The Noyes Academy, 1834-35: The Road to the Oberlin Collegiate Institute and the Higher Education of African-Americans in the Nineteenth Century.
Oberlin College is generally thought of as the first institution of higher learning in the nineteenth century to which black youth could gain admission without incumbency. For this reason, Oberlin has long held an esteemed place in black educational history. There, in 1835, by a one-vote margin, members of Oberlin's Board of Trustees committed their institution open to students of color. While blacks were, in infinitesimally small number, admitted to other white colleges before 1835, no college before Oberlin adopted as policy the admission of blacks on an equal basis with whites. However, besides tangential references to student abolitionism at the Lane Theological Seminary influencing subsequent abolitionism at Oberlin College, educational historians have failed to fully explore the taproots of the modern abolition movement that began around 1830.
Particularly absent is any complete understanding of this movement's nexus with the American higher education movement. There is virtually no knowledge of the intense and dramatic period that ignited student activism, not only on the Lane Theological Seminary campus, but on college campuses throughout America. The transfer from the Lane Seminary of students, the so-called "Lane Rebels," to Oberlin College in late 1834, indeed sharpened the antislavery focus on Oberlin's campus. But how and why did these students, the Lane seminarians, develop an interest in abolitionism? There remains, additionally, a lack of clarity as to why the main thrust of antislavery activity was intimately tied to the quest for the higher education of free blacks. It was, no doubt, the emotional surfeit associated with the opening of Oberlin College to black students that has so completely overshadowed the history of the events that preceded it.
The Oberlin vote was a pivotal victory for the cause of abolitionism. Efforts by black and white abolitionists to gain any level of higher educational opportunity for black youth was a formidable undertaking. This was by conscious design. This article focuses on the period 1830-35, and on events that set the stage for the emergence of an Oberlin College. This paper will be devoted partly to a discussion of a series of restrictions forced upon free blacks, which compelled them into nationwide collective action. However, this paper's primary focus is a chronicling of the events that transpired in the New England hamlet of Canaan, New Hampshire. A brief sketch of the black men and women who attended the Noyes Academy in Canaan is provided in the conclusion. Canaan was the site where black and white abolitionists tried to construct the first rung of a higher education ladder, leading to blacks' collegiate and professional school study in America. The Noyes Academy was conceived as the foundation on which the ladder rested. What made higher education in America imperative for free blacks? That question is asked and best answered when viewed within the context of the oppressive race politics and the tumult that came to a head between the years 1830-1835.
In Carter G. Woodson's view (1919), the years 1830 to 1835 were the greatest single period of racial oppression free blacks endured in the first half of the nineteenth century. The free black population expanded from 59,557 in 1790 to over 300,000 by 1830. This "anomalous" population's dramatic increase did not go unnoticed. Expansion of the free black population was accompanied by a rise in black militancy, thus making their presence in America all the more problematic. This militancy threatened the security and viability of slavery. In 1830, whites were still recoiling from the 1822 Denmark Vesey Plot in Charleston, South Carolina. Their fear was intensified by the 1829 fiery "Appeal" of David Walker, calling for slaves to rise against their masters. In 1831, on the heels of Walker's incendiary came the Nat Turner insurrection in Southampton, Virginia in 1831. Before Turner's rebellion was put down, sixty white men, women and children were killed.
Reacting to these deeply troubling events, southern state legislatures were prompted to take measures to severely restrict the actions of both slaves and free blacks. Examples of these measures follow: The Virginia Legislature in its 1831-32 session passed a law that made it unlawful for meetings to be held in which free blacks or mulattos were taught by other blacks to read and write; in 1832-33, preaching by slaves and freedmen was declared illegal (Woodson, 1925); in a session of the Maryland General Assembly in 1831-32, lawmakers sought to rid the state of free blacks by passing a law that provided for their removal from the state to Liberia, Africa (Maryland, 1832). South Carolina, in 1834, prohibited the teaching of slaves and further prohibited the employment of free blacks as clerks or salesmen in any shop, store, or house used for trade (McCord, 1840). Georgia added to her black codes, prohibiting the employment of slaves and free blacks in the setting of type in printing offices; and the Georgia Legislature in 1833 prohibited slaves and free blacks from preaching and carrying firearms.
Restrictions directed at free blacks were not confined exclusively to the South. In 1834, Connecticut prohibited the teaching of blacks born outside the State. This action was prompted by a group of citizens in Canterbury, Connecticut wanting to put an end to the operation of the all black female academy that was established there in 1833.
The African Colonization Movement and Free Blacks
The fivefold increase in the free black population over the forty-year period, 1790 to 1830, was not only noticed by concerned whites but, by 1817, a national movement, African colonization, had begun. Primarily the goal of this movement was to decrease the population of free blacks and simultaneously to cautiously align itself with individuals who wanted to end slavery on a case by case basis. Offered was a plan of black deportation, which held the promise of accomplishing both aims. From its inception, to the latter part of the 1820s, tangible effects of this movement began taking hold. Suddenly at every turn, or so it seemed, free blacks confronted powerful forces, which had successfully created near impenetrable barriers to their uplift and advancement. While free blacks knew they had many enemies, the movement that cut deepest was the African colonization campaign. Free blacks believed that the various state actions, particularly following Turner's insurrection, were surreptitiously orchestrated by procolonizationist forces within these state legislative bodies.
Free blacks had good reason to be fearful of the power commanded by the "American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Colour of the United States," the name initially given the organization. The "American Colonization Society" was the name the organization assumed later. This Society was formed in December, 1816 by Robert Finley, a reform-minded Presbyterian minister from Basking Ridge, New Jersey. Finley operated out of a mix of motives. His intentions were on one level racially "pragmatic" and on the another altruistic. The appeal of this organization was that it promised to limit the number of free blacks in America. This narrowly pragmatic objective was couched in terms of its benefit to both blacks and whites. Finley, and others associated with his cause, genuinely viewed this organization as a benevolent, philanthropic, and Christian enterprise (Stauderaus, 1961). The Society's principal and singular objective was to "promote and execute a plan for colonizing `with their consent' the free people of colour, residing in our country in Africa." Finley's decision to organize the Society in Washington, the center of American political life, coupled with his solicitation of leading politicians, made the aim of the organization, in the minds of free blacks, highly suspect. Blacks took the clause "with their consent," to be flotsam and jetsam of political rhetoric behind which was coercive, if not deadly, intent.
The response of Philadelphia free blacks to the formation of the "American Society for Colonizing the Free People of Colour of the United States" was representative of how free blacks elsewhere felt about this movement and new organization. In less than a month of learning of its formation, blacks in Philadelphia, the bellwether city for free blacks, met in Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Three thousand blacks packed into the Church and bitterly and unanimously denounced the scheme (Quarles, 1969). Buried deep in the recesses of their collective psyche, but now coming to the surface, was a primal fear. As a group, they stood as America's most "tenuous" citizens. African colonization held the possibility that forceful action, led by the U.S. government, would be taken to remove them from America. If the movement was successful, they would be stripped from a land that had been their home for close to two-hundred years. At a more disinterested level, their removal meant the grip of slavery would be incalculably tightened. Without the presence of free blacks in America who, then, would pled the cause of the slave?
At the time of the formation of the Colonization Society, few blacks ever seriously contemplated a return to Africa and certainly not an involuntary one. The colonization scheme for free blacks stood as cruel irony. In a previous generation, some of their ancestors valiantly fought and died in the war for the independence of America. The ranks of the free black population swelled dramatically as a result of their participation in the War of Independence. Many free blacks made their claim to American citizenship on the sacrifices their ancestors made on behalf of America. Shortly after the War of Independence, all northern states granted free blacks full citizenship status, rights which now, in the face of colonization, stood threatened (Zilersmit, 1967).
They sensed that the activists in the African colonization movement were behind the erosion of their economic, social, political, and educational gains granted after the American Revolution, but lost in the decades of the 1820s and 1830s. The leadership of the colonization movement sought, in a variety of ways, to make life in America so onerous that the possibility of the alternative, emigration to Africa, indeed anywhere, would be appealing for some free blacks.
One of the principal weapons used by the colonizationists was the press, their own. Beginning with its March, 1825 issue, the American Colonization Society launched a newspaper, The African Repository and Colonial Journal. The pages of this tract contained articles that attempted to explicate the difficulty surrounding the ending of slavery. Slavery, it was argued, posed an acute dilemma to individual slave owners and to the country as a whole. Column after column lamented the fact that many slave owners, even if they wanted to, could not safely set their slaves free. If set free with inadequate preparation for freedom, they would become burdens of the state or be forced into crime because they could not adequately care for themselves.
Monthly, the Repository reported benevolent offers of churches, lady auxiliaries and youth groups willing to make contributions to the cause of colonization. African colonization was argued on two grounds. It would end slavery by providing slave owners the safe option of freeing their slaves and simultaneously transporting them to a new land. It offered free blacks a place where they could live unfettered and free. But the paper, in whiplike fashion, cut at the legs and ankles of free blacks. It carded blistering articles portraying free blacks as unreliable, untrustworthy, and as completely unassimilable Americans.
Free Blacks Organize and Counter
In protest to the daily and incessant portrayal of their condition as one of wretchedness and total unsuitability for American life, free blacks fought back in two ways. They first launched in 1827 the first black newspaper, Freedom's Journal. The Journal was designed as a forum to respond to the daily barrage of propaganda and slander leveled against free blacks. The Journal declared the American Colonization Society the archenemy of free blacks. The Journal's editors, Samuel Cornish and John Russwurm, set out to reveal the real motives behind the African colonization scheme. As a newspaper, Freedom's Journal lasted no more than two years but nevertheless, in that time, concerted action and dialogue among free blacks had been established. The sense of moral consciousness engendered by the Journal set the stage for the next move made by free blacks, the commencement of the National Negro Convention Movement that started in 1830.
In 1830, free blacks organized in national convention, in response to a crisis in 1829 involving the displacement of free blacks from the city of Cincinnati. The history behind the cause of the 1829 crisis warrants brief discussion. In November, 1826, the son of the founder of the American Colonization Society, Robert Smith Finley, helped organize the Cincinnati Colonization Society (African Repository, 1827). With an eye toward expediting the mission of colonization, this Society assumed the task of resuscitating the dormant Ohio Black Codes of 1804 and 1807. These laws required that free blacks, currently living or those moving into the State, to post a $500 bond attesting to their "good behavior" (Sheeler, 1946).
On July 1, 1829, the trustees of Cincinnati gave notice that all codes pertaining to free blacks were to be strictly enforced within thirty-days. Unable to raise the money in 30 days, and urged on by 300 white ruffians, blacks were forced to flee the city under extreme duress. Between 1,000 and 1,200 free blacks were forced from Cincinnati, most later settling in Wilberforce, Canada (Woodson, 1916). Delegates at the First National Negro Convention, with meager resources, responded to this crisis. They helped raise money and gave other forms of assistance to the homeless from Cincinnati, helping them establish their lives in another country. Though no comfort to those displaced, the popularity and financial support given the Cincinnati Colonization Society waned dramatically after this iniquitous act (Cincinnati Colonization Society, 1833).
Blacks in the first convention, as it were, reacted to the emergency in Cincinnati. In the second convention, blacks, recognizing the depth and multitude of issues confronting them, were determined to take the offense. At the second convention held in May, 1831, the leaders of the northern free black communities invited several prominent and sympathetic whites. Invited were Thomas Shipley, Charles Pierce, Benjamin Lundy, William Lloyd Garrison, Arthur Tappan and Simeon S. Jocelyn. Only the latter three, Garrison, Tappan, and Jocelyn, were invited to formally address the convention. There were preconditions black leaders insisted upon, however. First, they wanted it known that they were inveterately opposed to colonization and, second, that they desired to remain in America under conditions similar to others who immigrated to America. Given these stipulations, the three were asked to offer their opinion on the course of action open to them. Tappan was a wealthy importer of cloth and fine-linen who had a reputation as a social reformer and activist. Garrison was editor of a recently established newspaper, The Liberator, an antislavery tract published in Boston. The third speaker, Simeon S. Jocelyn, was a Congregational minister and pastor of an all-black church in New Haven, Connecticut, a church Jocelyn formed in 1823 (McQueeney, 1970).
Initially, Tappan and Garrison were ardent supporters of African colonization. They had been attracted to the American Colonization Society because its leadership presented the Society as a benevolent Christian organization that had the welfare of free blacks as its ultimate objective. Key black leaders, knowing their survival in America depended upon their powers of logic and persuasion, worked assiduously to convince Garrison, and later Tappan, of the nefarious nature of the scheme. Jocelyn, because of his daily association with free blacks in New Haven, knew their sentiments toward colonization.
"The Negro College" Proposal
Since no colleges would admit black youth, except if they agreed to emigrate from America, Jocelyn proposed that free blacks establish their own college. He suggested that the college be located in New Haven, Connecticut, his hometown. Among the reasons given for his choice were: it is a healthy and beautiful location; its inhabitants are friendly, pious and generous; the town has extensive trade in the West Indies and many of the wealthy blacks could send their sons to the college; and, finally, the literary and scientific character of New Haven make it an ideal place for a black college (Bell, 1969). The citizens of New Haven were of a different mind and sentiment. In a hastily called meeting at City Hall, whites vociferously condemned the Black College proposal. The intensity of passion that exploded over the college meant the idea was stillborn.
The rejection of the college proposal did not, nor could not, assuage free blacks of its imperative need. Without a mechanism of moral, intellectual and social uplift, which the college promised, the prospect of relief from their conundrum in America seemed dim. The defeat of their college proposal was the igniting event that prompted Garrison and others to form the New England Anti-Slavery Society. The coalition of blacks and whites, formed in the 1831 Convention, saw the wisdom in the need for a broader organization than that offered by the Negro Convention Movement. The New England Anti-Slavery Society had several broad objectives but its primary one was to establish an institution of higher learning for free black youth. Blacks were marginally involved as founders of the New England Anti-Slavery Society but were less prominent then they had previously been. Appropriately enough, the organizing meeting of the New England Anti-Slavery Society was held in the African Meeting House in the Beacon Hill district of Boston in January, 1832.
The American antislavery movement was by 1832-33 as much driven by considerations of slavery in America as it was by developments related to slavery abroad. By then, British and American antislavery societies looked to each other for mutual assistance and support in ending slavery. Britain took the lead by emancipating slaves in the West Indies in 1833 (Wesley, 1933). In less than a year after the formation of the New England Anti-Slavery Society, leaders of this organization recognized that even a larger structure with national scope and influence was imperative. Merely providing some limited numbers of black youth with collegiate and professional training was too narrow a focus--the broader context of ending slavery itself had to be attempted. Educating free blacks so they could assume leadership positions and assist in the transition of blacks from slavery to freedom became a key stratagem that undergirded the thinking of the entire antislavery movement. Embracing these broader objectives, the American Anti-Slavery Society was formed in December, 1833. Arthur Tappan, one of the speakers at the Convention of 1831, was subsequently elected as this organization's first president.
From the time the black college proposal was first put forth in 1831 and until 1834, the idea of establishing a separate black institution of higher learning and designating it "a college" was abandoned. A more modest, and some thought wiser, course of action shifted to having black youth admitted to existing white academies, colleges, and seminaries. The idea gradually evolved that, in the short-run, what was needed was an integrated preparatory school. This school would simultaneously be used to prepare black youth for college admission or prepare them to directly enter professional courses of study. Free blacks from Pittsburgh, New York City, Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, and smaller cities such as Troy, N.Y. and New Haven, Connecticut, spent the years 1832 to 1834 raising funds targeted for the "Manual Labor School," the name the school project became nationally known as by 1832. Concurrent with the activity blacks were engaged in, Garrison toured England in the Spring and Summer of 1833 to raise funds for the school. No further developments of note took place concerning the school until July 4, 1834 when the state legislature of New
Hampshire passed "An Act to Incorporate Certain Persons by the Name[s] of Noyes Academy." The Noyes Academy was the first tangible product of the antislavery movement.
Canaan, New Hampshire
The choice of Canaan as the site for an academy resulted from the peculiarity of friendship and loyalty of key people within New Hampshire who shared a common set of values, particularly on the matter of education. Abolitionists from New Hampshire answered Garrison's call for the formation of the New England Anti-Slavery Society and as they did later in the formation of the American Anti-Slavery Society. The citizens of Canaan and the men in the New Hampshire abolition movement seemed more keenly interested in the educational component of the antislavery mission than they were in ending the system of slavery itself. They believed all youth needed to be educated and saw no good reason why young blacks should be deprived of these benefits.
Secondly, and more substantively, the choice of Canaan was due to its proximity to Dartmouth College. From the outset, it was understood that there needed to be a linkage between a college preparatory course of study, which the Noyes Academy offered, and access to a college. Dartmouth College had blacks on its campus as early as the mid-1770s. The union of the Noyes Academy with Dartmouth College appeared an ideal match, though not all graduates of the Academy were expected to go to Dartmouth. Additionally, Canaan was a rural setting situated approximately fifteen miles from Hanover, New Hampshire. The vincula of the Noyes Academy and Dartmouth was sealed by the fact that Nathan Lord, president of Dartmouth College, was the only seated New England college president willing to admit black students to his college. Sympathetic to the antislavery cause, Lord was a founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society. However, over the course of his presidency at Dartmouth, Lord wavered in his view on slavery.
The Incorporators of the Noyes Academy
Participants on the "Manual Labor School" project were given two levels on which they could serve--as incorporators or as trustees. The incorporators were Samuel Noyes, George Kimball, John H. Harris, Nathaniel Currier and George Walworth. Samuel Noyes, after whom the school was named, at the time of its founding was an eighty-year old farmer. His family was one of the first to settle in Canaan. Currier, Walworth and Harris were the most active in local politics of Canaan. Starting in 1818 and continuing through the mid-1830s, the three men were the dominate power brokers in Canaan in that they were masons and jointly served as selectmen and representatives of the State Legislature of New Hampshire. Each were members of the Congregational Church, located adjacent to the Academy.
The Trustees of the Noyes Academy
Four of the incorporators were also trustees--Kimball, Harris, Currier and Walworth. In the main, the trustees of the Noyes Academy were men of broad stature: all were well known throughout the state and some enjoyed national standing. Within the state, the most prominent trustee was Nathaniel P. Rogers, later editor of the official organ of the American Anti-Slavery Society, The National Anti-Slavery Standard. The Rev. Samuel H. Cox, pastor of three New York Presbyterian churches, was considered, from a national perspective, the most widely known of the trustees. When pastor of his second church, the Laight Street Presbyterian, amongst his congregation were Arthur Tappan and the Rev. John Rankin, both in the forefront of the abolitionist movement. Through his contact with these two individuals, Cox became involved in antislavery activity.
The other trustees were Dr. Timothy Tilton, David Lee Child, Samuel E. Sewell, esq., William C. Munroe, George Kent and Abraham L. Cox, M.D. Among these trustees, Timothy Tilton, a lawyer and a physician, was the only resident of Canaan. Tilton was the town's magistrate and before the founding of Noyes Academy served as town clerk from 1825 to 1833.
The Founding of the Noyes Academy
The backers of the Noyes Academy knew their fellow Canaan citizens well. Rank and file citizens of Canaan saw that the agitation over slavery as a dangerous wedge issue, if carded too far, had the potential for ripping the union of states apart. In spirit and sentiment, most Canaan citizens would probably have been sympathetic to African colonization. Friends of the school realized that there was going to be a struggle to make the Academy a reality. Consensus among abolitionists at the national level as to the desirability of an integrated school did not guarantee consensus at the local level. Approximately fifteen hundred dollars had been raised for the support of the Noyes Academy. It was expected that an equal or larger portion of money would be raised among the citizens of Canaan whose children would benefit from the school. In September, 1834, fifty-one of the original sixty local donors were called together to give final consideration on whether the Academy would be opened to black youth, consistent with the desire of abolitionists. On this question, the first vote was thirty-six in favor, fourteen opposed, with one abstaining vote. They committed themselves to continue the discussion the next day.
At the end of a long day of rancorous debate, a second vote was taken on the same question. This vote was forty-nine in favor and two votes against the question. The trustees, who had hoped for a unanimous vote, were willing to accept what they got. Sensing a small crack in the ranks of the trustees, opponents lost little time in organizing their efforts to exploit or widen the division. The leading citizens opposing the Academy were Elijah Blaisdell, Thomas Flanders, M.D., and the Rev. Joseph L. Richardson. The brawn behind this opposition was supplied by Jacob Trussell, Benjamin Porter, Daniel Pattee, John Shephard, and William Campbell. In addition to both groups of men not welcoming blacks in Canaan, they wanted to show their support, solidarity, and sympathy with the South by opposing any effort that appeared antithetical to southern interests.
A meeting was held on September 3, 1834 to gauge the Canaan voters' level of support or opposition to the school. Only eighty of the three hundred eligible voters in Canaan took part in these proceedings, however, they represented the most determined cadre of citizens who did not want the school to open. One of the five resolutions that passed summarized the voters' opposition to the Academy's establishment:
Resolved that while we contemplate with sorrow, the hard fate of the African race, and lament that any of that race should be slaves, we are not prepared to sever the happy union of these states and imbue our hands in the blood of our brethren for the purpose, of having Black Presidents, Black Governors, Black Representatives, Black Judges, nor for the purpose of gratifying the religious zeal of any class of discontented citizens.
Resolved, that we will not associate with nor in any way countenance any man or woman who shall hereafter persist in attempting to establish a school in this town for exclusive education of blacks, or for their education in conjunction with the whites (Wallace, 1910).
At the second meeting of the trustees of the school that produced the near unanimous vote to admit blacks to the Academy, the trustees quickly disposed of the other items of business, and proceeded to draft what would be a circular advertising the school to the public. In it the authors expressed their deep conviction about the school's design and ultimate purpose. The circular in part read:
To the American Public
We propose to do nothing for the colored man--but to leave him at liberty to do something for himself. It is not our wish to raise him out of his place nor into it--but to remove the unnatural pressure which now paralyzes his faculties and fixes him to the earth. We wish to afford him an impartial trial of his ability to ascend the steps of science and to tread the narrow way, which leadeth unto life. We wish to see him start as fairly as others, unconfined by fetters, unencumbered with burdens and buoyant with hope; and if he shall then fail, we shall at the worst have this consolation, that we have done our utmost to confer upon him those excellent endowments, which the wisdom of God and the solemn appeal of our fathers have taught us to regard as the appropriate distinction of immortal and indefinitely improvable beings (To the American Public, 1834).
On February 28, 1835, four months after this circular appeared, The Liberator carried another article from the Noyes Academy, submitted by the Committee of Trustees, David L. Child and Samuel E. Sewell. The article was the first announcement giving details of the opening of the Noyes Academy and the courses of study available. It noted that the Board of Trustees of the Academy had hired a teacher, William Scales. Scales was an 1832 graduate of Amherst College, and at the time a senior theology student at the Andover Theological Seminary. His appointment was effective March 1, 1835 but classes were scheduled to begin in April.
The Academy offered two courses of study, one English and the other Classical. It is unclear whether Scales taught all of the courses. In the English course were classes in Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Bookkeeping, Geometry, Algebra, Trigonometry, Surveying, Navigation, Astronomy, Geography and Construction and use of Maps, Charts, and Mathematical Instruments. In the same course classes were offered in Natural History, General History, History and Constitution of the United States, Grammar, Logic, Intellectual and Moral Philosophy, Ecclesiastical History, Political Economy, Exercises in Composition and Elocution, Manners and Customs, Races and Religions of different nations of the world.
In the classical course of study were Ancient Geography, Grecian, Roman, Egyptian and Jewish Antiquities, Heathen Mythology and Biography. The Trustees felt that these classes, combined with the courses offered in the English branch, would qualify the students to enter a college or university or go directly into a profession. The Trustees did not prescribe a list of required books but noted that students should bring such suitable books to the Academy that they possessed. The tuition for one year was $12 and boarding was available for $1.25 per week. No criteria for admission to the Academy was stated other than the students had to present documents attesting to their moral character (Noyes, 1835). At the opening of the school in March of 1835, there were fourteen black and twenty-eight white youth who responded to the Academy's circular.
In the interim between the Board of Trustees' initial meeting of September, 1834 and the opening of the Academy in March, 1835, opponents used the time to sow the seeds of distrust and disaffection for the school. Rumors were floated as to what the presence of the school meant for the residents of Canaan. It was hinted that the town would be overran with blacks from the South who would line their streets with huts and inundate their industrious town with "vagabonds, beggars, and paupers" (Wallace, 1910). The chief architect of this discontentment was led by Elijah Blaisdell. Blaisdell seized the sentiment of discontentment and opposition, "petted it, rubbed it the wrong way of the fur, to irritate it" (Wallace, 1910) His ultimate weapon was the specter of amalgamation, a commonly employed tactic used by pro-colonizationists. It was this threat that he and his cohorts used to their fullest advantage.
The school's adversaries artfully employed other tactics to counteract the influence of the school or to cast it in the worst possible light. At their urging, an editorial appeared in the New Hampshire Patriot, in June of 1835, deploring the fact that since the opening of the school the worst fears of whites were coming to reality; namely, that black men and white women were walking arm-in-arm down the streets of Canaan and that they were involved in social intercourse in the homes of abolitionists. The paper told of an occasion where black students were invited to the home of George Kimball for "tea and sweets." On this occasion it was noted that black students were waited on by a white female servant. The paper warned that the school was a "nuisance," that it encouraged amalgamation, and should, by use of "mild and peaceable measures" be removed (Wallace, 1910).
What ultimately enraged the Academy's adversaries centered on a 4th of July celebration in Plymouth, New Hampshire. Linking the antislavery crusade with the precepts of democracy and freedom, abolitionists were routinely encouraged to hold public meetings and solicit funds to aid this cause on America's Independence Day. Consistent with this policy, the secretary of Plymouth County's Anti-Slavery Society, George Russell, placed a notice in The Liberator announcing its First Annual 4th of July meeting to be held on Saturday at 9 o'clock a. m. with the Rev. John Allen of Kingston presiding. Representatives from the national antislavery society were present, namely Cyrus P. Grosvenor, Benjamin C. Bacon and Charles C. Burleigh. The day was filled with powerfully stirring speeches. One speaker noted how delighted he was "to spend the anniversary of our national independence in pleading the cause of the oppressed--in pleading for two and half million slaves, held in bondage by a nation which refused to bear the trifling yoke of a trifling tax on tea" (Fourth of July, 1835).
The Noyes Academy students were invited to take part in the 4th of July celebration. At Noyes Academy, the students formed their own antislavery society. Its president was a black student, Thomas Sipkin Sidney, who on that day delivered an impassioned speech. Fellow student, Alexander Crummell, writing about Sidney's speech, recollected that:
"it was brilliant and impressive in an unusual degree. He gave universal delight, while descending upon the oppression and wrongs of his people, his soul became fired with patriotic ardor. In severe and pointed terms he dissected the hypocrisy of American Christians and Republicanism. As he progressed warmly and eloquently did he vindicate the character of his Brethren" (Black Abolitionist Papers, 1972).
The speech was met with a spontaneous and thunderous applause. Word soon spread that blacks were not only present in Canaan and Plymouth but they were arousing the ire of townsfolk by their audacity to be giving antislavery speeches. The stridency of Thomas S. Sidney's speech was provocative, and for the Academy's opponents, the straw that broke the camel's back.
The Demise of the Noyes Academy
Five men played the most decisive role in the destruction of the Academy, these were the Rev. Joseph L. Richardson, Dr. Thomas Flanders, attorney Elijah Blaisdell, Benjamin Porter and Jacob Trussell. Of the five, Trussell is given credit as being the school's most vociferous opponent. Canaan town historian Wallace observed, "had it not been for Jacob Trussell the Academy would not have been touched" (Wallace, 1910).
In social background, education, occupation status, level of political activity and religious affiliation these men shared much of the same biographical profile as those who supported the Noyes Academy. Both groups of Canaan citizens were members of the Congregational Church and they jointly shared membership in the Mount Moriah Masonic Lodge # 22. Like many of the incorporators of Noyes Academy, the opponents served the town of Canaan as selectmen, as town clerks, and town moderators. Likewise, some of the latter group served as Representatives to the State Legislature. It would appear that what distinguished one from the other was general outlook and personal philosophy. They shared divergent conceptions of who belonged in America and, therefore, who should enjoy her rights and benefits.
In one of the many meetings held by opponents of the school over a ten-month period, a meeting was called for the 31st of July in response to the local antislavery activity. The Rev. Joseph L. Richardson held the meeting in his home, which was crammed to capacity. While opponents of the Academy could not take any lawful actions against the school, a lawfully convened town meeting might do what an individual could not lawfully do. In part it was,
Therefore Resolved That from what our eyes have seen and our ears have heard respecting the close intimacy that exists between some of the colored boys and white females, we believe if suffered to go on, it will not be long before we shall have living evidence of an amalgamation of blood. Resolved That we consider the Colored School in this town a Public Nuisance and that it is the duty of the town to take immediate measures to remove said nuisance (Wallace, 1910).
The removal of the building was scheduled to commence at 7 a.m. on August 10th. The removal was to continue throughout the entire day and last as many days as necessary to complete the removal of what was termed the "offending" building. Furthermore, opponents of the Academy ordered that announcements made by the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society (for what they regarded as libelous statements) asserting that the majority of the residents were in favor of the school be retracted. They wanted it clearly understood that closer to 4/5 of the inhabitants were firmly opposed to the school. A team of ninety oxens were assembled to remove the school. Excerpts from an eyewitness account provide the gruesome details of the school removal:
When they first appeared and seized upon the front fence to pull it away, they were met by Doctor Tilton, who, as a magistrate, commanded them to disperse and begun to read the riot act.
There was a perceptible hesitation when Trusell stepped forward, seizing an ax and exclaimed: "Well, we have heard all that before, but won't pass with us today. Boys fall to here! If that man interrupts you any more remove him." Then striking the first blow, he encouraged his crowd to deeds unheard of before in this town. I need not say that there was sadness among our friends. We were sad at the unappeasable madness of the people, who blindly followed that revengeful man, but in the days to come there will be reaction. The reading of the riot act by Doctor Tilton was the only obstruction offered by the friends of the school. They chose to suffer affliction and the destruction of their property rather than shed the blood of these misguided men.
This day was hotter than the preceding, yet with redoubled ardor these men persisted in their crime, until they hauled the house on to the corner of the Common, in front and close by the old church. They arrived upon the spot just at dark, so completely fagged out, both oxen and men, that it was utterly impossible to do anything further. There it stands, shattered, mutilated, inwardly beyond reparation almost, a monument of the folly of and infuriated malice of a basely deceived populace (Wallace, 1910).
At the conclusion of their extremely draining exertion, Phineas Eastman prepared, to approving applause, the sentiments appropriate for the occasion. He asserted that the patriots of the American Revolutionary had fought to establish the sovereignty of America and that the Patriots of New Hampshire were prepared to fight for the rights and privileges of their Southern brethren. He further stated that the abolitionists had to be checked and restrained within the limits of Constitutional liberty. He concluded,
The abolitionists, a combination of disorganizers led by an Englishman [Charles Thompson] sent to this country to sow seeds of discord between the North and South, May he be removed from the continent as suddenly as the Noyes Academy has this day been removed from the control of the Abolitionists (Colored School, 1835).
The Noyes' Students and Their Teacher
The Academy's teacher and students were given one month to leave town. If they failed to comply with this command, they were told, they would be forcefully removed. By one account, the building in which the blacks stayed was fired upon and it was reported the black students fired back (Phillips, 1899). No complete listing of the total fourteen black students who attended school at the Noyes Academy is known. A record from where in the United States they came is known. Six came from Providence, Rhode Island, three from New York City, three from Philadelphia, and two from Boston. We know most about the three young men from New York City and the two students from Boston. In the first group were Henry Highland Garnet, Thomas S. Sidney, Alexander Crummell in the latter group were Julia Williams and Thomas Paul, Jr.
Julia Williams was the only known black woman to attend the Noyes Academy. Williams, before attending school in Canaan, was a student a year or two earlier in Prudence Crandall's Female Academy in Canterbury, Connecticut. Crandall's school met a similar destructive fate as the Noyes Academy. Both schools were viewed with disdain as "meddlesome abolitionist schools." Notwithstanding the brevity of both of her higher educational experiences, it would not be incorrect to claim, as her eulogist did in 1870, that Julia Williams could rightly be considered the first black female to obtain "higher education" in America. Julia Williams was born in Charleston, South Carolina, July 1, 1811, and brought to Boston as a child. She was reared in the Baptist faith but later became affiliated with the Presbyterian church. It was while she attended the Noyes Academy that she first met Henry Highland Garnet. Garnet and Williams married in 1840. Immediately after leaving the Noyes Academy she lived with the family of Nathaniel P. Rogers in Concord, Hampshire. She later was qualified as a teacher and appointed to teach in Boston. With her husband, Julia Williams Garnet traveled throughout the British West Indies and was active in the communities in which her husband held pastorates. The couple had two children, a daughter, Mary H. G. Barboza and a son, Henry S. Garnet. Julia Williams Garnet died at the age of 59 and was buried in the cemetery of the Avery Mission Chapel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Obituary, 1870).
Henry Highland Garnet was 19 years old when he entered the Noyes Academy. He was born a slave and with his family escaped from slavery in Maryland. He, like childhood friends, Crummell and Sidney, attended the African Free School of New York City. He attended the Phoenix High School in the City, established by his mentor, Theodore S. Wright, a Presbyterian minister who influenced Garnet to enter the ministry. Upon leaving the Noyes Academy, Thomas Sidney, Alexander Crummell and Henry Highland Garnet attended the Oneida Institute under the abolitionist president, the Rev. Beriah Green. Beriah Green was a valedictorian, 1819, graduate of Middlebury College and a graduate of the Andover Theological Seminary. From 1830 to 1833, he was chair of sacred literature in the theology department of Western Reserve College. At Western Reserve College, Green read Garrison's book, Thoughts on Colonization. Green later confided it was this book that converted him to an antislavery position. Green was president of the organizing meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833.
While attending the Oneida Institute, Garnet met many other black students who had been invited to Whitesboro, New York to study under the venerable Green. At Oneida, Garnet met or knew of Samuel A. Jackson, Elymus Payson Rogers, Samuel Ringgold Ward, William Allen, John V. DeGrass, Amos N. Freeman, Jacob Prime, Augustus Washington, Jermain Loguen, Garrett A. Cantine, William Forten, and Amos Beman (Sernett, 1986). These men comprised the core of the black abolitionists of the 1840s and beyond. Each of his classmates, in varying fields of endeavor, became dominant leaders of the northern free black communities and Garnet, like they, was counted foremost among this leadership cadre. Garnet was also introduced to a number of white students at the Oneida Institute who, like their black counterparts, made their mark as abolitionists working to advance the broader antislavery struggle in the years leading up to the Civil War. A large contingent of the Oneida Institute graduates enrolled in the Lane Theological Seminary, forming the core of abolitionists at the seminary.
Two years after leaving Canaan, while a student at the Oneida Institute, Garnet was invited back to speak at the Congregational Church in Canaan. Conceivably Garnet had to wonder if the passions had cooled in the intervening years. As Garnet learned, there had been a change for at least one of his former tormentors. The invitation given Garnet had been extended by John Hough Harris, one of the original trustees of the Noyes Academy. Following Garnet's talk, a reception was held. At his lecture was Benjamin W. Porter, one of the Academy's detractors. Porter took Garnet by the hand, telling him that he had heard his speech and that he had come also to express his deep regret for having participated in ousting him and the other black students. Porter then stated that, if he only had the moral courage, he would have announced his regret publicly.
Wallace's account indicates that Porter no longer participated in further political activity like that of the Canaan affair. A short time after he listened to Garnet and, after he expressed his personal regrets, Porter and his family left New Hampshire. The family moved to Michigan where Porter met an untimely death. He drowned in the wreck of a steamer on Lake Erie (Wallace, 1910).
Garnet served as pastor of several Presbyterian churches and began a school for black youth at the Liberty Street Presbyterian Church in Troy, New York (Brewster, 1928). Garnet followed George B. Vashon, M.A. as the fourth president of Avery College in Pittsburgh. Avery was the first state-chartered collegiate institution for African Americans in the United States (Irvine, 1996). Garnet was awarded a Doctor of Divinity degree and, in later life, was appointed United States Minister to Liberia. Along with his daughter, Mary H. G. Barboza, who was also a teacher, Garnet spent the remaining years of his life in Liberia, where he died and was buried in 1882 (American Colonization Society, 1882).
Alexander Crummell was born free in New York City in 1819. The idea for the development of Freedom's Journal was conceived in the home of his activist father, Boston Crummell. Boston Crummell was also a member of the Provisional Committee that sought funds to support the "Black College" proposed by Simeon S. Jocelyn in 1831. As a young boy, Crummell attended school at the Free African School No. 1. He was a classmate of Thomas S. Sidney, and next-door neighbor to Henry H. Garnet.
After a three year stay at the Oneida Institute, Crummell sought admission to the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church. However, he was refused admission there by Bishop Benjamin Onderdonk of New York, a rabid colonizationist. Refused admission to the seminary, Crummell was privately tutored in Providence, Rhode Island by the Rev. Alexander Hamilton Vinton, an ordained deacon and a graduate of the General Theological Seminary. Crummell was ordained to the diaconate in 1842. He studied for four years at Queen College, Cambridge University in England and graduated from there with a B.A. degree in 1853. From 1853 to 1873, Crummell worked in Liberia, Africa, first as Rector of Church of Christ, then as Professor of Intellectual and Moral Philosophy at Liberia College, and, later as a missionary in Monrovia. He stayed in Liberia for twenty years, and while there authored two books, the Greatness of Christ and The Future of Africa.
After a twenty-year stay in Africa, Crummell returned to America to assume the rectorship of St. Luke's Church in Washington, D. C. Crummell was a prolific writer but his single greatest legacy might be the founding of the American Negro Academy. Not only was he its founder, he was the Academy's first president. The American Negro Academy was an organization composed exclusively of black intellectuals. Membership in this organization included such black intellectual notables as W. E. B. DuBois, Archibald Grimke, Kelly Miller, Carter G. Woodson, James Weldon Johnson, Alain L. Locke and Paul Laurence Dunbar (Moss, 1981). DuBois derived his concept of the "Talented Tenth" from Crummell's American Negro Academy and pays tribute to Crummell in his book The Souls of Black Folk. Carter G. Woodson, a member of the American Negro Academy, was inspired by his association with these scholars that led him to found the Association for the Study of Black Life and Culture and to found The Journal of Negro History, in 1916. The intellectual and cultural energy emanating from the collective works generated by the American Negro Academy is credited with spawning the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.
Thomas S. Sidney, the third student at the Noyes Academy from New York City, met an untimely death at the age of 26 in 1840. Crummell, on the 4th of July of that year, delivered a thirty-five page eulogy honoring Thomas Sipkins Sidney. He was described by Crummell as boundless in his devotion and commitment to the uplift of his oppressed people. By Crummell's account, Thomas S. Sidney possessed, in temperament and spirit, the qualities that would have given him undisputed claim to leadership in the free black community of New York City.
The story of how the three men from New York City traveled to Canaan, New Hampshire is gripping and gives some sense of what they were willing to endure for an education. On the first leg of the trip, they traveled on a steamboat from New York City to Providence, R.I. On the steamboat, they were not permitted to enter the cabin, but were forced to spend the night on deck exposed to the elements. They next traveled atop stagecoaches day and night from Providence to Boston, then from Boston to Concord, from Concord to Hanover and finally, from Hanover to Canaan. On the last leg of the trip they traveled the 15 miles over the Grafton Highway from Hanover to Canaan. The journey consisted of a total of two hundred miles. Rarely could they get food and nowhere could they find lodging (Phillips, 1898).
Thomas Paul, Jr., the other known male student from Boston, was the son of a Baptist preacher, the Rev. Thomas Paul, Sr. At the age of 26, he was the second black full-time student, following Edward Mitchell, to graduate from Dartmouth College. Before Paul's admission, white students at the College were encouraged to be active in the antislavery organization formed on campus. Paul, upon his arrival there, became an active member of the student antislavery society and was one of its most passionate and articulate members. At the Noyes Academy, Paul must have of known of the antislavery position of Nathan Lord, its president, and was for that reason attracted to Dartmouth College. After graduating from college in 1841, he taught in the Smith School for blacks in Boston.
The Noyes Academy's beloved teacher, William Scales, was ordained a minister in the Congregational church (Theological Seminary Andover, 1808-1908). Scales continued in the work of the antislavery movement and in 1836, the year of his first church appointment, he became the secretary of the Caledonia County Anti-Slavery Society, Lyndon, Vermont (American Anti-Slavery Society, 1838). Scales later married Caroline Chamberlain and had three daughters, Emily, Mary and Carrie. He presided as pastor over a number of churches primarily in the state of Vermont. On three separate occasions he was the pastor of the same church, the Lyndon Congregational Church. He was first there from 1836 to 1841, again from 1855 to 1857 and last in 1860. He spent time as pastor in Brownington and Rochester, Vermont. Scales died in 1863 as pastor of the Lyndon Congregation Church (Vincent, 1996, January 16).
Forging a Link: Arthur Tappan, the Lane Seminary and the Oberlin Collegiate Institute
As president of the American Anti-Slavery Society, Arthur Tappan was no doubt aware of the New Hampshire academy through his association with many of the individuals involved with it. There is no evidence, however, suggesting his direct involvement with the academy. Tappan's contribution to black higher education was elsewhere. While the advent and demise of the Noyes Academy was occurring, Tappan's attention was drawn to other events further west concerning the Oneida Institute in Whitesboro, New York and the Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio. Working with a unique circumstance that fell into his lap, Tappan, in 1834-35, forged a connection between these two institutions and the Oberlin Collegiate Institute that would have a profound impact on black higher education.
Few in the first half of the nineteenth century could match the wealth held by Arthur Tappan. No one, however, played a more significant role in a wider variety of religious, social, and educational reforms than Tappan. He judiciously used his wealth, power, and influence to advance the various causes to which he was committed and championed. In addition to serving as president of the American Anti-Slavery Society, he was president or director of the American Bible Society, the Union Missionary Society, the American Tract Society, and the American Education Society (Southall, 1930). Beyond the above named organizations, Tappan was deeply involved in another, the Society for Promoting Manual Labor in Literary Institutions. His work in this organization led to Tappan's meeting and, later hiring, Theodore Weld, then a student at the Oneida Institute, as one of this organization's traveling agents.
Aware that Weld and a large number of his fellow classmates from the Institute, all ardent abolitionists, had enrolled at the Lane Theological Seminary, Tappan urged Weld to infuse abolitionism in this southern Ohio seminary. Tappan had been involved with the Lane Seminary before his contact with Weld, however. Long interested in education in the West and especially in the training of ministers of the gospel, Tappan persuaded Calvin Stowe to accept a faculty position at Lane and he convinced the Rev. Lyman Beecher, D. D. to head the seminary as president.
Given Tappan's knowledge of the strong antislavery sentiment of the students at Lane and his awareness of the strong-willed nature of Lane's faculty and president, he no doubt may very well have anticipated an eventual clash on some sensitive issue. Within less than a year of enrolling at the Lane Seminary, the confrontation occurred. Students led by Weld, over the strenuous objection of Beecher, were determined to enter debates on the questions of slavery and colonization. A total of eighteen nights of debate were scheduled, nine nights for two issues: A) "Whether the people of the slave holding states ought to abolish slavery immediately B) "Whether the doctrines, tendencies, measures, and spirit of the Colonization Society were such as to render it worthy of the patronage of the Christian public" (American Anti-Slavery Reporter, 1834, April).
The first question won resounding approval from the students. At the end of the debate, in April, 1834, students voted to form an antislavery society. Word about the intense debate spread rapidly throughout Cincinnati. The Seminary was openly condemned and Beecher received many letters threatening the closing of the seminary. The debate, the formation of the student antislavery society, and the criticism heaped on the Seminary prompted faculty, administration and some members of the trustees to prevent further antislavery activity. Uppermost in the minds of the school's leaders was to protect the institution from the jeopardy of losing financial support from within the City and from interests further South. During the summer of 1834, while the students were absent, the trustees approved measures to restrict antislavery demonstrations on the campus.
Upon the students' return they learned that they had been placed under a "gag order." Refusing to submit to what they regarded as a groundless policy, fifty-one students, the majority of the seminary's population, asked for and were granted honorable dismission. These students spent most of the 1834-35 school year affirming their commitment to antislavery activity by working among Cincinnati's free black community. Learning what had transpired in Cincinnati, Tappan wrote Theodore Weld and enclosed a draft for $1,000. The money was to be used to rent a building in which the students could live and pay board. Since some people stepped forward to tutor the students, a portion of this money could be used to purchase books necessary for their further study. The money could also be used to defray the cost of any students who wanted to return home.
During the latter part of 1834, Tappan fortuitously met John Jay Shipherd in New York. Shipherd, one of the founders of the community and college of Oberlin, was in New York raising funds for the college and recruiting for a president of the College. The confluence of mutual need and opportunity intersected. Grasping the significance of the moment, a white institution of higher learning likely to open its doors to blacks, Tappan offered to make an unencumbered $10,000 girl to the College. They also reached an agreement that if arrangements could be made to accept the Lane students, Tappan would build a theology school for them on Oberlin's campus.
Tappan attached stipulations to his largess. No restraint or restriction could be imposed on the students' freedom of speech or academic inquiry. Second, he stipulated that Asa Mahan and John Morgan be appointed to positions at Oberlin. Subject to Board approval, Tappan requested that Mahan be appointed president and Morgan appointed professor of mathematics. Mahan and Morgan were among the students' favorites and each vigorously supported their debate. There was a third request Tappan made to the Board, this one was the most vexing of the propositions. Tappan requested that blacks be admitted on the same basis as whites.
The Oberlin community and students were not only aware of but also had deep interests in the outcome of the deliberation before the Board. To be free of the emotional and highly charged atmosphere that had been created, the trustees held their meeting in Elyria, twelve miles outside Oberlin. The Board of Trustees of the Oberlin Collegiate Institute voted the following resolution on February 9, 1835.
"Whereas there does exist in our country an excitement in respect to our colored population, and fears are entertained that on the one hand, they will be left unprovided for, as the means of a proper education, and on the other that they will in unsuitable numbers be introduced in our schools, and thus in effect forced into the Society of the whites, & the state of public opinion is such as to require from the Board some definite expression on the subject, therefore
Resolved, that the education of the people of color is a matter of great interest, and should be encouraged and sustained in this institution" (Board of Trustees Minutes, 1835 February 9). The resolution, as noted at the beginning of this paper, passed by a one-vote margin. The deciding vote was cast by the Rev. John Keep.
The "gift" of Oberlin gave free blacks the mechanism they longed wished for, the opportunity for social, economic, and political uplift. For a thirty-year period, 1835 to 1865, and never exceeding more than five percent of student enrollment, wave after wave of the first generation of black theologians, physicians, public school educators, journalists, college presidents, college professors, and lawyers became products of what some dubbed "the abolitionist school."
Forces were marshaled from 1830 to 1835 to affect the opportunity structure for free blacks. The first was the ill-fated black college, the second was the short-lived Noyes Academy, and third the final triumph at Oberlin College. The period from 1835 to 1865 was pivotal in the life of America but more so for free blacks. On the surface, the struggle ostensibly was over education but the ramifications went far deeper. Tested was the resilience and potency of American democracy. "Words without deeds are hallow musings," was a frequently uttered abolitionist phrase of this era.
Knowledge of the Noyes Academy and the men and women who briefly participated in this venture has until now languished in near complete obscurity. This portrayal is an effort to shed light on a little known but significant facet of American history and pay tribute to the participants in the antislavery movement who made a link between race and opportunity manifestly real.
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RUSSELL W. IRVINE-GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY DONNA ZANI DUNKERTON-TOWN HISTORIAN, CANAAN, NEW HAMPSHIRE
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to: Russell Irvine, 1721 Coventry Place, Decatur, GA 30030.
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|Author:||IRVINE, RUSSELL W.; DUNKERTON, DONNA ZANI|
|Publication:||The Western Journal of Black Studies|
|Date:||Dec 22, 1998|
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