Posts Tagged Fanny Jackson Coppin

Dr. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass & Higher Education: University of Rochester Edition, Pt. 1 [Dr. Douglass details friendship with Prof. John H. Raymond, 2nd President of Vassar College]

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John Henry Raymond, professor at the University of Rochester and 2nd President of Vassar College, was a radical friend of Dr. Douglass while he lived in Rochester.

Dr. Frederick Douglass pursued self-education and contributed to institutions of higher learning throughout his entire adult life. However, scholarship on Dr. Douglass and higher education has evaded the picklocks of Douglassonian biographers; it is hidden in plain sight, unknown from many of the institutions in the academy of letters and sciences which should rightfully acknowledge this secretive history.

Along with Coppin State University, which seems uninterested in the relationship the school’s namesake, Fanny Jackson Coppin, had with Dr. Douglass there are other colleges and universities equally dispassionate about doing the requisite research.

Recently, the University of Rochester appropriately honored the work of Mr. Kenneth B. Morris, Jr., a Douglass descendant, humanitarian, scholar and President of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives.

After making some inquiries I’ve caught some chatter the University of Rochester is planning to honor Dr. Douglass with an honorary degree or an equivalent honor in coming months.

I kindly advise University of Rochester NOT follow the same tone-deaf path Washington College took honoring Dr. Douglass and failing to address his longstanding relationship with higher education.

This is a polite word that for W Street Douglassonians it matters not Yale, Harvard, Maryland State Archives, Maryland Historical Society, Washington College or University of Rochester. The era of playtime honorifics for Dr. Douglass is over. Speak on it and let it be known for the entire world to know.

Frederick Augustus Washington (Bailey) Douglass is Professor Emeritus, the Master Educator of an entire Nation and local Tribe whose presence in the pages and chapters of this country’s history textbooks and manuscripts remains unwritten. From the afterlife his spirit speaks through his words studied in college curriculum from coast to coast.

Dr. Douglass was a fugitive slave-scholar who made his self-taught intellect known the world over before he was thirty years old. Thusly he parlayed and built with leading radical intellectuals and educators the world over the rest of his life.

Honor the work Dr. Douglass did at university as a scholar of the runaway slave.

Honor the Pharoah of American Letters.

Dr. Douglass and Prof. John H. Raymond

Dr. Douglass made his home in Rochester from 1847 until 1872. During this time he cultivated relationships with religious leaders, journalists, temperance advocates, businessmen, local politicians, the black community, suffragists and educators from the local public school system to the University of Rochester.

To my knowledge, no modern biography, book chapter, monograph or journal article has explored the details and specifics of Dr. Douglass and the University of Rochester.

Here’s to a start:

Washington City

October 18, 1880.

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John H. Raymond served as President of Vassar College from 1864 until his death in 1878.

I am glad to know that it is your purpose to publish the life and letters of your father, the late John H. Raymond. Unhappily for me, I have no letters of his which can be of service to you. I knew him well while he was a Professor in Rochester University. It was at a critical and trying time in the history of the struggle between freedom and slavery in our country. The fugitive-slave bill had just been enacted, making the whole North slave-hunting ground and every American citizen a slave-hunter, and had but lately become a law.

The effort to make that law respectable was immense. Press, pulpit, and official position all clamored for its enforcement. To speak and write against that law was to brand one’s self in public estimation as a law-breaker, and such a law-breaker I confess myself to have been both in theory and practice, for I assisted as many as I could in their escape from slavery, and no man in Rochester more than your father cheerfully gave me countenance and support in my efforts to secure a safe- conduct of the many fugitives from slavery who came through that city on their way to Canada. He freely gave his time, his influence, and his voice on the side of  humanity. No so-called law, interest, or logic could blind him to the stupendous wickedness of slavery, and he had the courage to be known and read of all men in that dark hour of our history as an inflexible friend to the cause of emancipation. Many have been the words of kindness and consolation which he addressed to me when the way seemed dark and difficult, and I retain a vivid recollection of his benevolent face and his amiable manners and bearing, though it is more than a quarter of a century since I saw him. . . .

Believe me sincerely yours,

Frederick Douglass.

SOURCE:

Will be shared when institutions of higher learning get as serious, believe you me, as I am about Dr. Douglass and higher education.

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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.

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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.

March 30 1876 _ FMJ to FD

Letter from Fanny Jackson to Frederick Douglass, 30 March 1876. Courtesy of LOC, Douglass Papers.

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.

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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.

SOURCE:

Jackson-Coppin, Fanny. Reminiscences of School Life, and Hints of Teaching. Philadelphia, PA. 1913.

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