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Teachers vs. Parents x The New York African Free School
11-26-2014, 09:02 PM
Post: #1
Teachers vs. Parents x The New York African Free School
The History of the School

Teachers vs. Parents

The relationship between black parents and white administrators was often cooperative, but at times was also fraught with tension. Often it seemed that the members of the New York Manumission Society who oversaw the school's operations were more likely to see parents as big children to be patronized, instead of co-contributors to their children's education. For example, the school publication, An Address to the Parents and Guardians of the Children Belonging to the New York African Free School, seems to view black parents as recalcitrant students rather than partners in their children's development:

It has been deemed proper by the Manumission Society (that society which has labored with so much zeal for a long course of years, to meliorate the condition of the coloured people in the United States) that the power of putting out to trades or service, those children who may have received their education at the school, shall be left with the trustees, and a committee appointed by the society: it being understood that the parents, shall, in every case, if they desire it, be previously consulted. It has been a subject of much regret to the Manumission Society, that many of the children who have been educated in their school, have, after leaving it, been suffered to waste their time in idleness, to mingle in bad company, and to contract those vicious habits, which are calculated to render them subjects of them pests to society.1

According to Charles C. Andrews, the school's principal, and the trustees of the Manumission Society, such a firm hand was necessary to ensure that students were optimally placed in a competitive and often hostile workplace. But for parents who were all too familiar with the specter of their children being removed from their custody by white men, the insistence that the Manumission Society decide their children's placement might well have been painful.

In 1831, Charles C. Andrews, who had been the head teacher and principal of the New York African Free School for over twenty years, resigned from his job. Accounts vary about the events leading up to this resignation. One source attributes this development to an outcry over Andrews's decision to cane a student who had the temerity to refer to a black visitor as a "gentleman." The Manumission Society records indicate that Andrews's unpopular stance in favor of sending freed blacks to Liberia was the reason for the resignation.2 In either case, one thing seems clear—it was the outrage and action of the black community that left Andrews little choice but to leave his post. According to the records of the New York Manumission Society, black parents boycotted the school en masse to express their indignation. The Manumission Society acknowledged that "it would be more satisfactory to those who send their children to our schools if a person of their own colour could be obtained competent to conduct a school in a suitable manner."3

1 An Address to the Parents and Guardians of the Children Belonging to the New York African Free School (New York: Samuel Wood and Sons, 1818), 20–21.

2 Records, New-York Society for Promoting the Manumission of Slaves, and Protecting Such of Them as Have Been, or May Be Liberated. 1785-1849 11 volumes. Vol 8, p. 78. These records are found at the New-York Historical Society.

3 New York Manumission Society Records, vol. 8, 69.
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