Cover image for Educated for freedom : the incredible story of two fugitive schoolboys who grew up to change a nation
Educated for freedom : the incredible story of two fugitive schoolboys who grew up to change a nation
Physical Description:
241 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
"Educated for Freedom" explores the story of two fugitive schoolboys who grew up to change a nation"--


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Book 920 DUA 0 1

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The powerful story of two young men who changed the national debate about slavery
In the 1820s, few Americans could imagine a viable future for black children. Even abolitionists saw just two options for African American youth: permanent subjection or exile. Educated for Freedom tells the story of James McCune Smith and Henry Highland Garnet, two black children who came of age and into freedom as their country struggled to grow from a slave nation into a free country.
Smith and Garnet met as schoolboys at the Mulberry Street New York African Free School, an educational experiment created by founding fathers who believed in freedom's power to transform the country. Smith and Garnet's achievements were near-miraculous in a nation that refused to acknowledge black talent or potential. The sons of enslaved mothers, these schoolboy friends would go on to travel the world, meet Revolutionary War heroes, publish in medical journals, address Congress, and speak before cheering crowds of thousands. The lessons they took from their days at the New York African Free School #2 shed light on how antebellum Americans viewed black children as symbols of America's possible future. The story of their lives, their work, and their friendship testifies to the imagination and activism of the free black community that shaped the national journey toward freedom.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

University of Connecticut English professor Duane (Suffering Childhood in Early America) casts a revealing dual biography of James McCune Smith (1813--1865) and Henry Highland Garnet (1815--1882) against the backdrop of early-19th-century debates over the future of black people in America. Born into slavery, Smith and Garnet were educated at the Mulberry Street New African Free School in New York City, where administrators taught students that black people "must either embrace a cheerful exile abroad or accept a living death in the United States." By colonizing Africa, the argument went, African-Americans could "reenact and ultimately redeem American colonization." Smith, who became the first African-American to hold a medical degree, rejected this viewpoint and argued for "dogged persistence" in achieving freedom and equality in the U.S. Meanwhile, Garnet, who became a minister and famous orator, advocated for African colonization up until the Civil War. Duane eloquently describes the threats and obstacles black children faced in pursuit of their education (Garnet, she notes, once found his family's home ransacked by slave catchers), but the narrative loses steam as its focus turns to internal conflicts within the abolitionist movement and close readings of both men's speeches and essays. Nevertheless, this erudite chronicle succeeds in lifting up two underappreciated figures of the antislavery movement. (Jan.)

Kirkus Review

An overlooked story of two important African Americans who impacted the slavery debate at a critical moment in American history.Many historians focus on Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and Mary Church Terrell as the leading African American civil rights advocates of the 19th century. Yet Duane (English/Univ. of Connecticut; Suffering Childhood in Early America: Violence, Race, and the Making of the Child Victim, 2017, etc.) reminds us of two critical black leaders who influenced the national civil rights debate and symbolized the era's frustrating potential: James McCune Smith (1813-1865) and Henry Highland Garnet (1815-1882). Smith and Garnet met as boys at a New York school and grew to be both friends and rivals, achieving unprecedented honors in a society that viewed black Americans as inherently inferior. Smith graduated first in his class at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, and he was the first African American to hold a medical degree and the first to run a pharmacy. His approach to the abolitionist movement was to collaboratively support and work within institutions expanding freedom, often relying on his medical expertise to refute assertions of black inferiority. By contrast, the fiery Garnet used a combative approach as a minister to advocate a kind of black nationalism that, at times, embraced separating black and white Americans as the only way to achieve true freedom. Garnet acquired a reputation as perhaps the most eloquent black orator of the time, outpacing even Douglass in the eyes of many. Duane departs from the traditional biographical formatsurveying from childhood to adulthoodand instead weaves biographical events together through a focus on documents at the school Garnet and Smith attended as children. The result creates a provocative tie between their childhood challenges and the work they pursued as adults.A compelling tale of two boys and their struggle to forge a path for freedom out of a slave nation. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal Review

In this dual biography, Duane (English & American Studies, Univ. of Connecticut; Child Slavery Before and After Emancipation) tells the stories of James McCune Smith (1813--65)and Henry Highland Garnet (1815--82). These men led remarkable lives at a time when opportunities for African Americans, even free northerners, were severely circumscribed. Both men attended and formed a lifelong, but at times troubled, friendship at the New York African Free School (NYAFS), a unique school founded in 1787. After graduation, Smith earned a medical degree from Edinburgh University, becoming the first African American to do so. Garnet served as a minister around the country and abroad. Both men found themselves on different sides of the debate about whether African Americans could find a fulfilling place in American society, as Smith believed, or if they could only advance by emigrating from a country that did not want them and settle elsewhere--in Africa, the Caribbean, or South America, as Garnet suggested. Based on extensive archival research, Duane paints a detailed and nuanced picture of black education, including its possibilities and limitations, in the antebellum North. VERDICT A must-read for those interested in antebellum African American life and education.--Chad E. Statler, Westlake Porter P.L., Westlake, OH

Table of Contents

Introduction: Slavery at the School Doorp. 1
1 The Star Student as Specimen (CIRCA 1822-1837)p. 13
2 Shifting Ground, Lost Parents, Uprooted Schools (CIRCA 1822-1840)p. 41
3 Orphans, Data, and the American Story (CIRCA 1837-1850)p. 67
4 Throwing Down the Shovel (CIRCA 1840-1850)p. 91
5 Pumping Out a Sinking Ship (CIRCA 1850-1855)p. 113
6 Follow the Money, Find the Revolution (CIRCA 1850-1855)p. 137
7 Bitter Battles, African Civilization, and John Brown's Body (CIRCA 1856-1862)p. 159
8 The War's End and the Nation's Future (CIRCA 1862-1865)p. 181
Acknowledgmentsp. 207
Notesp. 211
Indexp. 235
About the Authorp. 241