Sunday, August 14, 2016

Miss B. L. Canedy, October 2, 1863

October 2d, 1863.

Owing to a variety of circumstances contingent upon the commencement of a new work, it has been almost impossible to keep a record from which any accurate report of my school could be drawn.

Early in September I so far succeeded in systematizing my portion of the field, as to be able to make some approach to such a record. From it I gather the following items:

Names registered for September
Left to attend other schools
Left to find employment
Belonging to the school September 30th
Average attendance for the month
Number between the ages of 6 and 12
Number between the ages of 12 and 45
Number between the ages of 45 and 60

The difficulty I have found in learning the names as well as the ages of these people would have been a source of amusement, but for the memory of the great wrong that has caused it. The name “Bill” or “Tom,” has sometimes stood for several days upon my list, waiting for the owner thereof to learn the proper patronymic to attach to it. I insist on their possessing, as one of the attributes of freedmen, at least two names; but having borne the surname of their “owner” when in slavery, and left it with their chains, they do not readily understand why they need be troubled with a second name, now that they “call no man master.”

I see no abatement of their interest in the school. For regularity and punctuality of attendance, they will compare very favorably, I think, with our Boston schools.

On reaching my school-room door this morning, fifteen minutes before the hour appointed for opening the school, I found 110 waiting admission; and it is not an unusual thing for a large number of them to gather around the door of the Teacher's Home, to escort their respective teachers to their schools.

Their reverence for and child-like trust in the teachings of the Bible is very beautiful. The older ones tell me they always knew they should be free, because they knew “’twas told so in the blessed Bible.” And they have secretly taught their children to live in hope, to watch and wait, for the day of their redemption. I never before had charge of a school where the morning scripture reading produced so visibly a good effect as in this school; there is so much that they seem to feel was written expressly for them.

The most advanced class, numbering 24, can read readily and quite correctly from the “Second Reader” of the National Series, spelling without hesitation any word in the lesson, as well as the names of the various objects in the room, and such as they meet with in the street and elsewhere. Spelling seems to be a favorite pastime in the street and about their homes, and the fortunate boy who can hold the book and pronounce the words for them is “the officer of the day,” and respected and obeyed accordingly. I gave them practical questions in very simple arithmetic, but have been able to give but very little time to it. They are getting some idea of geography; but when I took them in Newbern, and led them out of Craven County and even beyond North Carolina, they seemed quite lost in astonishment, and came to the conclusion that ’twas “a big world.” A few of my pupils are making fair progress in writing, on slates, of which useful article we have now a good supply.

Lest I weary you, I will say in conclusion, that we are all doing much more and better than we have any right to expect. I sometimes ask them if they don't wish themselves back in slavery where they might at least have more comfortable clothing and better food; but the invariable answer is in the negative: “Dis bad enough, but right smart sight better'n dat ar!”

B. L. C.

SOURCE: New-England Educational Commission for Freedmen, Extracts from Letters of Teachers and Superintendents of the New-England Educational Commission for Freedmen, Fourth Series, January 1, 1864, p. 7-9

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