Slavery: A Human's Inhuman Status - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1443 Words
Date:  2023-05-02


The term slavery was used to refer to a condition whereby a human being owned by another human being. Some years ago, anyone who was considered a slave was considered a chattel or a property by the law and he or she did not receive the rights held by ordinary free individuals. Some slaves choose to become slaves all by themselves, others were sold to slavery by their parents or relatives. Some were kidnapped on privacy expeditions or slave raiding; others choose to be slaves to escape starvation while others choose to become slaves as a form of settling their debts or crimes while frequently others were captured during wars. In most cases of slavery was involuntary. During the slavery era in the United States, education of the slaves was mostly discouraged except for the religious instructions which were later on made illegal within most of the southern states. The main reason as to why education for the slaves was discouraged is because literacy of the slaves was believed to be a threat to the slavery institution. This is true based on the fact that there was a slave revolution that successfully occurred in Haiti between 1791 and 1804 due to literacy among the slaves, the writings of abolitionists as well as the end of slavery within the British Empire which were all facilitated by the literacy of the slaves. This paper tries to explain the education of slaves during the slavery era.

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The United States was the only country known to have prohibited slave education however both the enslaved and free African Americans through their efforts continued to learn how to read and write through the assistance of the informal education as well as schools that existed during that period. As a way of passing along the cultural traditions as well as other information, slaves did involve themselves in crafts, storytelling, and music. The African Americans who lived in the northern states had more access to formal schooling hence they had basic writing and reading skills. The Quakers, a Christian group helped in the establishment of the education programs in the north before as well as after the revolutionary war. During the colonial period in the United States, the Anglicans, as well as the Congregationalists, converted most slaves into Christianity and in the process of conversion, they saw the ability to read the scriptures as being part of the process hence the great awakening played as a catalyst that encouraged education for all society members. The religious instruction encouraged reading but did not encourage writing since writing was viewed as a status mark which was considered unnecessary for most society members who included the slaves. It was considered that one had to first know how to read so that they could now be able to write. Wallace Turnage was among those individuals who learned how to write and read while still, he was a slave before he escaped from his masters. Wallace learned with the help of other slaves who helped him escape to different places when some taught him to read directions to where he was to escape. This means that the form of education that was available during the slavery era was based on scripture, memorization as well as catechisms. Formal education for slaves was very minimal and even after slavery was over, slave education still did not become widely available for the former slaves or their children due to the de jure and de facto, racial segregation in schools as well as the insufficient funding for the African Americans in schools which continued over to the 20th century.

Within the southern states of America, there were no schools that admitted black children in the 18th century to their free public schools. Slave education was illegal and anyone who was caught teaching slaves or the blacks how to read and write was charged by law. An example was Margaret Douglass who was convicted as well as imprisoned after she was caught teaching the black children in Norfolk, Virginia. Other brave teachers risked teaching black children such as John Chavis of Rayleigh who ran secret night classes. In an autobiography by Henry Bibb, "the narrative of the life and the adventures of Henry Bibb, an American Slave", he states that slaves were allowed a paper, books, ink or pen to improve their minds. He talks of a poor white girl, Miss Davies, who started a sabbath school where she taught and enlightened slaves. She managed to start the school and when news spread all over that she helped the slaves to read, the neighborhood got excited and as result patrols were appointed to break everything the following sabbath. 1787 was the year when the first African free school was started in New York City and it together with the other six schools began receiving public funding in 1824. Some of the individuals who graduated from these schools include Iran Aldridge as well as Henry Highland Garnet.

Revolution of slave education gained momentum in the 19th century where there arose many individuals who started schools that admitted black children and some of them included Prudence Crandall who started a black girls' school which attracted girls from Boston and Philadelphia. The school faced a lot of challenges from both the authorities and the local white individuals but even though Crandall continued running the school. Sarah Roberts with the help of Charles Sumner in 1849 managed to sue Boston city for their acts of failing to admit black children to its schools. They lost the case but later in 1855, the Massachusetts legislature changed the policies of the city and declared that no individual shall be excluded from public schools based on prejudice, race or even their color. There were other advocates of black education including Frederick Douglass, Mary Battey and many more who did a lot to ensure that education opportunity was given to all individuals equally. To find more about slave education, it would be better to research on the different types of slavery that existed then since there were those slavery works that required one to know to read and write. This means that there were those slaves who received slave education from their masters to be able to work on certain posts. Education could be either formal and informal, most slaves received the informal education where one was taught how to sew clothes or maybe do farming in the farms of their masters. It is there important to research slave education both the formal and the informal. Formal education was taught in schools while informal education was taught practically in the different posts that one found himself or herself.

The internet helps the user in getting a wide range of researchers by other scholars about specific topics and slavery, there are very many sources that explain everything about the topic. Charles F. Heartman Manuscripts of Slavery Collection is a collection of over 4000 pieces which date from 1724 to 1897. The pieces relate directly to the legal, social, civil as well as the economic status of the enslaved Negroes also the people of color within Louisiana and Orleans. Another good source of the primary documents on slavery is the Anti-slavery collection (1725-1911) of the University of Massachusetts Amherst which consists of hundreds of pamphlets as well as books talking about slavery and antislavery within New England since 1725 to 1911. They include organizational publications such as the American colonization society, the American Antislavery society as well as a small number of tracts of pro-slavery. Others are original proceedings, speeches as well as sermons that all were about slavery. These and other sources give the researcher a wide range of information about slavery and the history of black people.

Primary documents are artifacts, documents or images which give firsthand information or direct evidence about a historic topic under study or investigation. They are original documents experienced or created contemporaneously with the scenario being researched. Primary documents help the researcher in getting firsthand information about the topic under study. The results yielded by a researcher from primary documents are usually accurate and clear. The primary documents used to conduct this research are narrative events and autobiographies of individuals who lived during the slavery period and they include William Green. They helped the researcher get a clear picture of how life during the slavery period was for both the whites and the black slaves.


Buckingham, James. The slave states of America. Applewood Books, 2008.

Franklin, John Hope, and Alfred A. Moss. From slavery to freedom. New York: Knopf, 1956.

Smallwood, Stephanie E. Saltwater Slavery. Harvard University Press, 2008.

Webber, Thomas L. Deep like the rivers: Education in the slave quarter community, 1831-1865. New York: Norton, 1978.

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