A Prophecy

In the early 19th century, public schools, known as “common schools” were a rather new phenomenon. Many children worked in factories as they had once worked on farms. It was not taken for granted that a child would be given an education.

It was in this time period that slavery was being gradually extinguished in the northern states. In New York, it was made illegal in 1827. As a result, when James W. C. Pennington was hired to teach school on Long Island in 1832 (in a school created by a gift from a wealthy merchant), he had to go around the community and persuade uneducated parents that their children should be educated.

There were, however, free African Americans who had already gained an education and were beginning to organize and make themselves heard. One means to this end was a weekly newspaper called The Colored American, published in New York City from 1836 to 1841. In 1838, this newspaper published the following editorial exhorting African Americans to take advantage of the opportunities now opening to them for an education:

“We ought to feel more interested in this subject, brethren – we owe it to posterity. We are not always to be a downtrodden people. Our infant sons, should we give them suitable advantages, will be as eligible to the Presidency of the United States as any other portion of the community; and it is in our wisdom, if possible, to give them ample qualifications.”

This year, 170 years later, the truth of that prophecy is being fulfilled.

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