution of slavery in classrooms. In their analysis of the history of teaching the institution of slavery, they regard the idea of teaching slavery exclusively at those points during early American Colonization and the Civil War to “severely hinder its importance.” What is the best way to teach the institution of slavery is discussing the enslaved perspective threw out the development of the nation. The benefits of this method allow the longevity of the issue and the hardships faced by those affected to be well articulated amongst the students. This is due to its constant presence and the reminder that liberty and freedom were not for all. This revelation in adding the enslaved perspective to early American history would spark further development in tools and resources to bring northern slavery into the classroom.
An initiative would be enacted to bring northern slavery and the massive scope of the institution of slavery to the forefront. This would come in the form of The New York Times 1619 Project. This resource marks an incredible stride in the conversation on teaching northern slavery. The project’s purpose is “to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative”. This comes out of a series of historians and teachers discussing how the realities and the true institution of slavery were untaught to them in the classroom. The project’s aim is to bring these lost lessons of slavery such as its true cruelty and its widespread adoption throughout the nation, not just exclusively in the south. It is built off of the ideals proposed in Understanding and Teaching American Slavery and other books with the same idea tofollow this notion that slavery is an integral part of the nation as a whole, rather than at specific points in U.S. history. The combination of all these ideas paints a picture of the flaws of the teaching of slavery threw out the nation. The current discussion’s main focus is looking at what is absent in the current classroom. The smaller conversation that pertains to the material taught in the past primarily revolves around racism and the Klan. The discovery of a 1904 textbook that details the brutality of northern slavery pushes back on this notion. It begs the question of whether the subject was truly untaught or if another force was responsible for its absence. Looking at the material present in the classroom in the past may prove an insight into northern slavery’s appeared absence.
An analysis of the classroom material available to students is key to understanding the absence of northern slavery. To find these answers, understanding what material was being taught in classrooms from the 1860s and beyond. A method to understand the content of the classroom is by looking at textbooks. Many school notes and lesson plans have been lost to time, but what remains are textbooks. The work of Dr. Pearcy shows the indicator tool that can be used to understand their effect on the content being taught in schools. He states clearly in his article, “Textbooks are, ultimately, tools, for student use. Their utility can only be measured by the degree to which they offer teachers the opportunity to build student-centered inquiry”. From this notion, we can conclude that textbooks are just an object and a tool for students to use. Their content is meaningless unless given a purpose by the teacher. Everything learned in the classroom is under the teachers’ control and they possess the option to use or discard the textbook. However, textbooks do tell us something else depending on where they are. His research looks at ten different U.S. history textbooks of different authors that are widely adopted and compares their tellings of the Battle of Fort Sumter. After analyzing each of the tellings, an interesting trend occurs. This trend is in the bias of the author and how they pick and choose what details to keep and leave out of the telling of the event. This bias could affect the leanings of anyone reading and coerce their perspective of the events that unfolded. These different depictions of the conflict in different areas can have effects on the material discussed in class or reflect it. Companies such as Pearson publish multiple textbooks by different authors to capitalize mainly on the market, however, what market are they capitalizing on?
Looking at the rationale behind the variation of textbooks based on location can assist in understanding why certain content is missing. The findings by Goldstein in his article Two States. Eight Textbooks. Two American Stories sheds light on the issue of why these publishing companies hire multiple historians and interpretations of the same material. This article focuses on eight different textbooks found within the states of Texas and California. The issues arise when looking at the same textbook in multiple states. The textbooks are by the exact same author but have different versions for each state. The variations were created by request of school districts or even the book’s own editor. These individuals remove or request additions of material to allow the book to be adopted in a particular area. The best evidence to illustrate this divide between locations is that of the Harlem Renaissance. Examples of this are found in Pearson’s United States History: The Twentieth Century 19th edition. On the subject of the Harlem Renaissance, the Californian edition features a section on the debate within the African American community over its overall impact on them and the nation as a whole. The Texas version only includes the line “some critics ‘dismissed the quality of literature produced’”. What these two distinct changes, along with many more, indicate is the presence of the political atmosphere of the area and the belief of the people the textbook is serving to reinforce. The textbook adopted by a particular state or district reflects the information a school is teaching in the classroom.
With an understanding of the behind-the-scenes crafting of textbooks, there can be the formulation of the content of northern slavery in school. Combining the findings of Dr. Pearcy and Goldstein, textbooks can provide insight into the classroom. The selection of the historian and the version adopted by the school reflect what the administration desired its teachers to instruct in the classroom. Though it may not be a perfect indicator of what was taught in classrooms, as it’s a tool for teachers to use, it gives an idea of what is being taught in the classroom. Examining textbooks from the past used in classrooms within the Tristate area can reveal if northern slavery was taught, and to what extent.
Examining the earliest textbook may yield an understanding of the lack of teaching, not only about northern slavery but slavery as a whole. An example of the content of what was taught in the classroom after the Civil War and in the years following can be found in The New England Primer. This book originated in 1690 and was a fixture in the classroom until the 1930s, a well over 200-year run. The textbook served as the basis of elementary education instruction. By looking at these textbook translations, historians get a sense of what was required of the majority of students at this time, along with what was taught in classrooms. Looking at the 1802 edition, the book opens with an alphabet chart. This gets taught through prayers that become progressively more complex as they go. This information indicates that understanding the alphabet was key. Depending on the quantity available, the school could have focused on reading and potentially writing to utilize this book. Within the context of these prayers, one learns about the calendar and days of the week, counting and basic mathematics, and a small amount of history. This stresses the importance of religion in the classroom at this time. The underlying message throughout the book is that God is more important than any other subject or material in the classroom. The small amount of history included is more biblical in nature but does include the basics of the American government system. The addition of the U.S. system of government is the only change from the 1773 edition, replacing prayers outlining the functions and structure of the parliament system. What this shows is that history was really not a focus in this era of education. Only those who would exceed the basic knowledge of the time would learn about more advanced information. With the perpetuation of this book into the 20th century, this basic education would be what was taught to many poor American individuals and black Americans. More fortunate areas would receive new textbooks and educational material, phasing this material out or relying on it less exclusively. Those less fortunate areas would be using this information exclusively until the 1930s. The New England Primer is referred to as the “Bible of one-room schoolhouse education”. The lack of history not only assists in the loss of the knowledge of northern slavery but of the entire institution of slavery as a whole. These individuals would want the history they learned as children in school. A slow creep of this altered history would make its way to the north.
Movements were made to suppress and remove the teaching of not only northern slavery but all of black history. The most prominent of these would be “The Lost Cause”, the movement to honor the legacy of the confederacy. This movement would begin in the 1870s as reconstruction would begin to fail. The lost cause mentality would paint the black community as unable to attain the same equality as white individuals due to the efforts attempting to create equality failed. This gave rise to the notion that the confederates were noble in their sacrifice to fight for slavery. It rewrites the telling of the history that “there was nothing ‘lost’ about the southern cause”. This was due to the mindset that black Americans were only good at being servants to white men. Monuments and memorials to honor the confederacy would be constructed such as the statues of Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis, and Robert E. Lee. By the 1890s this movement would sink its teeth into the education system of the north. The goal was to rewrite history books to reflect the southern perspective and preserve its honor. This movement is regarded as a reunion of America’s racist mentality as it proposed the Civil War was caused by other factors, not slavery. It also created this idea of the “happy slave”, the idea that there were enslaved individuals that loved slavery and serving the white man. Women’s organizations and the state department of education were the ones in charge of advocating for approving educational material for schools. Many became strong supporters of the lost cause and by the 1920’s it would be integrated into schools across the north and especially in New Jersey.
Before the alteration of the history would appear, strides were made to bring the history of northern slavery to the forefront. In the 1870s history books began to include slavery within their content. The oldest examined history textbook to bear mention of slavery is the Condensed History of The United States from 1871. This book was used in a classroom in Norristown, Pennsylvania, as demonstrated by the address of the school on the front cover pages with the initial date of October 31, 1888. On the page adjacent, student names are written, with the last one being 1899, giving the text an eleven-year confirmed usage in the classroom. The cover pages are full of notes made by students long past, however, one stands out amongst the rest. This particular note is a prayer, one found word for word from the 1812 edition of the New England Primer. This detail establishes that in this classroom, the two books were in fact utilized together. This class was learning American history alongside the basics in the New England Primer. The town had the economic resources present to invest in its youth’s education. The students within this town received a higher quality of education than those of poorer communities. However, what did these students learn about not only northern slavery but the institution of slavery as a whole?
This history tells a very interesting version of America’s past, but what is interesting is what is left out. There is no mention of slavery until what they call the “War of Secession” is discussed. The book starts with the discovery of the new world and the establishment of each American state at the time of its publication, but not one mention of slavery till that point. The book does establish that there was northern slavery by directly stating “At the time of adoption of the Constitution, slavery existed in the Northern as well as the Southern States”. It provides an impressive analysis for its time detailing the various legal cases pertaining to slavery such as Dred Scott v. Sanford. There is a fascinating inaccuracy with the passing of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments; as the book details that Johnson was president for their passing. It details that the passing of these amendments was the cause of the issues between the President and the other two branches, rather than Reconstruction. In fact, the only mention of Reconstruction at all is Johnson vetoing the Reconstruction Act of 1865 rather than discussing any of the programs created by it. This alteration to history has two possible reasons for the inaccuracy. The first is more innocent, being in the title of the book “condensed”. Reconstruction not only is a long process and would officially end in 1877. The book was written in 1874 meaning that reconstruction was still ongoing at the time. Writing on its effects could be taken as more speculatory and not factual information as the book attempts to stick exclusively to. The second is the seed of the lost cause making its way into the material. The ideology of the lost cause deemed Reconstruction a failure and did not warrant time discussion. Its omission is telling that this influence was seeping into the education of these students. However, what is most interesting is what it says about how slavery ended in the north. After detailing the increase of southern populations due to the cotton gin, it stated, “In the North, on the other hand, where slave labor was not profitable, slavery soon died out”. It leads to the idea that in the 1850s slavery was extinct in the north, however, the reality was quite different. Slavery was very much alive in the north during the 1850s.
Looking at the history of just New Jersey alone, there is a far different reality of northern slavery from this telling in the textbook. Starting as far back as the 1790s, New Jersey was split over the issue of slavery. Quakers were strongly against it; they interpreted enslaved people as people due to the wording of the constitution. The three-fifths compromise of 1787 also reinforced their claim that enslaved individuals were people. The opposition viewed freedom as an economic catastrophe. The labor force for the majority of the state’s highest-grossing markets were nearly entirely enslaved or indentured servant individuals. They saw that liberation would make the industries of agriculture, ironworking, and factory manufacturing unprofitable. The debate over a compromise began in 1797 but would reach its conclusion in 1804 with the gradual abolition act, also referred to as the “free womb” act. This legislation gave freedom to all enslaved individuals born after July 4th, 1804 on their 21st birthday. This allowed slave owners to have the labor force they needed to make up for the economic loss of abolition and granted enslaved people their freedom at a set point. The average life expectancy of an enslaved individual in New Jersey at this time was forty-one years. This meant that they would likely have had only half their life to live if they even made it to freedom. The act was filled with loopholes that allowed the continuation of slavery in the state well after the projected period of total abolition. The idea was to have all enslaved individuals freed by the 1830s. The issue was with the clause that allowed children born while in the period of the enslavement term were to be placed in the care of the local principality. Principalities were the townships and counties that reside within the State of New Jersey. Many of the individuals in charge of managing the treatment of these children would give them right back into the hands of their masters, making them slaves till their 21st birthday. This is how the enslaved population grew far larger than it was in 1804 by the 1860s.
The inaccuracies of the teaching of northern slavery would have disastrous consequences to its very existence by later generations. The pervasive belief that slavery was all but extinct in the north by the 1860s is evidence of the start of the “the amnesia of slavery”. This is a term coined by historian James Gigantino II in his book The Curious Memory of Slavery in New Jersey, 1865-1941. What he seeks to illustrate is how Northern states such as New Jersey with such a large and prosperous enslaved population forgot that slavery even occurred in their own backyards. The reason for this was that slavery was looked at as an “insignificant sideshow” in the state. Many northern slaveowners owned only one or two slaves, thus making the reminders of an enslaved past virtually nonexistent to those that were not directly affected by it. What the Condensed U.S. History textbook shows us is this amnesia occurring. In a time when enslaved individuals and their children were very much still alive, their suffering is being forgotten. There is no active backlash as those with the ability to change the material have little to no interest. This early removal of teaching about what occurred beneath these students’ feet will send shockwaves to later generations and reach into the modern classroom.
There would be a push to expand the teaching of northern slavery upon the turn of the century before the influence of the Klan would take hold. This is evident in the textbook Stories of New Jersey by Frank R. Stockton. This book was published in 1896 and the copy analyzed was printed in 1904. The inside cover indicates the book originated from a Princeton classroom before finding its way into the Library of Congress. It is worth noting that this book is back in reproduction and the Amazon description of the book reads that it was “so popular over the years in NJ schools that it has in itself become a part of New Jersey’s history”. This book possesses a unique feature that is exclusive to this book and none other, even textbooks today. This feature is an entire chapter dedicated to the history of enslaved individuals in the state from 1626-1867. What this chapter says about slavery in the state is incredibly unique, especially for its time of publication. The section begins with Dutch settlers bringing enslaved individuals over with them in 1626 to develop the inhospitable land and form their colony. Enslaved individuals were expendable and would do the labor that would normally require a far more physical toll on the body. They became the largest group of workers in the booming iron industry, logging, and of course, the plantations popping up across the land. In 1664, the Dutch surrendered their colonies to the English empire. In this exchange, many changes would appear in the lives of those original settlers, but slavery was not changed. Slavery remained in this state for over 200 years after this point. This early slavery history even includes an entire section on how Perth Amboy, New Jersey, was the slave trade capital in the north and distributed enslaved individuals throughout the northern colonies. This was all true. While other texts around this period ignore this history, this book sought to put a spotlight on it. Following details of the atrocious conditions the enslaved people in the state faced and the lack of large plantations like the south, it noted that large numbers of individuals owned one or two enslaved individuals. This kept slavery as a pivotal force in the community and essential to its economy. If this text was utilized in the classroom to the fullest, many students would have learned a genuine and dark history of the establishment of the state’s institutions. However, this very insightful history becomes inaccurate regarding the abolition of slavery.
The first half of the telling of northern slavery from Stories of New Jersey is remarkable with its depiction of northern slavery for its time, but that narrative falls apart when reaching the abolition of slavery in the state. While it does portray an accurate picture, much of it is far from the truth. The first comes in the debates over the gradual abolition act of 1804. The book describes it as Quakers becoming abolitionists; the three-fifths compromise made their view under the law that these were people, not property, and entitled to the same rights. The opposition saw slavery as an economic necessity as the work they were doing was dangerous. These were undesirable jobs no one wanted to do in their society. This debate over the issue does remain close to the reality that transpired. The text makes a crucial error in stating the gradual abolition bill that allowed the abolition of slavery on one’s twenty-first birthday passed in 1820 rather than 1804. This alteration of the date creates a precedent that the abolition of slavery was far faster and more efficient. It creates the idea that New Jersey’s policy was successful and had no issues with its implementation. Further errors found in the section support this idea that the solution the state implemented was successful. When discussing the results of the act it directly states, “in 1840 there were still six-hundred and seventy-four slaves in the state, and by 1860 only eighteen slaves remained, and these must have been very old”. These numbers couldn’t be further from the truth as slavery was still going strong by the 1850s.
What is missing from the Stories of New Jersey textbook are those who were wrongfully enslaved. The text leaves out the dark reality that a percentage of slavery occurring in the state was children who were supposed to be free. The 1804 Gradual abolition act forced some of the children born to enslaved mothers into a life of enslavement until their twenty-first birthday. The census of children being born from 1804-1835 to exclusively enslaved mothers shows five hundred and forty-one documented children. It is estimated that in the year 1850, while documentation may say two hundred and thirty-six, far more were illegally in service. The text also does not acknowledge the abolition of slavery in its entirety in 1866. The wording makes it appear it ended gradually by 1860 citing the success of the gradual abolition act. This misinformation will impact generations to come as it was the definitive history of the state. It took until 2008 for the New Jersey government to finally formally apologize for its slave-owning past and its failure to step in and end its illegal perpetuation. Though it may not be the most perfect telling of the history, it’s evidence that people were trying to teach the injustice that happened within their state. Slavery was not relegated to a small part of the civil war, rather it merited its own chapter dedicated to the hardships and debate over its abolishment. While this book is making its way into classrooms, so is the Klan. The Klan would attempt to rapidly spread in the education field and in the coming decades as part of its resurgence. This growth would ultimately transform the history of northern slavery.
The Klans’ takeover of northern education and purging of the history of not just northern slavery, but the entire institution is seen within the textbooks of the 1920s. The 1924 textbook An Elementary History of New Jersey by Earle Thomson is dramatically different from the textbook from 1904. What distinguishes this book aside is absolutely no mention of slavery of any kind. This textbook was definitely used within the state, as in the preface the author thanked superintendents and principals who commissioned a book to express their shared view of the truly important history and to add tools that would enhance student understanding. The schools this particular book was used in included Union, Hackensack, Newark, and Westfield. There may have been more schools adopting this book, however, those are unmentioned by the author, and no indication is left on any of the Library of Congress documentation. The book directly states that “children should be taught in some detail the history of their own state and of its part in the development and progress of the country” while omitting a major part of their history. The larger shocking piece is that only the conflict of the Civil War is discussed. There is no lead-up; it just dropped the reader right into the conflict. It appears that only the victory of the war was significant, but not what they were fighting for or even the amendments that followed. This text is pivotal to understanding the shift in the classroom. The lost cause ideology had reached the apex of its hold on the classroom. The removal of all mention of slavery or black Americans was done to illustrate how unimportant the black community was and how futile any action to promote equality was. However, its removal may have been far more purposeful than just a desire to push this lost cause ideology.
The Klan had far larger ambitions than just the omission of slavery from educational material during the 1920s. The book The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition by Linda Gordon sheds light on this exact time period. The Klan was a notorious hate group created in the aftermath of the Civil War but it saw a resurgence in the 1920s. This revived Klan was stronger in the North than in the southern states of the nation and focused on the education system of the time. Their priority was the recruitment of white American youth to continue their organization into the coming generations. This involved integration of the Klan into the material taught in schools. The Klan and those associated with them edited the material to reflect the beliefs of the organization. This makes recruitment easier as the Klan reflects the morals and values secretly supplanted into the minds of susceptible students. This was most evident in the teaching of history in the classroom. Klansmen in positions of authority in schools such as superintendents used their influence to alter texts found in the classroom. This involved the recreation of textbooks to fit their nefarious agenda. The lack of a mention of slavery or even the leadup or aftermath of the civil war in the 1924 textbook is evidence of known involvement. It’s unclear if any of the principals or superintendents credited in the textbook are Klansmen, but the influence is quite evident. The textbook states, “This book is in no sense a complete history of New Jersey, the author hopes that its study may prove an inspiration to the purple to become an upright citizen of his community or state”. The absence of this major time period in the state’s history is done in a way to not invoke question. Unless there is other supplemental material taught in the classroom, the dark history of the state and the nation are removed from the collective memory. This book directly shows how “the amnesia of slavery” occurred not only in the state of New Jersey but across northern states. With the widespread recruitment push for new Klansmen, anyone learning in schools around this time would have no recollection of northern slavery’s existence. All the work in the decades past to bring this history into the classroom has been completely undone. Any book touching on the subject would have to start from scratch if the goals of those behind the book were successful.
Following the end of the Second World War, the U.S. would revisit the teaching of northern slavery. The post-war U.S. began to enter a period of civil rights and reforms as the Truman administration began to assist in the abolishment of segregation. This gets reflected in the 1947 U.S. history textbook American History by Howard Wilson and Wallice Lamb. This textbook is fascinating due to its creation. The book states that the author’s intentions for writing the textbook were to “include history and perspectives from this great nation that have been forgotten or removed over the years”. This indicates that the creation of the book was to teach a history that includes information removed by the Klan and other parties. The authors attempted to devise a history from the ground up that includes lost information including slavery. It kept its promise by including a simplified version of the slave trade and the quantity of forced labor employed. The text also looked into how the institution of slavery was a fundamental part of colonization in the Americas. It may not be the most perfect of tellings as it leaves the atrocities that faced the enslaved individuals out. This is significant as it leaves out the horrors that faced enslaved individuals. It creates the notion that this was a great injustice on the part of the colonists but was not as horrific as the reality of the situation. It keeps the reader, most likely a white student, separated from the event allowing no remorse for the actions of their forefathers to the black community. This was the last instance of slavery mentioned till the causes of the Civil War. There are two chapters dedicated to the development of agriculture and industry in the northern states and the southern states, but there is no mention of slavery whatsoever. What this does is reinforces the idea that slavery was there, but it wasn’t important in the continued development of the nation. The practice of slavery was only significant in establishing a foothold on the land. It makes the institution and the horrors faced by the enslaved people insignificant to economic development. However, coverage of the Civil War period possessed an interesting take on the content.
The 1947 textbooks’ stance on the Civil War and its aftermath indicate a deviation from the stranglehold of the Klan in education. The period leading up to the war has an interesting take on slavery. The text neither condemns nor supports either side of the debate on slavery. It creates this awkwardly neutral state when describing the situation that caused the suffering of so many. This is important as the goal appears to not anger those with sentiment in support of slavery. The author appears to be holding back their opinion on the matter and not getting into depth on the horrific reality. The text does have an allusion to the idea that the northern states either abandoned or abolished the practice. It describes this trope of the north being “abolitionist”, that there was no one within the state that opposed slavery. Following the end of the war, it does something unique to this text. The textbook described the reconstruction period in a way to appear successful rather than what happened in reality. The book described Reconstruction as establishing property in the south with 40 acres and a mule proposition. It describes how many would remain in the south as they were given property. What is also interesting is that it discusses the surge of newly freed black individuals getting into office as they finally received the right to vote. The book describes the downfall of the reconstruction as due to irresponsible spending of tax dollars and the creation of the Klan forcing black Americans to stay out of government and politics. The text portrays the Klan as the villain in reconstruction. It signifies a shift in public opinion and the elimination of their grasp on the education system. Information that pushes back on the lost cause narrative by showing that Reconstruction was sabotaged is making its way into schools. The neutral dialog however does indicate their presence is still there. The Klans’ limited presence is also indicated by the book leaving out many important details such as lynchings, or even the Great Migration of Black Americans to the north for work. These events had the potential to paint the Klan that existed at this time rather than the early organization during the reconstruction era in a negative light. The Klan may not have been as strong as they were in the previous decades, but was still a prominent organization throughout the nation, especially in the north. The textbooks telling of slavery does reinforce the notion that slavery was exclusively a southern problem, but this is not the first time this will occur.
Northern slavery’s absence in the classroom may not have been excluded due to racist involvement in the material. The relegation to slavery being exclusively southern is an issue that perpetuates to this modern day. This trend is one that Mr.Vikos, a former high school history teacher is very familiar with the pattern of returning to relegating slavery to exclusively the south. Mr. Vikos taught in Brooklyn from the late 1960s to the late 1990s. His insight into the teaching of northern slavery illustrates how racism is not the only factor in the removal of this information. In the late 60s, his school was facing a large influx of black students due to the end of segregation in 1963. The school would become nearly 100% black by 1975 and the teachers wanted to teach material that reflected the classroom’s demographics. This involved teaching northern slavery when the pre-Civil War era would arise in the classroom. “Students did enjoy the content at first, but as the years went on there were an increasing number of issues. The first was general confusion as students would get confused on what side slavery was on during the actual conflict. The second and most important issue was the lack of care. The students had no interest in learning about slavery that occurred here (New York)”. Eventually the teaching of northern slavery would be reduced as issues with the content would arise. “Readings on northern slavery were present in the classroom, but the likelihood anyone of the students remembered them a decade later is highly unlikely”. The teaching of northern slavery was present, but students would be the driving factor in its reduction. Eventually, the material would return to the idea that the north were free states and the south was slave states. There is a cycle of the subject of northern slavery appearing and then disappearing. The topic becomes introduced, it reaches a height where the issue is really focused on, and then an outside force acts, reducing the discussion back to the beginning. This trend can be seen between the textbooks from 1874 to 1924 with the Klan removing the material and again from 1947 to the 1970s when student interest would reduce its discussion. This trend would continue into the modern day. This becomes evident with the current lack of understanding of northern slavery even though the material is now present in almost every classroom in northern schools. The decades from the 1980s to the mid-2010s only serve to continue this trend.
To prove this theory of the teaching of northern slavery being a cycle, the decade of the 1980s serves as a point to see the material reintroduced. The 1980 textbook American History Review Text by Irving Gordon illustrates an interesting trend in the telling of history. This book was used in Port Richmond High School in Staten Island, New York throughout the 1980s and into the early 90s. The textbook immediately began with the colonization of America and the triangle trade after establishing a background on the New World. It also does a fantastic job of illustrating the population differences between the enslaved population and the white Europeans. This detail is that “slavery was found as a common practice throughout all English thirteen colonies”.Through discussing early American slavery, the inclusion that it existed within the entirety of the nation does allow the student reading to understand that the institution of slavery was in fact present in the north. Continuing the traditional organization structure, the textbook only mentions slavery only at the colonization of America and prior to the Civil War. This structure continues to assist in undermining the severity and longevity of the institution of slavery. When it begins to discuss the pre-Civil war era, it does call out hypocrisy. Though it may be two paragraphs, it sheds light on the hypocrisy of northern slavery. This hypocrisy was the north participating in slavery while simultaneously vilifying the south for participating in the exact same practice. This is significant as this is the first textbook examined to touch upon this issue. Not only does it bring to light northern slavery, but the textbook condemns the north for criticizing southern slavery before it abolished the practice fully within its states. Upon reaching the point of reconstruction, the textbook’s messages begin to shift.
Though time long since passed the time of Klan involvement, the telling of the history still bears its scars. The language of the text leads to assumptions with the vocabulary used to describe the black community at different points. In the beginning, they were described as “Africans” who then transitioned into being referred to as “enslaved” individuals. In the years during reconstruction, they are referred to as “Black”. However, once reconstruction ends they become “negros”. What this shows is the perpetuation of the lost cause mentality through the vocabulary. The idea of referring to black individuals as “negros” in this text is to establish the notion that the black community during the point of reconstruction and after are two different kinds of people. There also are present many allusions to what is going on in the north but the reality is vastly different. An example of this is the education system constructed in the south during Reconstruction. It stated “Negros, as well as whites, were guaranteed free compulsory public education by the reconstruction constitutions of the southern states. However, after the southern whites regained control, Negros received schooling that was segregated and inferior”. This line does highlight the notion that there was segregation and inferior education in the south but makes it appear that it was not a problem in the north. Segregated schools were prominent in the north as well and in some cases persisted far longer than they were legally able to. What this wording does that becomes commonplace is make the south sound like a racist and discriminatory place and paint the northern states in a light that is far from the reality that existed. The textbook does a decent job of illustrating the regression of the discussion of northern slavery. It may establish the institution existed in the north, but it lacks descriptions of the conditions. The text also regresses to race-charged wording linking its connection to the history of previous Klan-influenced textbooks. This would change as the nation entered the 1990s.
The discussion on northern slavery would continue due to its prioritization. The 90s would be a point where the material on northern slavery would begin to grow once again. Starting in 1996, Mr.Vikos would be responsible for approving textbooks for schools in the central headquarters. When asked about the criteria for what textbooks got approved, he would respond with the topic of slavery. He recalled how “many textbooks would just have a paragraph or two on the subject of slavers as a whole. It is impossible to cover all of the slavery in a single book, how do you do it in one paragraph? A textbook would only get passed if it discussed the social, political, and economic factors of both the north and the south”. He would stress the economic section as this would be the deciding factor of slavery’s perpetuation for both the north and the south. What was illustrated was a reinvigoration of the content. This was an individual who was passionate about bringing this information to the classroom and was in a place to do so. With the discovery of the massive burial of enslaved individuals in Manhattan a few years prior, there was a draw into teaching northern slavery.
As time progresses into the modern day, the pattern of the rise and fall of northern slavery’s discussion in the classroom only becomes more rapid of a cycle. Three different versions of the American Pageant textbook by Thomas Bailey, David Kennedy, and Lizabeth Cohen illustrate the perpetuation of the rise and fall of northern slavery in the classroom. The editions in question are the 2006, 2013, and 2016 versions. What makes these books unique is that they are currently in use in schools in New Jersey. The ones examined were in the possession of students actively using them in the classroom. What makes this even more interesting is the parts that were changed. The beginning chapters detail the triangle trade and the enslavement of the native American populations and the African populations. It even includes how slavery reach the American colonies in 1619 from captured slaves en route to Spanish colonies diverted to Virginia. The wording is almost exactly word for word between editions, so uniform it’s almost conspicuous. The differences become starkly relevant when the discussion of American slavery comes to question.
The three discussed American Pageant textbooks present differences that illustrate the increase and decline of the topic of northern slavery. Each book possessed a section dedicated to slavery between the founding of the nation and the civil war, slavery prior to the civil war, and a chapter on reconstruction. The differences become apparent in the first few paragraphs of the section. The 2006 edition was altered to include a deeper perspective of northern slavery following the revelation that attempts to include the material were unsuccessful. This is evident as the edition remarked that in the north there was freedom being attained, but there was more hatred of black Americans than in the south. This gets reinforced by the story of an individual who was born enslaved in the south, sold in New York City, and was eventually freed after eight years of servitude and the conditions she lived in after gaining freedom. The textbook accurately portrayed the conditions of slavery, and by covering the north before the south in the description of slavery, it gives the impression that slavery was equally horrible in practice throughout the nation. The 2013 edition states that northern slavery was just small farms with no large-scale plantations. It goes into detail about how New York abolished all of its slavery and possessed far better-living conditions than the south. This entirely changes the established narrative that slavery was a horrible practice. The text almost glorifies the practice of slavery in the state of New York. The 2016 edition resolves these issues by taking the best aspects of the two together. It largely emphasizes the story of the enslaved woman by giving it its own dedicated page. It includes an interesting insight into the northern slavery perspective. It does an excellent job of discussing how “few northerners were prepared for the outright abolition of slavery”. It goes in-depth at looking at the economic issues facing the north if it were to abolish slavery and the general view of the population wanting reform rather than abolition. The description of the popular view of the time feeds into a clearer understanding of the northern hypocrisy. This being the desire to abolish slaves in the south rather than within their own borders. The combining of the best of the two prior editions is the greatest strength of the sixteenth edition. Due to its publication date, the revised text containing a large amount of northern slavery material could be due to the political climate in 2016. The contentious political election sought to reinvigorate the discussion of slavery, especially that of northern states. This may be only speculation due to the recentness of this change, but outside forces like that are indicators of material like this being reintroduced based on the previously analyzed patterns in the earlier textbooks discussed. The three different textbooks indicate a falling point in the 2006 edition due to the reinvigoration in the 90s, a low point in 2015 as northern slavery was no longer in style, and then a spike in 2016 due to a shifting political climate.
What the analysis of these texts indicate is a disturbing trend of periodically increasing and decreasing the teaching of northern slavery in the northern states. There are large and periodic appearances of this under-discussed material and it appears to almost be predictable.
We begin to see it untaught in the classroom in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War. This was due to the material being largely sourced from the New England Primer, a book that focused on basic language, mathematics, and civic education. The exclusivity of this textbook would fuel the “lost cause” ideology. This ideology was the belief that the south was justified in fighting for slavery as reconstruction failed, proving black individuals could never be equal to their white counterparts.The discussion of northern slavery begins to increase in the mid-1870s based on the material from Condensed U.S. History from 1874. Though the description of events leads much of the history of northern slavery out, it does make its appearance known. Entering the 20th century we see a boom in the discussion of the material. In the textbook of the history of New Jersey, Stories of New Jersey, there is a detailed history of slavery in the state. It goes as far back as the Dutch and only gets slightly inaccurate in the end with the eventual abolition of the institution. This revolutionary discussion of the material comes crashing down in the 1920s. This is illustrated by the 1924 textbook An Elementary History of New Jersey. Its lack of not only the discussion of slavery in the north, but the absence of the entire practice is the ultimate goal of the “lost cause”. It indicates the idea of the Klan using education as a way to indoctrinate young and new members, and this came at the price of editing textbooks to reflect their views on society. Textbooks and educational material would bear the scars from this alteration for dedicated to come.
The coming age of civil rights reform would attempt to distance itself from the past. The restructuring of this discussion of northern slavery is illustrated in the 1947 textbook American History. Its limited appearance shows that the topic once again rose into the discussion. From the perspective of a history teacher from the late 60s to the mid-1970s, coverage began to increase once again to a clear point in the late 60s as schools finally began to become more diverse due to an end of segregation. Northern slavery’s discussion then began to fall in the 70s as the civil rights movement would lose its ground in the years following Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. The discussion on northern slavery would reach a low in the 1980s and gets illustrated by the 1980 history textbook American History Review Text. It may call out the North but it shows clear evidence of promoting the “lost cause” mentality due to its racially charged language. The 90’s would see a rise in the discussion of northern slavery again as the discovery of the largest enslaved cemetery in the nation would be found under Manhattan. The depth of the discussion on northern slavery reached a height in 2006 with the American Pageant 13th edition. It includes a detailed section on slavery in New York and that the horrors of slavery were present in the north. It even details how northerners viewed the practice as unjust but did little to nothing to end it within their states while criticizing the south. From this height there is a dramatic fall in the 2013 edition of the same textbook. It led to the idea that slavery was small in the north and that it was far better in conditions than in the south. It also creates the illusion that it was abolished by the 1860s rather than continuing throughout the civil war. Lastly, we see a jump in the discussion emerging in 2016. The American Pageant textbook’s 16th edition rectifies this issue of a decrease in the discussion. It adds material from the 2006 edition and expands on the practice and conditions of northern slavery. It’s unclear what the cause of this shift could be, but one could only speculate it was done out of a response to the changing climates and the increased national discussion on the longevity of the impacts the institution of slavery had on the nation.
With these trends highlighted, it’s important to note that there has never been a steady teaching of the material. Teachers have struggled with finding ways to get the material across without creating unnecessary confusion. The importance of this subject is unparalleled as its atrocities have never truly been righted. The perpetuation of these trends creates a lost history of the horrifying events that unfolded beneath the feet of students. They can adequately describe the atrocities that happened in distant states but are oblivious to the same atrocities that happened only a few miles away. The lack of a focus or understanding of what happened in the backyards of both teachers and students alike truly creates and perpetuates the “the amnesia of slavery”.
There is hope however that this continuous issue does get brought to light in the classroom. The awareness on the part of the students and teachers alike can see an end to its repetition. Teachers bringing this issue to the forefront and explaining to students that slavery happened here, and that it goes undiscussed, may inspire students to speak up when this topic is left out. Activism on this issue is key to maintaining its presence in the classroom and that these forgotten lessons never become forgotten again.
Bailey, Thomas, David Kennedy, and Lizabeth Cohen. The American Pageant. 13th ed. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning, 2006.
Bailey, Thomas, David Kennedy, and Lizabeth Cohen. The American Pageant. 15th ed. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning, 2013.
Bailey, Thomas, David Kennedy, and Lizabeth Cohen. The American Pageant. 16th ed. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning, 2016.
Blight, David W. Race, and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2001.
Gigantino II, James J. “The Curious Memory of Slavery in New Jersey, 1865-1941.” New Jersey Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 6 (1): 35–55. 2020, Academic Search Premier doi:10.14713/njs.v6i1.188. Accessed 9/28/22.
Gigantino II, James J. The Ragged Road to Abolition: Slavery and Freedom in New Jersey, 1775-1865. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016.
Gigantino II, James J.“‘’The Whole North Is Not Abolitionist’’.” Journal of the Early Republic 34 (3): 411–37. 2014, Academic Search Premier doi:10.1353/jer.2014.0040. Accessed 9/28/22
Gordon, Irving L. Review Text in American History. New York, NY: AMSCO School Publications, 1980.
Gordon, Linda. The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition. New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, a division of W.W. Norton & Company, 2018.
Jay, Bethany, and Cynthia Lynn Lyerly. Understanding and Teaching American Slavery. Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2016.
Lapsansky-Werner, Emma J., Peter B. Levy, Randy Roberts, Alan Taylor, and Kathy Swan. United States History: The Twentieth Century. 19th ed. California. New York, NY: Pearson Education, Inc., 2019.
Lapsansky-Werner, Emma J., Peter B. Levy, Randy Roberts, Alan Taylor, and Kathy Swan. United States History: The Twentieth Century. 19th ed. Texas. New York, NY: Pearson Education, Inc., 2019.
Mydland, Leidulf. “The Leg of One-Room Schoolhouses: A Comparative Study of the AME…” European journal of American studies. European Association for American Studies, February 24, 2011. https://journals.openedition.org/ejas/9205.
New Jersey. Laws, Statutes, Etc. An act for the gradual abolition of slavery … Passed at Trenton . Burlington, S. C. Ustick, printer 1804. Burlington, 1804. Pdf. https://www.loc.gov/item/rbpe.0990100b/.
Pearcy, Mark, “We Are Not Enemies”: An Analysis of Textbook Depictions of Fort Sumter at the beginning of the Civil War, The History Teacher, Volume 52 Number 4, Society for History Education, August 2019
Swinton, William. Swinton’s Condensed United States: A Condensed School History of the United States: Constructed for Definite Results in Recitation and Containing a New Method of Topical Reviews. New York, Chicago: Ivinson, Blakeman & Co., 1871.
Vikos, George and Greenstein, Andrew. Conversation at Marina Cafe, Staten Island NY, November 14th, 2022
Westminster Assembly. The New England primer improved: for the easy attaining the true reading of English, to which is added, the Assembly of Divines, and Mr. Cotton’s catechism. Boston: Printed for and sold by A. Ellison, in Seven-Star Lane, 1773. Pdf. https://www.loc.gov/item/22023945/.
Wilson, Howard E, and Wallice E Lamb. American History. Schoharie, NY: American Book Company, 1947.
Wolinetz, Gary K., When Slavery Wasn’t a Dirty Word in NJ, New Jersey Lawyer, February 15th, 1999
Pearcy, Mark, “We Are Not Enemies”: An Analysis of Textbook Depictions of Fort Sumter at the beginning of the Civil War, The History Teacher, Volume 52 Number 4, Society for History Education, August 2019, p.611
 Pearcy, “We Are Not Enemies”: An Analysis of Textbook Depictions of Fort Sumter at the beginning of the Civil War, p.596
 Samuel Wood & Sons, Beauties of the New-England primer p.4-21
 Samuel Wood & Sons, Beauties of the New-England primer p.22-30
Westminster Assembly. The New-England primer improved: for the more easy attaining the true reading of English, to which is added, the Assembly of Divines, and Mr. Cotton’s catechism. Boston: Printed for and sold by A. Ellison, in Seven-Star Lane, 1773. Pdf. https://www.loc.gov/item/22023945/ ,p.29-31
Mydland, Leidulf. “The Legacy of One-Room Schoolhouses: A Comparative Study of the AME…” European journal of American studies. European Association for American Studies, February 24, 2011. https://journals.openedition.org/ejas/9205.
Blight, David W. Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2001.p.255
Blight, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory p.257
Blight, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory p.287
 Blight, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory p.283
Swinton, William. Swinton’s Condensed United States: A Condensed School History of the United States: Constructed for Definite Results in Recitation and Containing a New Method of Topical Reviews. New York, Chicago: Ivinson, Blakeman & Co., 1871, p. 235
 Swinton, Swinton’s Condensed United States: A Condensed School History of the United States p. 236
 Swinton, Swinton’s Condensed United States: A Condensed School History of the United States p. 288-291
 Swinton, Swinton’s Condensed United States: A Condensed School History of the United States p. 237
 Wolinetz, When Slavery Wasn’t a Dirty Word in NJ
 New Jersey, An act for the gradual abolition of slavery.
 Gigantino II, James J. “The Curious Memory of Slavery in New Jersey, 1865-1941.” New Jersey Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 6 (1): 35–55. 2020, Academic Search Premier doi:10.14713/njs.v6i1.188. Accessed 9/28/22.
 Gigantino II, James J. “The Curious Memory of Slavery in New Jersey, 1865-1941.” p.36
 Gigantino II, James J. “The Curious Memory of Slavery in New Jersey, 1865-1941.” p.37
 Thomson, An elementary history of New Jersey P.v
 Thomson, An elementary history of New Jersey P.ix
 Thomson, An elementary history of New Jersey P.150
Gordon, Linda. The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition. New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, a division of W.W. Norton & Company, 2018. p.2
 Gordon, Linda. The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition p.65
 Gordon, Linda. The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition p.67
 Thomson, An elementary history of New Jersey P.iv
 Gigantino II, James J. “The Curious Memory of Slavery in New Jersey, 1865-1941.” p.36
In the Spring 2022 semester, Dr. Nancy Hagedorn of the Department of History led a group of history students to develop a Digital History of Slavery and Runaways in New York.
As part of the history department’s efforts to help students develop historical research and digital technology skills, students created an innovative, public history using arcGIS Story Maps.
The project was conceived as an applied history course to introduce students to digital history methods and techniques by focusing on New York runaway ads. The class began by reading about digital history and its methods and uses, and then extensively about the history of runaways and slavery generally. Finally, the class focused on slavery in New York and New York City specifically. To facilitate the class’ digital history research and answer questions about slavery and runaways in New York, members compiled a database of New York runaway ads using transcribed ads culled primarily from the Freedom on the Move database at Cornell University. The class input data on 641 runaways between 1730 and 1811, and also compiled census data on slaveholding in New York State using the Northeast Slave Records Index at Lloyd Sealy Library and John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
More information on the project can be found online.
The first Blacks arrived in New Amsterdam in 1626, imported from Africa as slaves by the Dutch West India Company. During the British occupation of New York City in 1776 the population soared after the Crown promised freedom to slaves who deserted their rebel masters. It resulted in thousands of runaway slaves flocking into the city. By 1780, there were more than 10,000 Blacks living in New York. Finally, in 1827, slavery was abolished in New York. But freedom did not necessarily translate into improvement in the lives of Black citizens.
The city, of course, was tasked with the education of all children; but integrated classrooms was not conceivable. “Colored schools” were established, staffed by Blacks. They were an offshoot of the first African Free School, established in 1787 on Mulberry Street. Seven Colored Schools were organized in 1834.
In 1853 Primary Schools No. 27 and 29 shared the new 25-foot wide building at No. 98 West 17th Street (renumbered 128 in 1868). Three stories tall and faced in brick, it had two entrances–one for boys and the other for girls–as expected in Victorian school buildings. In the basement was a small living space for the janitress, Mary Sallie.
There were four teachers in each school, all unmarried women. Their wages in 1855 ranged from $400, earned by H. A. McCormick (about $12,200 a year today), to the $100 salaries earned by Abbie M. Saunders and Eliza Ideson. How the women survived on the equivalent of $3,000 a year in today’s money is remarkable.
The street address was not the only thing about the school building that would change. By 1861 it was renumbered Primary School No. 14 (H. A. McCormick was still teaching here at the time), and within two years it became Colored School No. 7. That year it was staffed by seven teachers–four teachers in the Boys’ Department and three in the Primary Department.
By 1866 the name was changed yet again, now known as Colored Grammar School No. 4. Schools across the city staged a yearly exhibition of the children’s work and this one was no exception. On May 30 that year, the New York Herald reported “The exhibition of Colored Grammar School No. 4 took place last evening at the Cooper Institute. The audience was quite large, and included a few white persons, both male and female, and was well pleased with the exercises embraced in the programme.” The newspaper was careful to point out that the school was “formerly No. 7.”
Rather surprisingly, two specialized teachers were added to the staff in 1868. William Appo, a renowned Black musician, taught music and S. Anna Burroughs taught drawing.
Graduating from grammar school was an important milestone, especially for Black children who were often pulled from school in order to work and help their families financially. On March 5, 1869 The Sun reported “In Colored Grammar School No. 4, in Seventeenth street, Mrs. Sarah J. S. Thompkins, the principal, treated her pupils to an inauguration celebration. Remarks were made by the Rev. Charles B. Ray, Fred Sill, C. E. Blake, Jacob Thomas, and William F. Busler.”
The position of music teacher was taken by Joan Imogen Howard, who came from Boston, Massachusetts. Like William Appo, she was recognized as an accomplished musician. She was as well an ardent worker for integration and racial rights. On October 30, 1892 The World reported “Miss J. Imogen Howard, the only colored woman on the Board of Lady Managers of the [Chicago] World’s Fair, is busily engaged in gathering statistics concerning colored women in New York State.
Reflecting the innate racism of the time, the reporter asked Howard if it was possible for a Black woman to become a member of “the learned professions here.” Her reaction was visible. “Miss Howard looked surprised,” said the article. She replied “I know of a great many. In Brooklyn there are three doctors, each of them enjoying a large practice and doing well…I am personally acquainted with one colored woman who graduated from law school with honors…Miss Ida B. Wells, a young colored girl, is assistant editor of the New York Age, a weekly paper devoted to the interests of the colored people.” She went on to list a number of other successful professional women.
In 1873 the attendance of Colored School No. 4 was 120 pupils. The school building was showing the effects of two decades of use. An inspection by the School Board that year found in part: “ceilings cracked through and need repairing; ventilation by windows; water closets of wood, in poor condition; heated by seven wood stoves, properly shielded with tin.”
The tin-lined flues of the cast iron stoves would cause problems at least twice. On January 6, 1879 The New York Evening Express entitled an article “Scared Colored School-Children” and reported “A defective flue caused a fire this morning in Colored School No. 4, at 128 West Seventeenth street. The fire occurred just before the assembling of the school, and a panic was thus averted, although the children collected around the building were considerably frightened.”
It may have been that incident that prompted Principal Sarah J. S. Garnet to routinely instruct the pupils on how to react to a fire. (Sarah Garnet was the widow of the Rev. Dr. Henry Highland Garnet, the former Minister to Liberia.) It proved to be worthwhile instruction. On February 14, 1883 The Sun reported that another flue fire had broken out.
At around 10:30 that morning children on the second floor noticed wisps of smoke “and became restless.” Mrs. Garnet told a reporter “I had frequently told the children that if fire broke out they would have sufficient warning from me to enable them to walk safely out of the school building. Their faith in me is what saved them from a panic.”
There was a total of 150 children in the building. Garnet instructed a teacher to arrange the pupils on the second floor in straight lines, while she went upstairs to do the same with the youngest children. “At a signal the pupils marched down the narrow, wooden stairways and stood quietly in the inner court yard.” One child ran three blocks to the nearest fire station. The fire was quickly extinguished and the pupils were marched back to their desks. “They were as busy in the afternoon as though nothing had happened,” said The Sun.
In 1884, Joshua S. Lawrence published an article in Ballou’s Monthly Magazine entitled “The Negroes of New York.” He praised racial advances, beginning, “What a contrast between now and twenty years ago! Then they were vassals, now they are clamoring for the offices and other perquisites of a free government.” His out-of-touch assessment was highly biased and he insisted “The negro in this city is not debarred or hindered in any way…Their children are allowed to enter public schools all over the city, besides having separate ones, taught by their own teachers.”
The article pointed out that integration was slowly coming about. “In order to show that the color line is breaking in this regard, an idea encouraged by the Board of Education, is not to take notice of complaints when two or more negro children happen to be near the offspring of some fastidious parent.” Lawrence mentioned Colored School No. 4, saying it combined “both primary and grammar,” levels.
At the time of the article the prospects for the school were dim. The Board of Education had already proposed closing the school. The minutes of the Board of Education on March 5, 1884 documented the receipt of a petition “From the Teachers of Colored Grammar School No. 4, asking that said school be continued for a longer period than that assigned by the action of the Board in 1883.” The petition was forwarded to the Committee of Colored Schools. Its decision was no doubt disheartening.
The teachers were permitted to continue to teach “in other premises than the school building, but without incurring any expense on the part of the Board.” In other words, if the teachers wanted to continue the school, they were responsible for all aspects of it, including funding.
But there was obviously a change of heart. The facility continued, now known as Grammar School No. 81. Sarah J. S. Garnet was still principal, and Joan Imogen Howard was still teaching here in 1892. Another inspection that year reflected the poor sanitary conditions. It said “the sinks are defective and cannot be cleaned and flushed regularly. The closets [i.e. toilet rooms] are not ventilated, but are filled with sewer gas and foul air.”
The push to discontinue the school in the 17th Street property continued. In December 1894, Mayor William L. Strong received a resolution from the Board of Education “requesting the sale of property No. 128 West Seventeenth street.” By the following year, the building was unoccupied.
Finally, on March 24, 1896 the City signed a deal with the Civil War veterans of the 73rd Regiment to lease the ground floor as its clubhouse. Four months later renovations had been completed and on July 6, 1896 the New-York Daily Tribune reported “The members of the Veteran Association of the 73d New-York Volunteers-2d Fire Zouaves–held a celebration in honor of the opening of their new headquarters, No. 128 West Seventeenth Street–the old schoolhouse.” Among the entertainment that night was John J. Moloney, who “gave his bone solo, which elicited much applause.”
The club rooms were decorated with war relics, perhaps the most significant of which was the first Confederate war flag captured by the North. On March 11, 1907 The Yonkers Statesman explained that it had been taken by Corporal Daniel Boone on May 2, 1862 at Yorktown, Virginia. Interestingly, the city retained possession of the old school house property. On January 19, 1921 The City Record announced that renovations would be made “to properly place the premises…in a state of occupancy for the Veteran Fire Association.” The 73rd Regiment Veterans remained in the ground floor while $5,000 was spent in renovations on the upper floors for the Veteran Fire Association.
The new residents renamed their portion of the building Firemen’s Hall. Like its downstairs neighbor, it was a social club. On February 17, 1923, for instance, The Brooklyn Standard Union reported “The Veteran Firemen’s Association held its annual banquet last Saturday night, at Firemen’s Hall, 128 West 17th Street, Manhattan. There were 300 members and their guests present, and it was a most unique affair.” The two organizations remained in the building at least into the 1930’s. A renovation in 1931 made “general repairs to the toilets, urinals and all the fixtures.” The building was later acquired by the New York City Department of Sanitation, which utilizes it today. At some point a veneer of yellow brick was applied. Remarkably, the small paned windows survive. The little building with its remarkable history is easily passed by today with little notice.
The attack on Critical Race Theory is creating controversy in education. For the first time in my professional career, I am apprehensive about teaching any subject having to do with race, religion, Blackness, Whiteness and all things cultural. Why? The simple answer lies in the attempted coup of education by some parents over their misunderstanding about Critical Race Theory and conflating it with Culturally Relevant Teaching. IT IS being used as a political ping-pong, mainly by the Republicans to erase parts of American history that mainly deals with the cruelties of slavery and mistreatment of people of color. While apprehensive, I remain true to history and will always teach as I have been doing for the past 20 plus years.
I have been an educator for 21 years. I began my teaching career in East New York, Brooklyn, as a middle school Social Studies teacher at one of the lowest performing schools in New York City. Regardless of the school’s low performance status, my students were some of the smartest and kindest I have ever taught. They were aware of the shortcomings of their reality. They knew the truth and were not afraid to voice their opinions, good, bad or indifferent. It was fun and challenging teaching them, but they took their agency, no one had to give it to them. After a year in Brooklyn, I left in 2000 to teach conversational English in Tokyo, Japan for a half year and returned to East New York for another year. The past two decades, I have been in the Uniondale School District. I took a sabbatical in 2016 to teach in the United Arab Emirates, where I taught Humanities to Arab, continental African, Canadian, South American, and Indian middle school scholars at American International School, Abu Dhabi. This year, I am teaching African and Latinx History to upperclassmen and Global History to 9th graders in Uniondale High School.
In my years as an educator, I have assisted and led many activities and events outside of the classroom; most notably, a student forum on police brutality in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting back in 2014. I also created a girls Rite of Passage program in 2004 at one of the two middle schools in Uniondale. When President Barack Obama was elected in 2008, I assisted the Uniondale High School in planning a “controversial” inauguration assembly in recognition of the first African American elected President of the United States. The program was considered “controversial” because a number of white teachers objected and boycotted the event.
I have also worked with Dr. Alan Singer, professor at Hofstra University, for many years. I asked him to lead a discussion on the complexities surrounding the Iraq war back in 2003 to my middle schoolers and he was the keynote speaker for a forum held between two racially segregated communities, Oceanside and Uniondale. We discussed police brutality and other racially charged issues on Long Island in 2015. The discussion of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the absence of weapons of mass destructive also produced heated faculty blowback.
I have immersed myself in “controversial,” or as I would prefer to call them, “contemporary issues” my entire career. I am finding that in this day and age, the topics I chose to cover back then would be considered blasphemy today. For example, Bridges was created to foster empathy, and collaboration amongst White, Black and Hispanic students who live in neighboring communities, attend different schools, and have little contact with each other. It is the goal of the program to engage students in the evaluation of contemporary issues related to race, economics, and politics that will lead to well-rounded, active, and engaged citizens. In Bridges, difficult conversations are encouraged and the asking of challenging questions is nurtured. Divergent points of views are not shunned with the understanding that students can agree to disagree with civility. In this program we have discussed the January 6th insurrection, the legacy of segregation on Black and Brown communities, cross-cultural experiences of Black and White students, and other contemporary issues that would make those who dislike Critical Race Theory very uncomfortable.
Back in 2014, when I decided to do the forum about police brutality in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting with my Participation and Government scholars, I did not think of the backlash or its “controversial” nature. I thought about the hopelessness I saw in my students that September. They looked at me as just another teacher. It was as if they gave up on learning and embraced the Read, Answer Questions, Pass a Test and Repeat pedagogical style. But, little did they know, I was not that teacher, I have never been that teacher. Recognizing this hopelessness in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting prompted me to change the way I would teach this course. As it was my first time teaching the course, I wanted to make it real for the students. After all, it’s a “Participation” in Government class. I took that term “participation” literally and decided they would be active, as opposed to passively learning in this course. Therefore, learning through doing became one of the goals. Their hopelessness from my perspective was due to the way the year began, with the shooting coupled with normal senioritis and a genuine boredom for all things related to school. Therefore, empowering their voices became my mission, and so I challenged them to put on a forum on police brutality. After all, our early ancestors, who created great civilizations in Africa, Greece, Rome and the Americas, held forums to gauge the feelings of their subjects on controversial issues. Furthermore, forums give voice to the voiceless and empower citizens to take further action. To me this is how a democratic society prospers; it actively engages young people early on.
Gone are the days of sitting in the class and taking notes on how great democracy is when in reality my students were not having, or seeing, that same example in their day-to-day lives. In their world, fairness was a fairytale. To them education was boring and they were tired and ready to graduate and join the rest of humanity in the rat race called life. However, I refused to let them leave in this manner. I was, and am, still very idealistic and optimistic about education and what it can do for young people charged with taking over, ready or not. Nonetheless, I charged them with putting on a school-wide forum on police brutality. They were very reluctant at first, as they were not used to being placed in leadership positions. But I assured them that the worst that can happen is the principal says no and then they don’t have the forum, but they had to ask first. They asked and to their surprise, not mine, the principal agreed. My principal at the time, was very supportive of student engagement. Having a strong principal makes a world of difference for a teacher like me. She was not afraid to support any program or event that gave students a voice. Again, as their teacher, my concern was not the backlash. My goals were to help them love learning, give them agency and have them practice their voice.
In preparation for the forum, they researched about the Civil Rights Movement and the history of police brutality in America. I felt they needed to see the trend, be informed, and be armed with solid information when they spoke in front of their peers. I wanted them to be confident when they took to the stage. I wanted them to lead. Many scholars are not given the tools to be leaders in real world scenarios. It was important to me to have these non-AP scholars lead an academic forum in front of their peers who only saw them in non-academic settings. These were scholars that always got in trouble; they were not jocks or honor students, just “regular,” sometimes forgotten people. I wanted them to be heard and seen, as they have something to say and lots to give.
All of the above were also my goals in starting the Rite of Passage program. These were also my goals when I decided to be the first advisor of the Bridges High School program. I believe giving scholars the opportunity to lead and participate in real world scenarios makes education palatable – it makes it real. As with science and math, many scholars ask, “When will I need this in real life?” Some teachers are able to show the why and some aren’t. These days however, STEAM and STEM have become the norm. As a history teacher, Historical and Civic Literacy is just as important as STEAM and STEM to me. Making space for these contemporary issues gives students agency and time to hone their Social Studies skills of argumentation, observation, listening, speaking, analyzing, synthesizing and application.
When I started the Rite of Passage program some ten years ago in my district, it was to help girls of color, especially darker hue girls, accept themselves in a world that constantly ignores them. Another goal was to help girls get along better, to learn how to respect each other despite their difference in hair texture, complexion or whatever else distract girls from being their best. While I did not see this program as controversial, today it seems as though it is. With the Crown Act being passed in California and other states, African textured hair seems to be a problem in the workplace and in schools. Girls of color are 5.5 times more likely to be suspended from school, starting in pre-school. Programs like the Rite of Passage aim to reveal the controversial issues that plague Black girls. Many of the girls I had in the program have since graduated college and are well into their careers. I have received Facebook posts and text messages from them referencing our time together and how impactful those times had on them then and now.
Simply put, I am an educator who does not shy away from contemporary topics or historical controversies in and out of the classroom. My goal has always been to make sure scholars love learning and intrinsically love the art of learning about themselves, within the context of mirrors, windows, and glass sliding doors. I also aim to instill the love of learning in order to help them make their communities a place they are proud of and value. My upbringing in a Jamaican-Nigerian household has strongly shaped my approach as an educator. I also received these messages from my upbringing in my African American community after moving to the United States in 1987 from Nigeria.
Curriculum focused on Culturally Relevant Teaching is under attack and it is being interwoven in the debate about Critical Race Theory. While some elements of culture are in Critical Race Theory, the philosophy was not intended for K-12 education. When parents fail to understand the importance of creating safe spaces for scholars to speak about controversial issues or contemporary issues, it marginalizes young people of color. For instance, White teachers make up 79% of the teaching staff across America, and Black and Hispanic teachers make up less than 5% of the teaching staff in predominantly white schools. Where is the diversity of thought when scholars graduate from high school? How are students of color being taught, let alone having their issues addressed in forums or in the classroom? When does a white child meet or interact with a Black or Brown teacher? These are questions that need to be raised in education. But how can we discuss these and other topics when Critical Race Theory is being conflated with Culturally Relevant Teaching and anything having to do with race or culture is seen as divisive rather than an integral part of progress? School is the place to teach and grapple with controversial topics in a responsible way, of course. The attacks on Critical Race Theory and Culturally Relevant Teaching are making it harder to teach controversial topics in history as well as put on programs about contemporary issues as I have done in the past, creating a tense environment to discuss these topics freely and responsibly. I am afraid educators like me will continue to be apprehensive about teaching subjects having to do with race or spear head programs that raise contemporary issues. I am afraid that the attack on CRT will take over education and take us back to a time when teachers wrote notes on the board, students copied, memorized information, did not or could not ask questions, took a test, barely passed and moved on to the next grade anyway. This type of “teaching” has not been productive, especially in Black and Brown school districts. As a result of this style of pedagogy, if you can call it that, our Black and Brown scholars have been mislabeled, wrongly disciplined and have been marginalized from the curriculum. Really, they are just bored and uninterested in an education that fails to recognize them. As educators we have a responsibility to speak up and not allow the attack on Critical Race Theory to lead us back to the 80’s, 90’s, and early 2000’s when schools did not address the academic needs of Black and Brown students, but instead disproportionately placed them in SPED classes and suspended them in droves, creating the school-to-prison pipeline that so many in education reference today. All students really need is a true education.
Koquethagechton, also known as White Eyes, was a Lenape chief living in Ohio Country. He married Rachel Doddridge, a white woman who had been taken captive by the Lenape at age 5 and had become fully assimilated to Lenape life. As an adult, Doddridge chose to remain an adopted Lenape.
When the American Revolution began, Koquethagechton initially tried to remain neutral, but before long it became evident that he would have to take sides. In 1777, Koquethagechton addressed the Continental Congress, and the following year negotiated a peace treaty with American representatives.
Which of the following provisions should Koquethagechton have sought in a peace treaty?
Select one option and explain your answer in 3 to 5 sentences.
A new state shall be created for the Lenape, incorporating the nation into the United States with representation in Congress.
The United States must build a fort in Lenape territory to help protect the Lenape from attacks by other Native American nations or from the British.
The United States shall provide the Lenape with clothing, utensils, and weapons as needed.
Amazingly, the Treaty of Fort Pitt, signed September 17, 1778, included all of these provisions. The promise of a 14th state along with Congressional representation is something that was never promised to any other Native American group, but relied upon the further approval of Congress. Unfortunately, the treaty never received the support of Congress and was ultimately rendered meaningless.
Later that year, while accompanying American soldiers in Ohio Country, Koquethagechton died at the age of 48. Initially the cause of death was reported as smallpox, but eventually it was revealed he had been murdered by the American militia. Nearly ten years later (circa 1788), Rachel Doddridge was murdered in the course of a robbery by white men disguised as Native Americans. Both of their stories are compelling and worthy of more examination, but our focus here turns to their son, George Morgan White Eyes, partly named for Koquethagechton’s American friend, who would become the boy’s guardian.
White Eyes was seven years old when his father died. The Continental Congress assumed financial responsibility for the upbringing of the chief’s son. White Eyes was likely the first recipient of government-based student financial aid from the U.S. government. After completing grammar school, he was enrolled at the College of New Jersey in Princeton in 1785.
In December 1787, he and three other students were summoned before a disciplinary committee for insolence towards a tutor. Apparently, it wasn’t the only time he’d gotten in trouble at school. His guardian decided to remove him from Princeton and sent him to New York City to temporarily be under the care of a merchant tailor while awaiting instructions from Congress on what to do with young White Eyes. His guardian explained in a letter to Congress that White Eyes’ misbehavior may have had to do with his learning the news of his mother’s recent death and the long-concealed truth about his father’s murder. Morgan suggested that instead of sending him back to Princeton – or back to his nation – that White Eyes be sent to a different institution of higher learning, like Yale.
Which of the following choices do you think 18-year-old George Morgan White Eyes would make?
Select one option and explain your answer in 3 to 5 sentences.
Go back to Ohio Country to live among his own people.
Let his future be decided by George Morgan and the decision of Congress.
Strike out on his own in the New York to find a job and be independent.
Appeal directly to someone in power, explaining his desire to either be given a job or further education.
On June 2, 1789, George Morgan White Eyes wrote to President George Washington:
“[N]ot the severest Want shall make me return to my native Country—Tis thought from the Behaviour of my Colleagues while at Princeton that I will follow their Example—but never—I shall say but little but I trust my heart is fixed, & the time may come that this now feeble Arm, may be stretched out in the Service of America; & render the United or Individual States essential Service.
My humble request is & has this some Months past, that if the Burthen (sic) is too great on the United States that some kind of Employment may be pointed in order that I thereby may obtain a Living a[long] the Line that Congress probably first intended—That is agreeably to the Education they have been pleased to bestow upon me—I care not what [it] is I am willing to do what I am able, & you should think necessary to my future Welfare—[E]ntreating your Excellency’s kind Patronage on this Occasion I have the Honor to remain With the most perfect Respect, Sir, Your most Obedient & most devoted Servant”
Congress did not act quickly, and as the weeks went by, ‘the severest want” apparently changed White Eyes’ mind. He wrote President Washington again:
“The treatment I met with at Princeton & the Character I bear (which I know I am innocent of) here, are great Grievances to me, especially as I have undergone a great many Difficulties, I shall stear (sic) my Course towards my native [country] let the Consequence be what it will.
For it is better for me to live in Contentment & Quietude, than a life Contempt & Ignominy.1 I have not had any thing this while past & I am almost naked, thro’ some guile or other, for what I know. I believe they are tired of doing any thing for me & I am tired waiting for their duty which is incumbent on them by a resolve of Congress.
I am now to look out for myself since I cannot behave myself, better than I have done; for all that I do is in vain, yet all these things are not discourages of my staying here any longer, but I am [anxious] to return & see my Mother & Friends, as it ought to become every person who has a regard for their Nation. I beg you would assist me in my return as I have no other person to apply to; but if not I must do as well as I can.”Source
In March of 1790, George Morgan White Eyes returned to his nation in Ohio Country.
Sadly, his story has an ignominious ending. Eight years later (1798) in West Point, Ohio, an intoxicated White Eyes ran at 17-year-old William Carpenter Jr. with a tomahawk. Fearing for his life, Carpenter shot White Eyes, killing him instantly. Initially the boy and his father were charged with murder and aiding and abetting, but the case never came to trial.
To GEORGE MORGAN Mount Vernon, August 25, 1788.
Sir: The letter which you did me the favor of writing to me the 31st. of last month, with a Postscript to it on the 5th. of this, came duly to hand; as did a small parcel of wheat, forwarded some time before, by the Post Master General from New York. For your polite attention to me in these instances I pray you to accept my best acknowledgments and Thanks. With much concern I have heard of the ravages of the Hessian fly on the wheaten Crops in the States East of the Delaware and of the progress of this distructive (sic) insect Southerly; but I congratulate with you sincerely on your successful endeavors in the management of your measures &c. to counteract them. If the yellow bearded wheat from a continuation of experiments is found no matter from what cause, to be obnoxious to and able to withstand this all devouring insect [it] must indeed be valuable; but I have paid too little attention to the growth of this particular kind hitherto, to inform you in what degree of cultivation it is in this State, I may venture, at a hazard, however, to add that it is rare: because it is unusual to see fields of bearded wheat of any kind growing with us, particularly in the Western parts of the State, which falls more immediately under my observation. I will distribute the Seed which you have sent me; make enquiry into this matter and communicate the result, begging in the meantime, if any further observations on this insect, and the means of guarding against him should be made by you that you will have the goodness to communicate them to. 67 Source