Each One Teach One: The Education of The Texas Freedmen 

Freedmen's Bureau


 -The city of San Antonio continues to provide for the support of the teacher of our school in that place. It is the only instance of a corporation or public authority supporting a school in the State.


Handbook of Texas Online - 



Of the regularly reported day and night schools, 8 are graded, having three grades.

There are 0(54 pupils in alphabet: 1,389- spell and read easy lessons, 1,71 6 are advanced readers. There are 1,791 studying geography ; 2,091 arithmetic ; 2,005 writing, and 412 higher branches. Average attendance  8,418, or more than 82 per cent, of the total enrollment.

Ed. Form 2Vb. 0. School buildings in use by all parties for freedmen's schools, of which the cost, dimensions, materials. &c, have been obtained, (as shown on Blank No. :) Total, 51 buildings, of which the Bureau owns 14 ; freedmen, 28 ; other parries, 9. Material, wood. Size, from 15 by 40 to 40 by 60. Value, from $300 to 825,000. Average size, 30 by 48. Average value, $2,400.


Brevet Major Jas. McCleery, Superintendent of Education.

This new district, in its general condition and prospects, has been thoroughly canvassed by the superintendent, and is now for the first time fully reported. We insert the details as they are graphically given, showing a sad state of affairs ; yet how much can be done, and in a very short time, in these hitherto destitute regions, by earnest, well-directed efforts. He says :

We arrived here on the 11th of July ; found little had been done in regard to school work ; friends of our cause few and scarce ; freedmen subdued and timid ; the old rebel spirit rampant and violent ; knew no one ; had to begin at the bottom and build up ; and we went to work accordingly.

Active measures were taken to obtain, as soon as possible, a thorough knowledge of the ground upon which we were to operate. With my clerk T started out and traveled over a portion of the district, addressing the colored people, becoming acquainted with prominent white men, and doing what we could to increase our information of the held of labor. We also obtained, through the various postmasters, the names and addresses of over one thousand ministers of the gospel throughout the district, with a large number of whom we opened correspondence. Some responded as Christian nun. anxious for the work of the Master ; others replied with insult and abuse ; some assured us of sympathy, encouragement, and assistance ; others warned us if we valued our lives to keep away from their respective parishes.

Success under difficulties. All things considered, we have thus far met with good success, but it has been a task of no little difficulty and hazard. Traveling here is slow and expensive, most of it by private conveyance. The people, as a rule, have no sympathy with us; on the contrary, they are generally opposed, often fiercely so. Sometimes we were driven out of places on our mission becoming known. Frequently we had to do our business in secret and travel in disguise.

Attempts to assassinate, <\-<: Two attempts were made to assassinate my clerk while traveling, by parties shooting at him from ambush by the roadside, but providentially his life was spared. Our messenger has been assaulted several times for serving the 'Yankee.'* as we are termed. Threatening letters have been sent us ; bricks have been thrown through our windows; dead cats dropped into our cistern, and divers other petty annoyances of like character have been from time to time heaped upon us. lint on the whole, we have probably got along as well as could have been expected under the circumstances.

We have succeeded in establishing a number of flourishing schools, as will be seen by reference to the accompanying monthly report for December, and have a number of others ready to begin on the opening of the next year. One great obstacle is tin

Want of teachers. We have 50 places recorded where schools are ready to commence as soon as teachers can he procured, but we try in vain to gel them. This district is so remote, lawless, and violent, that teachers from the North and from other parts of the Smith justly hesitate to come here. We have, therefore, to use such material as we can pick iqi. Often those who could teach will not do so because they can make more by their trades or some plantation labor.

During the cotton-picking season, good hands have in some parts commanded as high as three dollars per day in gold. With such prices, men who are able to do so prefer going into the fields rather than to work for one-fourth that amount or less in the schoolhouse. Two hundred schools can be started within the next six months if teachers can be procured.



Schoolhouses. We are endeavoring to make the amount allowed us for the year go as far as possible in numerous places, rather than to give large amounts in a few. In this part of our work we have realized the importance of making haste slowly building our houses where we are assured they will not be burned down.

It costs immensely to build in this part of the country. Lumber is sometimes $75 per 1,000 ft. and other things in proportion. In Texas it often has to be drawn on wagons 100 miles or more. Carpenters get from five to eight dollars per day.

Bondage yet. There is probably more of the old slavery spirit and ways here than in any other part of the South. Thousands of negroes throughout this district are practically in a state of bondage yet. They have been remote from the influence of the army and the Bureau, and practically have not yet been set free.

Many of the planters will not allow colored children on their places to go to school at all, even when we have started those which are convenient.

There is a particularly bad section of country along the Sabine River ; it is a general rendezvous for bad men of every grade. We have been several times notified that " no negro schoolhouse" will ever be tolerated there.

Wrongs, fyc. The freedmen here are often the victims of wrong and injustice of the following character: A planter will employ a number of men to labor for him for the year. About the time his cotton is all picked, and settlement day is approaching, he will trump up some quarrel with them, drive them off, and cheat them out of their entire year's labor. Such complaints come to me constantly. Sometimes the freedmen will be arrested on petty charges, and sent to jail under bonds grossly out of all proportion to the offense committed bonds that the unfortunate victims are unable to give, and thus they languish in jail for many months before being tried, though frequently a trial proves them to have been innocent.

Letters destroyed. We have experienced' great difficulty in sending letters and documents to teachers of colored schools and colored men with whom we have desired to correspond. At some places letters do not reach them at all. I can account for this on no other hypothesis than that our mails are destroyed by hostile postmasters. This has been most especially and notoriously the case with all communications going to the post office of Sulphur Springs, Hopkins County. Texas, a noted spot of bloodshed and violence. There are now at that place 20 widows and 75 orphan children of colored men who have been killed since the war.

Two hundred and eleven murders. Since the 1st of August last there have been about 60 murders committed in the portion of Texas assigned me, and nearly the same number in the ten parishes of my district in this State. The homicides in this paiish alone have averaged about one a week since we came here. Last year there were murdered in the two parishes of Caddo and Bossier, during the election times, the almost incredible number of 211 freedmen.

Public sentiment. Toward the colored schools this has changed considerably for the better within the past five months, and will continue to do so, I hope. The prospect has looked sad enough, but we are now gradually working books and schools into the very heart of these strongholds of violence and crime.

State schools. There is a good school law on the statute books in this State, but practically it is null and void, so far as any good it does the freedmen. It cannot be enforced. ' The parish officials, in many cases in this part of the State, are rebels, and will do nothing toward carrying out the law providing for the education of freedmen. A national matter. I am more than ever convinced that education in the South, particularly of the late slaves, should be taken charge of by the general government. No matter how good a law may be, it is practically a dead-letter if those to whom is entrusted its execution will not carry it out. Such is the case of the school law of Louisiana to-day. Many who voted" for its enactment seem to care nothing about it. They pushed it through the legislature as a matter of political capital. Make the education of the freedmen for the next ten years a national matter, and at the end of that time they will be able to secure their rights through the respective States in which they live. But now they have but little chance.

Books, Bibles. ,|Y. Some time since you were pleased to send me a quantity of school books. I distributed them among destitute children to their great joy, and I believe advantage. The American Bible Society and the American Tract Society have sent us publications from their respective houses, which we have taken care to judiciously distribute. I have made it a point to visit the various churches of colored people and urge upon them a higher standard of religion and morality.

The following is the statistical summary of this district :



Teachers. Pupils.

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The average attendance of pupils was G12, or 70 per cent, of the total number enrolled.

The freedmen supported, unaided, all of the schools in the district, paying for tuition and general expenses 82,002. The number of paying pupils was 553; the average per pupil was, therefore, 63 G2. Nine of the school buildings are owned by the freedmen.

There are in alphabet 240 pupils; 240 spell and read easy lessons, and 87 are advanced readers; 32 study geography; 50 arithmetic; 32 writing; and 27 higher branches.

Total expenses of the Bureau, 8320.

Ed. Form No. 6. School buildings in use by all parties for freedmen's schools, of which the cost, dimensions, material, &c, have been obtained, (as shown on Blank No. 6:) Total, 25 buildings, of which the freedmen own 18 and other parties 7 ; material, wood ; size, from 20 by 30 to 40 by 60; value, from 8200 to 83,000. Average size, 28 by 30; average value, 8583.


Reverend Joseph Welsh, Superintendent of Education.

The schools in Texas, we regret to say, have decreased as compared with the same months of last year; but the reason is obvious. They did not commence until after the sickly season had passed, late in autumn, and even then, as is usual where cotton is the main product, the picking season kept the children from the schools.

At the present time the Texan people of all classes are again prospering, having, by sale of their crops, recovered from the impoverishing effects of the great flood of last July.

The freedmen in this State have great energy, willing to work, ready to pay liberally for the education of their children, and, with money now in hand, are making arrangements, by school-house building, procuring teachers, books, &c, for a great increase of their schools. The effect will soon be seen, and we expect, at the close of the year, to report larger numbers in the process of education than ever before. The superintendent is making well-directed efforts to accomplish such a result. He reports as follows:

As is customary, the schools supplied by the teachers of the American Missionary Association, which are the best in the State, were closed from July 1 to September 20, and we are now only at the close of the first quarter in the new school year. Several others also had vacations varying from four to six weeks, according to circumstances, so that we had not our usual establishment in operation even on 1st October.

Attendance The demand for labor in picking cotton, together with the losses caused by the destructive flood of July last, has very materially lessened the attendance upon those schools in operation. While this has been the case, the apparent evil is one which will be for the ultimate benefit of the people and better support of our teach- ers. The crops have been good, the season favorable for gathering them, an unusual



amount of money will be in circulation, and a healthy and permanent foundation has been laid for the support and even independence of the freedmen.

An arrangement has been made for the supply of teachers for our most important localities, most of whom are now on the ground and doing good service.

Brick school-houses. Since my last report we have erected tine brick school-houses at Galveston, Houston, and Brownsville, and frame ones at Hallettsville, Walnut Creek, and Wallisville. Total cost of the above buildings, $22,393 25.

Repairs have been made on buildings at Victoria, San Antonio, Webberville, and Galveston, at a cost of $1,856 50. During the same time we have paid rent on school- houses amounting to $2,385. The freedmen have paid a large sum as tuition, but the report on this item is incomplete.

San Antonio. The city of San Antonio continues to provide for the support of the teacher of our school in that place. It is the only instance of a corporation or public authority supporting a school in the State.

We had supposed that the Peabody educational fund provided for Texas would have been available for the establishment of free schools, as the agent informed us that no distinction of color was made in the administration of it. But on further consultation with him he declined to afford any assistance whatever, unless the schools were established or supervised by municipal or State authority. This, in the present condition of affairs in this State, is equivalent to a denial of any aid whatever ; but it will not be fatal to our schools, nor perhaps, eventually do any harm, as we shall be compelled to depend upon ourselves and the general government.

School organs. The schools at Galveston, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio are supplied with cottage organs of Estey & Company, of Brattleboro, Vermont, which are a great attraction, and render the sessions entertaining and pleasant to both teachers and scholars.

Normal classes. We propose to organize a normal class in connection with the schools at Galveston and Houston. The new school-houses erected there are supplied with the most approved styles of furniture, and we hope to establish in each of them the foundation of a permanent and prosperous high school. In this we are aided by the American Missionary Association, which has furnished the teachers necessary for the commencement of our design.

Prospects of the State. The election appointed by the President for the reconstruction of the State has been held, and Texas will, it is hoped, soon have a well-organized free school system, as the provision made by the new constitution is abundantly ample, if faithfully administered. While this is being definitely settled, it will be necessary for the general government to continue its oversight and aid to the freedmen s schools, in order to secure to them the benefit of what has already been done.

I am convinced that it will he a tedious and difficult undertaking in this State to harmonize the conflicting prejudices of the people, so as to have a school system equal and uniform in its operation toward the two races. This renders it imperative that Congress, with special care, provide some means for aiding and protecting those whom it has made the wards of the nation until they shall be in a condition to help themselves.

Public sentiment. It affords me great pleasure to be able to report a continued improvement in public sentiment in regard our schools. I think we have had but one serious outrage on any of our teachers during the term.

Sad exception. As the teacher at Gonzales, a Hungarian of ability and education, was about to close his night school, a party of five or six disguised men attacked him with revolvers, and, after cruel beating, unmercifully took him to the river and forced him into it; but, though threatening to drown him, did not do it. The postmaster helped him in getting away, and the leading citizens held a meeting on the subject, and passed resolutions to aid the authorities to the utmost in executing justice against the perpetrators ; but it is believed they have never been identified.

The schools have already begun to feel the good effect of a prosperous season in their liberal support of the teachers. The attendance as usual has been small during the previous quarter, but will, in one or two weeks, be largely increased, as I learn by advice from all our teachers.

The following is the statistical summary of this State :

REGULARLY REPORTED. Schools. Teachers Pupils.
Day and night 70 65 2 988
Sabbath 49 136 3 128
Total 119 201 6,116
Day and night . 25 25 1 200
Sabbath 25 25 1 200
Total .f 50 50 2 400
Grand total .. 169 251 8 516




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Ninth semi-annual report on schools for freedmen : January 1, 1870 - Alvord, John Watson, 1807-1880
Birney Anti-Slavery Collection
Keywords: African Americans -- Education
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