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Education among the freedmen

by Stephen Colwell; American Freedman's Union Commission. Pennsylvania Branch. Pennsylvania Freedmen's Relief Association.

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Online Source for this Document   (2009-01-09)

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by Inkling

As part of "The Slave Experience: Education, Arts & Culture," PBS has what seems to be a copy of the text of this document at:

It seems to be a letter rather than a book. Since web links can change or disappear, I post the complete text below with introductory information from that web page.


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Courtesy of Library of Congress,

Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Ephemera Collection

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The Pennsylvania Freedmen's Relief Association was one of many regional groups established after the Civil War with the aim of assisting freed African Americans. This letter from the Pennsylvania Association holds the education of former slaves to be a missionary endeavor and urges readers to contribute funds to support teachers. 






EDUCATION AMONG THE FREEDMEN Pennsylvania Branch of the American Freedman's Union Commission.






As we enter upon our work for another year, we wish to present a statement of our plans and wants to the people. 


The various organizations throughout the country having the education of the Freedmen in charge, have provided schools for 150,000 persons, in care of fourteen hundred teachers. The expense of supporting these schools has been borne by voluntary contributions. 


It is frequently asked, Does not the Government accomplish this work through the "Freedmen's Bureau?" The simple answer, is No! The "Bureau" has no authority to employ teachers. The representatives of the "Bureau," from the honored Commissioner down to its humblest agent, have done all in their power to co-operate with the people, North and South, to secure the advantages of education to the children, both white and black; but more than this they could not do. 


To give expression to the desire of the people to meet this great want, various "Freedmen's Associations" were organized during the war in different parts of the East and West. During the present year, the "American Freedmen's Union Commission" has been organized by representatives of the various "Freedmen's Associations," in order to secure unity of action among the friends of the cause. 


The field of the Pennsylvania Branch embraces Eastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey and Delaware. This Branch has had sixty-five teachers laboring in Washington, D.C., Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama, during the past year. The women who have devoted themselves so earnestly and successfully to secure supplies of clothing for the needy Freedmen, have resolved to devote themselves this year to secure means for the support of teachers. The response already received from auxiliaries are most encouraging. 


This "Branch" is composed of representatives of the various religious denominations, and while it is not sectarian in its organization, plans, or movements, it aims to execute its trust on the basis of religion, for the promotion of "freedom, industry, intelligence and christian morality." Each teacher is expected to go to the field in the missionary spirit. 


Arrangements have been made to place all teachers selected as representatives of individuals, churches, or communities, in regular monthly correspondence with them respecting the interests of schools committed to their care. By this means reliable information will be more extensively diffused among the people, and a deeper interest felt.


The teachers employed by this Association during the past year were chiefly supported by a small number of gentlemen of Philadelphia. The people everywhere feel that this ought not to be so. It is a cause that is laid upon every true heart, and we ask a very general cooperation in it.


Fifty dollars per month will support one teacher. We ought to begin this school year with at least one hundred teachers, supported by regular monthly contributions, according to the ability of the people of every community in the States above named. Shall this result be secured? We appeal to the clergy of every denomination; we appeal to secure monthly subscribers. Let alert clubs be organized among the children. Let sociables be held, and made profitable for this object. Volunteer to do these things. Do not wait for an agent to come along, as there is no time to lose. We urge you do this by the highest considerations of patriotism, humanity and religion.


Communications may be addressed to E.W. Clark, No. 35 South Third Street.


STEPHEN COLWELL, President. FRANCIS R. COPE, Vice President. ROBT. R. CORSON, Corresponding Secretary. ELLIS YARNALL, Recording Secretary. E.W. CLARK, Treasurer.

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