About Us


W.E.B. DuBois Learning Center, Inc.

History

The W.E.B. DuBois Learning Center evolved from the union of a Mathematics Program sponsored by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and a Reading program sponsored by theYouth Fellowship Board of the Paseo United Methodist Church. In 1973, these two programs joined together to form the W.E.B. DuBois Learning Center.

Through the efforts of a few volunteers, the Learning Center opened in the Fall of 1973 serving a small number of students; it now serves over 400 students per year. The volunteer staff consist of certified teachers, medical personnel, accountants, engineers, mathematicians, computer programmers, chemists and business personnel.

Students attending the Learning Center are referred by parents, teachers and other school officials. Enrollment data indicates 85% of the students participating in program activities at the Learning Center attend the Kansas City, Missouri Public Schools.


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2012 Annual Report



Lessons from Historical Episodes and Events

Excerpts from The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860 – 1935



Excerpts from The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860 – 1935

Education of Blacks in the South, 1860–1935
James D. Anderson

North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, 1988)

The short-ranged purpose of black schooling was to provide the masses of ex-slaves with basic literacy skills plus the rudiments of citizenship training for participation in a democratic society. The long-range purpose was the intellectual and moral development of a responsible leadership class that would organize the masses and lead them to freedom and equality. Being educated and literate had a important cultural significance to Afro-Americans, and they pursued these goals in opposition to the economic and ideological interest of the planter-dominated South. Despite what seemed like overwhelming opposition to their educational campaigns, the masses of Afro-Americans persisted in becoming literate

Their 95 percent illiteracy rate in 1860 had dropped to 70 percent in 1880 and would drop to 30 percent by 1910. The former slaves were becoming literate; the process could be slowed but it would not be stopped or reversed. (p. 31)

Of all the evaluations that could be cited, the most profound and most eloquent was penned by DuBois, who praised the early missionary philanthropists as “men radical in their belief in Negro possibility. By 1900, DuBois continued, the black colleges supported by northern missionary and black religious organizations had “trained in Greek and Latin and mathematics, 2,000 men; and these men trained fully 50,000 others in morals and manners, and they in turn taught the alphabet to nine millions of men, The black colleges were far from perfect, concluded DuBois, but “above the sneers of critics” stood “one crushing rejoinder; in a single generation they put thirty thousand black teachers in the South” and “wiped out the illiteracy of the majority of black people of the land.”

COMPILERS NOTE: Scholars have pointed out that this feat had never been accomplished before in the history of
mankind.


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GENGHIS KHAN: and the Making of the Modern World



Excerpted from the Introduction, pages xxii – xxiiv, of the book…

Excerpted from the Introduction, pages xxii – xxiiv, of the
book…

GENGHIS KHAN: and the Making of the Modern World

By Jack Weatherford

The Mongols made no technological breakthroughs, founded no new religions, wrote few books or dramas, and gave the world no new crops or methods of agriculture. Their own craftsmen could not weave cloth, cast pottery, painted no pictures, and built no buildings. Yet, as their army conquered culture after culture, they collected and passed all of these skills from one civilization to the next. The only permanent structures Genghis Khan erected were bridges. Although he spurned the building of castles, forts, cities, or walls, as he moved across the landscape, he probably built more bridges than any ruler in history. He spanned hundreds of streams and rivers in order to make the movement of his armies and goods quicker.

The Mongols deliberately opened the world to a new commerce not only in goods, but also in ideas and knowledge. The Mongols brought German miners to China and Chinese doctors to Persia. The transfers ranged from the monumental to the trivial. They spread the use of carpets everywhere they went and transplanted lemons and carrots from Persia to China, as well as noodles, playing cards, and tea from China to the West. They brought a metal worker from Paris to build a fountain on the dry steppes of Mongolia, recruited an English nobleman to serve as interpreter in their army, and took the practice of Chinese fingerprinting to Persia. They financed the building of Christian churches in China, Buddhist temples and stupas in Persia, and Muslim Koranic schools in Russia.

The Mongols Swept across the globe as conquerors, but also as civilization’s unrivaled cultural carriers.

The Mongols who inherited Genghis Khan’s empire exercised a determined drive to move products and commodities around and to combine them in ways that produced entirely novel products and unprecedented invention. When their highly skilled engineers from China, Persia, and Europe combined Chinese gunpowder with Muslim flamethrowers and applied European bell-casting technology, they produced the cannon, an entirely new order of technological innovation, from which sprang the vast modern arsenal of weapons from pistols to missiles.

While each item had some significance, the larger impact came in the way the Mongols selected and combined technologies to create unusual hybrids.

The Mongols displayed a devoutly and persistently internationalist zeal in their political, economic, and intellectual endeavors. They sought not merely to conquer the world but to institute a global order based on free trade, a single international law, and a universal alphabet with which to write all languages. Genghis Khan’s grandson, Khubilai Khan,introduced a paper currency intended for use everywhere and attempted to create primary schools for universal basic education of all children in order to make everyone literate. The Mongols refined and combined calendars to create a ten-thousand year calendar more accurate than any previous one, and they sponsored the most extensive maps ever assembled, The Mongols encouraged merchants to set out by land to reach their empire, and they sent out explorers across land and sea as far as Africa to expand their commercial and diplomatic reach.

In nearly every country touched by the Mongols, the initial destruction and shock of conquest by an unknown and barbaric tribe yielded quickly to an unprecedented rise in cultural communication, expanded trade, and improved civilization. In Europe, the Mongols slaughtered the aristocratic knighthood of the continent, but, disappointed with the general poverty of the area compared with the Chinese and Muslim countries, turned away and did not bother to conquer the cities, loot the countries or incorporate them into the expanding empire. In the end, Europe suffered the least yet acquired all the advantages of contact through merchants such as the Polo family of Venice and envoys exchanged between the Mongol khans and the popes and kings of Europe. The new technology, knowledge, and commercial wealth created the Renaissance in which Europe rediscovered some of its prior culture, but more important, absorbed the technology of printing, firearms, the compass, and the abacus from the East. As English scientist Roger Bacon observed in the thirteenth century, the Mongols succeeded not merely from martial superiority; rather, “they have succeeded by means of science". Although the Mongols “are eager for war,” they have advanced so far because they “devote their leisure to the principles of philosophy.

Seemingly every aspect of European life—technology, warfare, clothing, commerce, food, art, literature, and music—changed during the Renaissance as a result of the Mongol influence. In addition to new forms of fighting, new machines, and new foods, even the most mundane aspects of daily life changed as the Europeans switched to Mongol fabrics, wearing pants and jackets instead of tunics and robes, played their musical instruments with the steppe bow rather than plucking them with the fingers, and painted their pictures in a new style. The Europeans even picked up the Mongol exclamation hurray as an enthusiastic cry of bravado and mutual encouragement.

With so many accomplishments by the Mongols, it hardly seems surprising that Geoffrey Chaucer, the first author in the English language, devoted the longest story in The Canterbury Tales to the Asian conqueror Genghis Khan of the Mongols. He wrote in undisguised awe of him and his accomplishments Yet, in fact, we are surprised that the learned men of the Renaissance could make such comments about the Mongols, whom the rest of the world now view as the quintessential, bloodthirsty barbarians. The portrait of the Mongols left by Chaucer or Bacon bears little resemblance to the images we know from later books or films that portray Genghis Khan and his army as savage hordes lusting after gold, women, and blood.

Harriet Tubman Escape Techniques



Harriet Tubman Escape Techniques

Harriet Tubman Escape Techniques

By Leon Dixon

(Paraphrased from Harriet
Tubman
A Biography By Earl Conrad; pages 64, 65, 66 and 70)

There were several techniques that Harriet Tubman used in her efforts in helping Blacks escape from slavery

 

There was this one ruse that she started using, only after several years of experience, which was one of her favorites. On the first stage of the journey, she would use a horse and carriage, which was usually the master’s “Negroes driving a horse and buggy must certainly be going on an errand for their master. Usually they drove all night Saturday and all day Sunday before abandoning the horse and buggy. Harriet urged this procedure upon escaping groups that could arrange to take off this way, pointing to it as an unsuspecting means of gaining much distance before search began She would then put the escapees “in a cart covering them with vegetables, and drive them to hiding place


Another strategy that she used was common to all battlefield operations; the knowledge of knowing how and when to retreat

Many references were made to Harriet Tubman’s moves when she suspected that she was in danger. "When she feared the party was closely pursued, she would take it for a time on a train southward bound. No one seeing Negroes going in this
direction would, for and instant, suppose them to be fugitives.”

Once on her return she was at a railroad station. She saw some men reading a poster and she heard one of them reading it aloud It was a description of her, offering a reward for her capture. She took a southbound train to avoid suspicion


One time when she heard some men talking about her, she pretended to be reading a book that she carried. One man remarked, “This can’t be the woman. The one we want can’t read or write. Harriet only hoped that she had the book right side up.


Legend has it that she was once discovered by her friends asleep on a local park bench underneath a poster offering a reward for her capture Since she could not read, it clearly had no meaning to her.


Of all of the incidents she encountered, there was one that was perhaps her fondest

On one of her expeditions she had the incredible nerve to enter a village where one of her former masters lived. It was necessary for her to do so in order to carry out the plans for her trip. So she disguised herself as an old decrepit woman, which she was known to do, before she entered. She also had the foresight to buy some live chickens, whose legs she loosely tied together by a cord.

When she turned a corner, she saw headed straight towards her none other than her former master However, before he could recognize her, she loosened the cord letting the chickens free.

All of the bystanders roared with laughter as she chased after them.Thusly, she made her escape as they flew
squawking over a nearby fence

Harriet Tubman’s Civil War Campaign


Harriet Tubman’s Civil War Campaign

Harriet Tubman’s Civil War Campaign

Extracted from Bound For The Promised Land: Harriet Tubman–Portrait Of An American Hero by Kate Clifford Larson (pages 212—214)

[Harriet] Tubman became the first woman to plan and execute an armed expedition [in United States history] during the Civil War. Acting as an advisory to [Colonel James] Montgomery, Tubman led a raid from Port Royal to the interior, some twenty-five miles up the nearby Combahee River. Using communication networks that were the province of black mariners, Tubman’s successful spy mission provided crucial details about rebel enforcements and heavily mined waters. Leaving under the cover of darkness, the steam-driven gunboats John Adams, Harriet A. Weed, and Sentinel moved slowly along the river with three hundred men from the Second South Carolina and a smaller contingent from the Third Rhode Island Battery. The Adams, and the Harriet Weed were about a quarter of a mile apart; Harriet stood with Montgomery and another officer in the lead boat, the Adams, with Walter Plowden, the local scout who helped direct the ships around the mines. After locating many “torpedoes,’ the pilots of the Adams, the Harriet Weed, and the Sentinel were able to navigate through the channels of the river without incident. Under Tubman’s leadership, Montgomery and his small force made their way to the plantations where Tubman and her scouts had identified Confederate warehouses and stockpiles of rice and cotton.

At about dawn on June 2, with fog rolling slowly off the rice fields, Montgomery landed some of his black troops, sending them into the fields and woods to rustle out any Confederates hiding in wait, and to warn the slaves, telling them to come to the river and join the Union. The troops effectively dispersed Confederate gunners located at various points along the river and met with little resistance. They set fire to several of the plantations, destroying homes, barns, rice mills, and steam engines, and they confiscated thousands of dollars’ worth of rice, corn, cotton, horses, and other farm animals What they could not take with them they destroyed. “We broke the sluice gates,” the regiment’s surgeon reported to Harper’s Weekly, “and flooded the fields so that the present crop, which was growing beautifully, will be a total loss. The slaves fled to the Union boats. Montgomery made his way to Combahee Ferry, where he ordered the destruction of the pontoon bridge.

Montgomery ordered the whistles blown on the steamers, signaling to the area’s enslaved people to abandon the plantations and fields and come aboard the ships. Tubman recalled that some of the slaves were reluctant to join them, though most quickly realized that “Lincoln’s gun-boats [had] come to set them free.” Overseers, plantation owners, and managers tried in vain to keep the slaves from running away; though they brandished, buns, and pistols, their threats of punishment and even death were almost useless against the mass desertion. Several slaves were killed or wounded, however, by rebel soldiers and others “as they swarmed to the protection of the old flag.

Tubman later recalled that she had never witnessed anything like the scene that unfolded. Women and men, arms laden with children, food, clothing, and other personal possessions, streamed from the fields to the riverbanks.“Some had white blankets on their heads with their things done up in them. … Some had bags on their backs with pigs in them; some had chickens tied by the legs. Tubman recalled, One woman had “a pail on her head, rice a smokin’ in it just as she’d taken it from the fire, a young one hangin’ on behind, one hand around her forehead to hold on … [and a] hold of her dress two or three more [children. With squealing pigs, squawking chickens, and crying children, the cacophony alone was extraordinary. It reminded Tubman of “children of Israel, coming out of Egypt

A reporter from the Wisconsin State Journal, who witnessed the victorious return, wrote: Col. Montgomery and his gallant band of 300 hundred black soldiers, under the guidance of a black woman [Harriet Tubman], dashed into the enemies’ country, struck a bold and effective blow, destroying millions of dollars worth of commissary stores, cotton, and lordly dwellings, and striking terror to the heart of rebellion, brought off near 800 slaves and thousands of dollars worth of property, without losing a man or receiving a scratch! It was a glorious consummation.

How the Underground Railroad Got Its Name


How the Underground Railroad Got Its Name

How the Underground Railroad Got Its Name

 

Excerpted from Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad by Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond
G. Ph. D, p. 61 & 62

 

History tells us that a Kentucky slave named Tice was determined to be free. Fleeing the plantation on which he labored, Tice, like so many other runaways, sought shelter in the woods and on neighboring plantations. He finally made it to the shore of the Ohio River across from the Ripley settlement where many abolitionists lived, including the famous John Rankin and family With no boat available to him, Tice dove into the chilly water, determined to swim across. The slaveholder followed him in a skiff

Some writers have suggested that Tice heard the sound of a bell or the call of a bird, one of the local
signals indicating that someone was waiting to help him on the other side of the river. Wilbur Siebert, the noted
nineteenth-century Underground Railroad historian, writes about Ripley Ohio, to guide runaways to safe shores. Siebert
tells us about the house that stood on the summit of a bluff overlooking the river. With its legendary lighted
lantern in the top window, the Rankin house was clearly visible from many miles away in the dark of night. The Rankin
house was a lighthouse for those crossing the River and in desperate need of direction.

Tice probably did not know about the Rankins, but he did know that there were friends on the shoreline of OhioThe slave owner was within clear sight ofTice, who by then was exhausted, swimming with what little strength he had left. Tice made it to the Ohio shoreline. The slave owner, confidant that he was rapidly gaining on Tice, turned his head away for just one moment. When he looked up, Tice was gone: never to be seen again. The frustrated and somewhat bewildered slave owner declared that Tice had vanished before his very eyes. The slave owner declared it was as
if the slave disappeared on some kind of “underground railroad.” style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  It was a timely metaphor. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  What was once the freedom movement eventually
became known as the “Underground Railroad” and the “train” would occasionally be
nicknamed the “Gospel Train.

 

 

Letter from a Former Enslaved Aftican


Letter from a Former Enslaved Aftican

Letter From a Former En-Slaved African to his Former Master

From the book Should America Pay: Slavery and the Raging Debate on Reparations, edited by Raymon Winbush, pp. 101–102.


(The following letter was published in The Freedmen's Book, a collection of African American writings compiled by the abolitionist Lydia Maria Child in 1865. This letter is a response to a slave owner who has written his former slave at the end of the Civil War, asking him to return to work in Tennessee.)


To my old master,

Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee.

Sir,

I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that yor wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than any body else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in a better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particulary what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here. I get $25 a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy. The folks here call her Mrs. Anderson, and the children Milly, Jane, and Grundy go to school and are learning well. We are kindly treated. Sometimes we overhear others saying, "Them colored people were slaves down in Tennesssee." The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson. Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master. Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost Marshall-General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for 32 years, and Mandy 20 years. At 25 dollars a month for me, and 2 dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to $11,608. Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor's visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to.

Please send the money by Adam's Express, in care of V. Winters Esq., Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the Good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Surely, there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve and die, if it comes to that, than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits. Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when your were shooting at me.

From you old servant,

Jourdan Anderson

Robert Smalls: Civil War hero


Robert Smalls: Civil War hero

Robert Smalls: Civil War hero

 

style='font-size:14.0pt'>Excerpted from Slavery
and the Making of America

by James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton
(New York: w:st="on">Oxford university Press, 2005), style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>pp. 182–183.

style='font-size:14.0pt'>

 

One of the fugitives from slavery, Robert
Smalls, came into the U.S.
lines bringing the navy an extraordinarily valuable gift. style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 
Smalls, enslaved in South Carolina, had been
hired out by his master at the age of twelve to work in the w:st="on">Charleston shipyard. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  By the time Confederates fired on w:st="on">Fort Sumpter,
he was a twenty-three-year-old boat pilot navigating the waters of w:st="on">Charleston w:st="on">Harbor and adjacent waterways. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  The Confederates used him and eight other
slaves on the crew of a steam-powered side-wheeler vessel refitted as a gunboat
named Planter. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  Each night, while the white crewmen retired
to their homes, Smalls and the other blacks worked to clean and ready the ship
for the next day’s duty.

Smalls devised a plan to escape, and
when he explained it to his brother John and the other black crew members, they
signed on enthusiastically.  They
informed their families, who planned to escape with them, and waited for their
best opportunity.  Well aware of the risk
they were taking and of the consequences for failure, the entire party resolved
not to be taken alive. If discovered, they would use the Planter’s guns to fight the Confederates and go down with the ship
rather than be captured.

On the evening of May 12, 1862, the
white officers and sailors left as usual, but this night the style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>Planter was loaded down with a special
shipment, valuable supplies to be delivered the following day to two
Confederate forts.  The black men moved
normally about the boat that night.  The
arrival of family members sometime after eight didn’t arouse the suspicions of
the dock patrol, since they sometimes brought supper to the crew. style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 
Nor was the patrol alarmed when a black man
from another crew came aboard.  Very
early the next morning, Smalls ordered the boilers fired and the style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>Planter, flying the Confederate flag,
moved slowly out of port and into the harbor. 
They saluted the harbor forts with the customary blasts on the whistle
and passed under forts’ heavy guns manned by Confederate guards. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  When the vessel was safely past the
Confederate outposts, Smalls and his tense but jubilant crew brought down the
Confederate flag and replaced it with a white flag. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  The vessel they delivered to the w:st="on">U.S. forces
was, according to Smalls, “a gunboat which cost nearly thirty thousand
dollars,” fitted with “six large guns, from a 24-pounder howitzer to a
100-pound Parrott rifle.”40 style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  They also brought invaluable knowledge
of Confederate defenses and local waterways. 
As he turned over the prize to the w:st="on">U.S. commander, Smalls was reported
to have said, “I thought the Planter
might be of some use to Uncle Abe.”41


style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>The northern
press hailed Smalls and his crewmen as heroes, and Congress ruled that they
should receive half the value of the prize they presented to the w:st="on">U.S.
cause.  Smalls joined the fight against
slavery, enlisting in the U.S.
Navy.  He was commissioned as second
Lieutenant with the thirty-third Regiment, w:st="on">United States Colored Troops, and
was assigned as the pilot on the Planter. style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 
In November 1863 the Planter engaged in fierce combat with Confederate forces, and the
ship’s captain contemplated surrender. 
Fearlessly, Smalls rallied the crew and urged the gunners to continue
firing, saving the ship and the crew from being captured. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  When word of his actions reached the military
hierarchy, navy officials dismissed the captain and promoted Smalls to his
position.  Former slave Robert Smalls,
captain of the Planter, became an
African American hero of the Civil War.

style='font-size:14.0pt'>40.  style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>Liberator, September 12, 1862.

style='font-size:14.0pt'>41. 
Katz, William Loren; Eyewitness:
The
Negro in American History,
3rd edition (Belmont,
Calif.
: Fearon
Pitman Publishers), p. 219.

Swing Low Sweet Chariot

Swing Low Sweet Chariot

On the Origin of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"

Excerpted from: Blues People by Leroi Jones, Morrow Quill © 1963, P 44-49.


The music that was produced by Negro Christianity was the result of diverse influences. First of all, there was that music which issued from pure African ritual sources and which was changed to fit the new religion—just as the ring shouts were transformed from pure African religious dances to pseudo-Christian religious observances, or the Dahomey river cult ceremonies were incorporated into the baptism ceremony. Early observers also pointed out that a great many of the first Negro Christian religious songs had been taken almost untouched from the great body of African religious music. This was especially true of the melodies of certain Black Christian spirituals that could also be heard in some parts of Africa.

Maude Cuney-Hare, in book Negro Musicians and Their Music, cites the experience of a Bishop Fisher of Calcutta who traveled to Central Africa: "... in Rhodesia* he had heard natives sing a melody so closely resembling Swing Low, Sweet Chariot that he felt that he had found it in its original form: moreover, the region near the great Victoria Falls have a custom from which the song arose. When one of their chiefs, in the old days, was about to die, he was placed in a great canoe together with trappings that marked his rank, and food for his journey. The canoe was set afloat in midstream headed toward the great Falls and the vast column of mist that rises for them. Meanwhile the tribe on the shore would sing its chant of farewell. The legend is that on one occasion the king was seen to rise in his canoe at the very brink of the Falls and enter a chariot that, descending from the mists, bore him aloft. This incident gave rise to the words 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,' and the song, brought to America by African slaves long ago, became anglicized and modified by their Christian faith." **



* Rhodesia is the former name of Zimbabwe.

** Op. cit., 69,

The Father’s Role in the Slave Quarter Family


The Father’s Role in the Slave Quarter Family

The Father’s Role in the Slave Quarter Family

Excerpted from: Deep Like the Rivers: Education in the Slave Quarter Community, 1831–1865
By Thomas L. Webber 172–174

An important aspect of the father’s role in the quarter family was to be ready to assume the double role of father and mother if and when the need arose. Though most quarter fathers were given much assistance by a grandparent, an aunt, or an older child at the death or sale of their wives, the primary obligation of taking over mother’s role functions often was his.

When (Charles) Ball’s mother was sold to a Georgia trader, Ball was raised mainly by his father and grandfather.85 When Roxy Pitts’ mother, who was part Indian, ran off, his father filled in and raised all the Children.86 Sometimes, of course, father assumed much of the primary care of his children without mother’s death or sale. Lula Jackson says that her father raised not only all of his own children but those of his wife’s first husband as

For three months every year Betty Guwn accompanied her mistress to the deep South while her husband “stayed at home to see after the family, and took them to the fields when too young to work under the task master, or overseer.”88

Far more important than the frequency of the contact between quarter children and their parents was the intensity and loving nature of those interactions they were able to have together. Irella Wlker remembers how her father used to patiently rub her shoes with grease to make them more comfortable for Margaret Nickerson’s father tended to her beaten legs.90. Though he came to see them only on Sunday, the visit of Oscar Rogers’ father was the high point f the week or Oscar and his brothers and sisters. He came early and stay till bedtime. We all run to meet him. He kiss us all in bed when he be leavin’.”91

Finally, by observing their father and his relationship with his wife, his own parents and brothers and sisters, and with them, the children of a quarter family learned the responsibilities and the value of membership in a strongly bound family. From their father they learned not only how to hunt, fish, grow crops, and steal but that it was expected of them to do likewise. From observing their father’s efforts to provide for, protect, and educate his family, they learned not only the means but also the idea that they were responsible for each other’s nurture, protection, and education.92

Some recollections show that not only the useful but the poetic clung to the mind. John Collins remembers how “Daddy used to play wid mammy just lak she was a child. He’d ketch her under de armpits and jump her up mighty nigh to the rafters of the little house us lived in 93 Another ex-slave recalls how he loved his father. My mother just rejoiced in him. Whenever he sat down to talk she just sat and looked and listened. She would never cross him for anything. If they went to church together she always waited for him to interpret what the preacher had said or what he thought was the will of God. I was small but I noticed all these things. I sometimes think that I learned more in my early childhood about how to live than I have learned since.94

The role of father was not necessarily played by a child’s biological father. Sometimes a grandfather accepted the duties of father towards his grandchildren. Sometimes an uncle or an older brother became the father of a child’s family. And sometimes, father was a member of the larger community who was completely unrelated by blood but who, nevertheless, was willing to accept the responsibility of being father to a fatherless child.95

From the time Mingo White was sold away from the rest of his family at age five, “the only ’that I had or ever known anything ’bout was give to me by a frien’of my pappy. His name was John White. My pappy tol’ him to take care of me for him. John was a fiddler an’ many a night I woke up to find myse’f sleep ’sleep ‘ twix’ his legs whilst he was playin’ for a dance for de white folks.”96. Althoughthere seems to have been a substantial number of quarter children who lived in a household which did not contain both a biological mother and father, rarely did a quarter child lack a significant relationship with an older black man who felt and assumed responsibility to help nurture and protect him and who became instrumental in his education.

85Charles Ball, Fifty years in chains (New York: Published by the author, 1825) pp.16–23.

86 Roxy Pits in George P. Rawick ed., American Slave: A Composite Autobiography (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Publishing Company, 1972) Alabama, VI, p. 99.

style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'>87 style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'>Fisk style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'> University style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'>, God Struck Me Dead: Religious Conversion Experiences and
Autobiographies of Negro Ex-Slaves
(Nashville, Tennessee: Social Science
Institute, Fisk University, 1945), p. 162.

88Betty Guwn in class=SpellE>Rawick, ed., Indiana,
VI.
class=GramE>P.99.

89 style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'>Irella Walker
in Rawick, ed., w:st="on">Texas, V (4), p. 123.

90Margaret Nickerson in Rawick,
ed., Florida,
XVII.
class=GramE>P. 253.

91 style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'>Oscar James Rogers in class=SpellE>Rawick, ed., Arkansas,
X (6), p. 70.

style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'>a style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'>( style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'>Excerpter note: Liberating/taking
food from the master/mistress was not considered stealing by slaves.

92Laneb, pp.11–12. style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'> Aunt Sallyc,
p.59. Campbelld, p. 29. class=SpellE>Grandye, pp. 17–18. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  Orland Armstrongf,
pp. 266–68. Fisk
Collection, Unwritten History of Slavery;
Autobiographical Account of Negro Ex-Slaves
, pp. 2, 64, 285].
Bill
Austin in Rawick, ed., w:st="on">Florida, XVII, pp. 22–23.

class=GramE>b style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'>Lungford style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'> Lane, The Narrative of

class=SpellE>Lungsford Lane
, Formerly of w:st="on">Raleigh, North
Carolina
(Boston: by the author, 1842),

class=GramE>c style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'>Aunt style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'> Sally Aunt Sally; or, the Cross the Way to Freedom. A
Narrative or, the Slave-Life and Purchase of the Mother of Reverend Isaac
Williams of Detroit, w:st="on">Michigan
(Cincinnati: American Track and Book Society, 1958).

class=GramE>d style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'>Isreal style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'> w:st="on">Campbell, Bond
and Free: or, Yearning for Freedom from My Green Brair
House. Being the Story of My Life in Bondage and My Life in Freedom

(Philadelphia: by the author, 1861)

class=GramE>e style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'>Moses style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'> Grandy,
Narrative of the Life of Moses class=SpellE>Grandy, Late a Slave in the w:st="on">United States of America (Boston:
Oliver Johnson 1844)

class=GramE>f style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>Old style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'> w:st="on">Massa’s People: The Old Slaves Tell Their style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'>Story (Indianapolis:
Boobs-Merrill, 1931)

93 style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'>John Collins in class=SpellE>Rawick, ed., South
Carolina
, II (2), pp. 224–24.

style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'>94 style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'>Fisk style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'> University style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'>, God …, p. 161.

95 style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'>See Eugene D. Genovese, style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>Roll Jordan Roll: The World the Made
(New York Pantheon Books, 1974), p. 493. 
Interestingly enough, the myth of the typical fatherless slave family
seems to have originated in the black sources themselves; in the well read
autobiographies of Frederick Douglassg,
Henry Bibbh, and William wells class=SpellE>Browni. style='mso-spacerun:yes'> “It is almost impossible,” writes Bibb, “for
slaves to give a correct account of their mail parentage.” style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  Bibb, p.14. Douglass
writes: “A person of some consequence in civilized society, sometimes
designated as father, was literally unknown to slave law and to slave practice.”
Douglass, p. 27. Brown relates that he knew little of his father and only
learned his name by being told it by his mother. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  W.W. Brown, p. 13. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  It seems more than coincidental that all three
were the biological sons of white men.

class=GramE>g style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'>Frederick style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'> Douglass, style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass
(New York: Collier Books. 1962). Reprinted from the revised
edition of 1892.

class=GramE>h style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'>Henry style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'> Bibb, Narrative of the Life and adventures of Henry Bib, An American Slave
(New York: published by the author, 1849).

class=GramE>i style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'>William style='font-size:10.0pt;font-family:"Book Antiqua"'> Wells Brown, style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>Narrative of William Wells Brown, a Fugitive
Slave, Written by Himself (Boston: Anti-Slavery Office, 1847).

96Mingo White in Rawick, ed.,
Alabama, VI. pp. 413–14.

 

 

 

 

 

 

i

 

 

 

The Missed Education of “Papa Dallas

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The Missed Education of “Papa Dallas”
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The Missed Education of “Papa Dallas

 

Excerpted from—

Crisis In The Village: Restoring Hope in African American Communities by Robert M. Franklin (Fortress Press 2007; Pages 179–180)

 

Due to the criminalization of African American learning, people who sought literacy by surreptitious means also risked extreme torture and threat.  One of the most heart-rending stories I have heard comes from the extraordinary testimonies of slaves recorded by the Federal Writers’ Project in the early 1930s.1  This is the testimony of Tonea Stewart:

 

When I was a little girl about five or six years old, I used to sit on the garret, the front porch.  In the Mississippi Delta the front porch is called the garret.  I listened to my Papa Dallas.  He was blind and had these ugly scars around his eyes.  One day, I asked Papa Dallas what happened to his eyes.

 

“Well Daughter,” he answered, “when I was mighty young, just about your age.  I used to steal away under a big oak tree and I tried to learn my alphabets so that I could learn to read my Bible.  But one day the overseer caught me and he drug me out on the plantation and he called out for all the field hands.  And he turned to ‘em and said, ‘Let this be a lesson to all of you darkies.  You ain’t got no right to learn to read!’  And then daughter, he whooped me, and he whooped me, and he whooped me.  And daughter, as if that wasn’t enough, he turned around and he burned my eyes out!”

 

At that instant, I began to cry.  The tears were streaming down my cheeks, meeting under my chin.  But he cautioned, “Don’t you cry for me now, daughter.  Now you listen to me.  I want you to promise me one thing. Promise me that you gonna pick up every book you can and you gonna read it form cover to cover. You see, today daughter, ain’t nobody gonna whip you or burn your eyes out because you want to learn to read.  Promise me that you gonna go all the way through school, as far as you can.  And one more thing, I want you to promise me that you gonna tell all the children my story.”

Pappa Dallas survived slavery and I, I kept my promise.  I’m now a university professor, Ph.D., and an actress.  He and many others deserve to have their story told.2 (Emphasis Franklin’s)

 

Papa Dallas’s harrowing testimony should be read to young and old people today who are indifferent to learning.  Too much blood was shed and too much pain endured not to view learning as a moral enterprise.

 

 

1 Ira Berlin, Marc Favreau, Steven F, Miller, and Robin D. G. Kelley, Remembering Slavery: African Americans Talk about Their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Emancipation (New York: New Press, 1998), 280.  For decades those recordings were stored in the Library of Congress. But in 1998 a partnership between several scholars. The Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian Institution produced this book and audiotape.

 

2 Ibid., 281.

 

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