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The Unionist 1:45 (or, 1:44)
(April 3, 1834, or March 27,1834)

MISS CRANDALL’S SCHOOL. One of the children now in that school is the daughter of a poor woman in the city of New-York who obtains a living by her daily labor. Of course she is unable to give her children an education, and this child is supported by another woman, who was once a slave, and purchased her freedom by her own exertions. Another of Miss C’s scholars is the daughter of a father who was himself a slave.

Where can we find such thirsting for knowledge among our white population?—Where can we find a man, nay, where can we find a woman who has risen from a state of the lowest degradation by her own unaided exertions, under the weight of all the prejudices which are crushing her in the dust, against the seemingly irresistible tide of public opinion which is ever setting against her—I say, where can we find a person with a white skin who has risen from such a situation, and taught himself the real worth of man, the real dignity of the human mind, and the exalting, ennobling power of education, to such as extent that, although by no means in affluent circumstances, he is willing to spend a portion of his little all to support at school the child of an indigent neighbor? -- Unionist

This picture - of a formerly enslaved Black woman being taught to read by her daughter, ca. 1870 - is one of the photos closest to my heart. Women teaching women, women claiming agency to end their own oppression, women working with each other to expand what it means to be fully human, the dialectics of history creating (literally) new scenes - all of this is embodied in this wonderful photo. The story in this Unionist excerpt, of a student at Canterbury being assisted by a formerly enslaved woman, suggests a different version of this photograph, with a reversed gender relationship in terms of mentoring and learning.


Unionist Keyword Categories:

1. Canterbury Female Academy

2. African-American Students

3. Canterbury White Opposition

4. African-American Community

from The Liberator, April 5, 1834, p. 56 (4:14:56)

The Liberator at the Fair Use Repository

Commentary and Analysis

This is assuredly one of the most inspiring pieces that form the Unionist fragments. It gives valuable details about Black community support for the Canterbury Female Academy, and for education in general. This piece, whether written by Charles and William Burleigh, turns rhetorically poetic about the virtues of education in the second paragraph - but in doing this, they are amplifying the concerns of the Black community (and asking, pointedly, if the same fervor for education exists in the white community). What strikes me in reading this, though, is its predictive power concerning Frederick Douglass (ca. 1817-1895). He was still living enslaved in Maryland, but he had also gained literacy skills on the sly. In this Unionist excerpt, the Burleighs ask "where can we find a person with a white skin who has risen from such a situation [slavery], and taught himself the real worth of man, the real dignity of the human mind, and the exalting, ennobling power of education." Leave out "a white skin" and you have a nearly perfect description of the man Frederick Douglass was becoming, the man who proclaimed "knowledge is the pathway from slavery to freedom."

This excerpt has the usual problem of dating to the correct issue of the missing Unionist. This brief piece could come from either the March 27 or the April 3, 1834 issue. We will only know on the magic day that a complete run of The Unionist is discovered in an attic.

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