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............................................................................................................................................................. ............................................................................................................................................................. ............................................................................................................................................................. Chapter Four A Desire to Labor in the Missionary Cause Northern White Teachers and the Ambiguities of Emancipation My object is to do good, and improve my health and knowledge of the conditions of the South. George C. Carpenter, 1866 I have resolved to give myself to the work of evangelizing the Freedmen, if you have need of me. Cornelia L. Lloyd, 1869 Then social justice will follow in time: not soon, perhaps not for generations, but in time. That secure, every exertion must be made to educate the people; to give them not book-knowledge only, but knowledge of moral & social duties. I am appalled at the hugeness of this work. What is one, what am I, before such an Herculean task! I tremble, & shrink, & want to run away. And it must be done, or the consequences will be terrible beyond conception. Jane Briggs Smith, 1865 When the American Civil War began, Mary J. Mead was living alone in the quiet college town of Hillsdale, Michigan. In the previous decade she had been widowed by the death of her attorney husband and had lost her daughter, Ella. Her husband had left her with investments su≈cient to keep her comfortable—indeed, su≈cient enough that the census taker in 1860 had given her the honorific of ‘‘lady’’ as her occupation to indicate that she did not need to work for a living. In A Desire to Labor in the Missionary Cause 79 1864, at forty-two years of age, she accepted an invitation from the Michigan Freedmen’s Aid Society to teach for a year in a school for former slaves who had fled to Kansas. Thus began a seven-year career of teaching among the freed people. Mead went from Kansas to Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, ending with three years in Selma, Alabama, working for three di√erent aid organizations over those seven years.∞ As Mead made her way to Kansas to begin her work, Private Walter McDonald lay in a hospital in Fortress Monroe, Virginia, recovering from wounds received in battle. He had enlisted with the 7th New Hampshire Volunteers only four months after the war began, a thirty-nine-year-old immigrant from Scotland. When McDonald finally mustered out in Florida in 1865, he remained in the South, purchasing property in Bainbridge, Georgia. As business began to falter in 1868, however, he turned his building into a schoolhouse for the freed people. He taught there for two years.≤ Six months after the war ended, the National Freedmen’s Relief Association sent Julia E. Benedict to teach in its school in Alexandria, Virginia. When she returned to her home in Woodbury, Connecticut, in 1866, her schoolmate, Eliza Ann Summers, was entranced by her stories. The two friends applied to the American Missionary Association for teaching positions and in January 1867 they were posted to the Sea Islands of South Carolina. Benedict was twenty-one, Summers was twenty-two. Summers, an experienced teacher, observed that her black students learned as fast as the northern white students she had taught in the past and wrote of the freed people, ‘‘I would much rather teach them and cannot bear to think of ever teaching up North again.’’ Despite that declaration, Eliza Summers only taught in the South for six months. Her many letters say little about the freed people or teaching but much about ‘‘sociables’’ and outings with other northern workers. She returned to Woodbury and was married two years later. Benedict did not return south immediately, but in 1869 she went to Fisk University, where she taught for two more years.≥ taken together, mead and mcdonald, summers and benedict, exemplify particular aspects of the corps of northern white teachers who taught in the freed people’s schools between the opening guns of the Civil War and the end of Reconstruction. Though their sobriquet, the ‘‘Yankee teachers,’’ suggests homes in New England, they were more likely to come from the middle and western states than the Northeast. Most were women, by a ratio of more than two to one.∂ Among both men and women, more than twice as many were single as married or widowed. Some, like Mary Mead, 80 A Desire to Labor in the Missionary Cause were comfortably situated, but others, including Julia Benedict, must have struggled—Benedict was the orphaned daughter of a dyer who had been worthonly$1,500in1850.∑ Someweredeeplycommittedtothework,though they defined the work in a variety of ways, while others appear super...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781469604930
Related ISBN
9780807834206
MARC Record
OCLC
966902865
Pages
336
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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