“Think of American freedmen who, after centuries of being denied literacy in slavery, made schooling a centerpiece in the exercise of their hard-won freedom. As one former slave put it in the 1860s, “What would the best soil produce without cultivation? We want to get wisdom. That is all we need. Let us get that and we are made for time and eternity.” Think of the thousands of school children who marched to Cape Town’s City Hall this September, politely demanding libraries, classrooms, and, as one ninth-grader said, “more information and knowledge.”

 Think of W.E.B. Du Bois, Harvard’s first black Ph.D., who proclaimed, “Of all the civil rights that the world has struggled for, for five thousand years, the right to learn is undoubtedly the most fundamental.”

Du Bois had to struggle for his own education and in 1891 finally persuaded a scholarship committee that there was a black person worthy of sending to graduate school.“I find men willing to help me use my hands …” he wrote, “but I never found a man willing to help me get a Harvard Ph.D.” Finally, that changed.” – Drew Gilpin Faust


~~ Birth of the Cradle to Prison Pipeline for African Americans~~

The New Orleans Times a Talk with Gen. Forrest

published 12-08-1875


  We met at Nashville our old friend Gen N. B. Forrest, and had a long interview with him.

The General has been farming with convict labor and is much pleased with his experiment.

He has a plantation some fifteen miles from Memphis; upon this he worked this year thirty-six men and four women, taken from the Nashville Penitentiary, and he has averaged fifteen acres to the hand in cotton and corn, and will make eight bales of cotton to the hand, off of about 480 acres in cotton.

He made some two or three months ago a contract with the County  of Shelby county, which includes Memphis to take all persons sentenced to the workhouse; this, in the last few weeks, increased his force to more than a hundred hands……

The last Legislature of Tennessee passed a very wise and salutary law. Vagrancy was made an indictable crime and the grade of petty larceny was raised from ten dollars to thirty.  It had been found that the rigid enforcement of the law in relation to larceny was rapidly filling up the penitentiary with negroes; the counties were terribly taxed for the costs of arrests, commitments, jail keeping and jury fees, while the State was burdened with the charge for fees of sheriffs and guards, while conducting the convicts to the penitentiary, as well as the costs of transportation from all the counties to the penitentiary at Nashville. Petty larceny was therefore made to include all property up to the value of thirty dollars, and was made punishable with imprisonment not to exceed three years in the county workhouse……..

Among the last lots of convicts are some twenty boy vagrants called mackerels, from 12 to 17 years old……


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