Archive for March 7th, 2018
Educator Mrs. Fanny Jackson Coppin, namesake of Coppin State University in Baltimore, ran with industrial education advocate Dr. Frederick Douglass
In celebration of Women’s History Month we will make an effort to post weekly about reformist-minded women Dr. Frederick Douglass agitated and ran with in the circles of temperance, suffrage, journalism, education and other activist causes and purposes.
The first woman we feature is educator Mrs. Fanny Jackson Coppin, remembered today by the university on the west side of North Avenue in Baltimore which bears her name.
Whereas another day awaits a detailed account of the working relationship and friendship between Douglass and Coppin, here we share a brief excerpt from Coppin’s 1913 book with a brief anecdote detailing Douglass’ belief in industrial education as a means of economic self-determination.
In the year 1837, the Friends of Philadelphia had established a school for the education of colored youth in higher learning. To make a test whether or not the Negro was capable of acquiring any considerable degree of education. For it was one of the strongest arguments in the defense of slavery, that the Negro was an inferior creation; formed by the Almighty for just the work he was doing.
It is said that John C. Calhoun made the remark, that if there could be found a Negro that could conjugate a Greek verb, he would give up all his preconceived ideas of the inferiority of the Negro. Well, let’s try him, and see, said the fair-minded Quaker people. And for years this institution, known as the Institute for Colored Youth, was visited by interested persons from different parts of the United States and Europe.
Here I was given the delightful task of teaching my own people, and how delighted I was to see them mastering Caesar, Virgil, Cicero, Horace and Xenophon’s Anabasis. We also taught New Testament Greek. It was customary to have public examinations once a year, and when the teachers were thru examining their classes, any interested person in the audience was requested to take it up, and ask questions. At one of such examinations, when I asked a titled Englishman to take the class and examine it, he said: “They are more capable of examining me, their proficiency is simply wonderful.”
One visiting friend was so pleased with the work of the students in the difficult metres in Horace that he afterwards sent me, as a present, the Horace which he used in college. A learned Friend from Germantown, coming into a class in Greek, the first aorist, passive and middle, being so neatly and correctly written at one board, while I, at the same time, was hearing a class recite, exclaimed: “Fanny, I find thee driving a coach and six.” As it is much more difficult to drive a coach and six, than a coach and one, I took it as a compliment. But I was especially glad to know that the students were doing their work so well as to justify Quakers in their fair-minded opinion of them.
General O. O. Howard, who was brought in at one time by one of the managers to hear an examination in Virgil, remarked that Negroes in trigonometry and the classics might well share in the triumphs of their brothers on the battlefield.
When I came to the School, the Principal of the Institute was Ebenezer D. Bassett, who for fourteen years had charge of the work. He was a graduate of the State Normal School of Connecticut, and was a man of unusual natural and acquired ability, and an accurate and ripe scholar; and, withal, a man of great modesty of character. Many are the reminiscences he used to give of the visits of interested persons to the school: among these was a man who had written a book to prove that the Negro was not a man. And, having heard of the wonderful achievements of this Negro school, he determined to come and see for himself what was being accomplished. He brought a friend with him, better versed in algebra than himself, and asked Mr. Bassett to bring out his highest class. There was in the class at that time Jesse Glasgow, a very black boy. All he asked was a chance. Just as fast as they gave the problems, Jesse put them on the board with the greatest ease. This decided the fate of the book, then in manuscript form, which, so far as we know, was never published. Jesse Glasgow afterwards found his way to the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
In the year 1869, Mr. Bassett was appointed United States Minister to Hayti by President Grant; leaving the principalship of the Institute vacant. Now, Octavius V. Catto, a professor in the school, and myself, had an opportunity to keep the school up to the same degree of proficiency that it attained under its former Principal and to carry it forward as much as possible.
About this time we were visited by a delegation of school commissioners, seeking teachers for schools in Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey. These teachers were not required to know and teach the classics, but they were expected to come into an examination upon the English branches, and to have at their tongue’s end the solution of any abstruse problem in the three R’s which their examiners might be inclined to ask them. And now, it seemed best to give up the time spent in teaching Greek and devote it to the English studies.
As our young people were now about to find a ready field in teaching, it was thought well to introduce some text books on school management, and methods of teaching, and thoroughly prepare our students for normal work. At this time our faculty was increased by the addition of Richard T. Greener, a graduate of Harvard College, who took charge of the English Department, and Edward Bouchet, a graduate of Yale College, and also of the Sheffield Scientific School, who took charge of the scientific department. Both of these young men were admirably fitted for their work. And, with Octavius V. Catto in charge of the boys’ department, and myself in charge of the girls–in connection with the principalship of the school–we had a strong working force.
I now instituted a course in normal training, which at first consisted only of a review of English studies, with the theory of teaching, school management and methods. But the inadequacy of this course was so apparent that when it became necessary to reorganize the Preparatory Departments, it was decided to put this work into the hands of the normal students, who would thus have ample practice in teaching and governing under daily direction and correction. These students became so efficient in their work that they were sought for and engaged to teach long before they finished their course of study.
Richard Humphreys, the Friend–Quaker–who gave the first endowment with which to found the school, stipulated that it should not only teach higher literary studies, but that a Mechanical and Industrial Department, including Agriculture, should come within the scope of its work. The wisdom of this thoughtful and far-seeing founder has since been amply demonstrated.
At the Centennial Exhibition in 1876, the foreign exhibits of work done in trade schools opened the eyes of the directors of public education in America as to the great lack existing in our own system of education. If this deficiency was apparent as it related to the white youth of the country, it was far more so as it related to the colored.
In Philadelphia, the only place at the time where a colored boy could learn a trade, was in the House of Refuge, or the Penitentiary!
And now began an eager and intensely earnest crusade to supply this deficiency in the work of the Institute for Colored Youth.
The teachers of the Institute now vigorously applied their energies in collecting funds for the establishment of an Industrial Department, and in this work they had the encouragement of the managers of the school, who were as anxious as we that the greatly needed department should be established.
In instituting this department, a temporary organization was formed, with Mr. Theodore Starr as President, Miss Anna Hallowell as Treasurer, and myself as Field Agent.
The Academic Department of the Institute had been so splendidly successful in proving that the Negro youth was equally capable as others in mastering a higher education, that no argument was necessary to establish its need, but the broad ground of education by which the masses must become self-supporting was, to me, a matter of painful anxiety.
Frederick Douglass once said, it was easier to get a colored boy into a lawyer’s office than into a blacksmith shop; and on account of the inflexibility of the Trades Unions, this condition of affairs still continues, making it necessary for us to have our own “blacksmith shop.”
The minds of our people had to be enlightened upon the necessity of industrial education.
Jackson-Coppin, Fanny. Reminiscences of School Life, and Hints of Teaching. Philadelphia, PA. 1913.
Foreign Press comes through el barrio de Anacostia to show love to señor Douglass! La Vanguardia: “El esclavo que cumplió 200 años: Estados Unidos celebra el bicentenario del carismático líder abolicionista negro Frederick Douglass”
El nombre del señor Frederick Douglass toca las campanas de un vecindario a otro en todo el país. Desde Anacostia hasta Barcelona, el mundo reconoce la importancia de Douglass para los pueblos amantes de la libertad en todas partes.
Agradecemos a la señorita Beatriz Navarro del periódico La Vanguardia por su generoso informe sobre el cumpleaños número dos centenario del abolicionista reconocido internacionalmente y padre fundador del Movimiento por los Derechos Civiles de los Estados Unidos.
When Frederick August Washington Bailey came into the world, no one expected one day to celebrate his birthday. “Most of the slaves know as little of their age as the horses of theirs,” he would write years later in his autobiography. Two hundred years later, the United States pays tribute to one of its most important leaders, a slave who escaped his destiny to become a charismatic abolitionist leader, writer, speaker and civil rights activist and women in particular. He was photographed more than President Abraham Lincoln himself.
Reborn as Frederick Douglass, he chose his date of birth on February 14, because his mother, the few times he saw him, told him it was “his Valentine.” He was born a slave in Maryland in 1818 and raised with his maternal grandmother. At the age of eight, he was taken to work on a plantation and, later, in a shipyard in Baltimore, where he learned to read and write on his own. At age 20, he managed to escape using the papers of a black sailor to get on a train and go north, an adventure that was for a long time a secret so as not to harm those who helped him. His flight was due “more to good luck than to bravery,” he explained years later.
He adopted the surname Douglass, married a freed slave in New York, and settled in Massachusetts. There he began to frequent the circuit of abolitionist politicians, whom he impressed with his story of the horrors of slavery and his oratory skills. In 1845 he published the first of his three autobiographies, a best seller that made him fear being caught. He took refuge in England and Ireland, where he dealt with Daniel O’Connell, until two years later some followers bought his freedom for 150 pounds and returned to the US. as a free man.
Douglass immediately understood the power of the image and posed frequently for portraits, in which he presented himself as whites, elegantly dressed and in an attitude of work. It retains more original images of him than Lincoln, which has earned him the title of “most photographed American of the nineteenth century.” He traveled throughout the country, directed a newspaper that he used as a platform for his ideas and pressured Lincoln to allow blacks to fight for the Union in the civil war. After the abolition of slavery, he dedicated himself to “the most difficult battle,” the struggle for equal rights.
Between 1871 and 1891, he held various public offices, including minister for Haiti (he was the first African-American confirmed for an official appointment by the Senate). In 1876 he became marshal of Washington DC (head of the local police) and settled in the neighborhood of Anacostia, today one of the poorest. The house, Cedar Hill, became a hotbed of political activity. Today a Douglass double greets visitors at the door who come to know the place where the iconic leader ended his days in 1895, married in second marriage with a white one.
Donald Trump disconcerted the country a few months ago by talking about Douglass as if he were alive: “It is an example of someone who has done an amazing job and who is being recognized more and more,” he said. Trump’s blunder is “representative of the lack of general knowledge of the country about the significance of this historical figure,” says John Muller,” author of a biography of Douglass (The Lion of Anacostia),”but it is welcome if it helps that the people pay more attention.” The bicentennial, he says, has a special meaning in the current political context but “it makes no sense to think about what Douglass would have thought or said.”
Ascribed to the Republicans, no one disputes his legacy but his figure is sometimes the object of a dispute between conservatives and democrats, who disagree about how religious or patriotic he might be, given his sharp criticisms of the country, especially before the abolition of slavery. “As a people, Americans know very well all the facts that favor them,” he said in 1852. Some consider this a national trait, perhaps a national weakness. It is a fact that everything that enriches his reputation and is easy to find, will be found by the Americans.”
Translation provided by Google Translate. Original article in Spanish available HERE!