Early Schooling of Nova Scotia Black Pioneers

Slides 18 and 19

Often, the most important aspects of a child's education happened within the family.

Slide 18

Many of the first schools in the Black communities were established by the Anglican Church and later by the Black Baptist Churches. The people of the community contributed their labour and materials to build a school which often also served as the community's church.

Slide 19

The school teacher was often also the minister of the church. Most schools taught a very basic education based upon memory drills and practical work skills such as sewing and manual labour. Writing and arithmetic were not stressed. Generally, education for Black Pioneers prepared them only to be servants in the homes of others.

Purpose of Section: Early Schooling of Nova Scotia Black Pioneers

Students will:

Background: Education of the Black Loyalists and Black Pioneers of 1812

Black Loyalist families were generally small, with two to three children. The education received depended upon whether the child was a girl or a boy, whether the family was enslaved, indentured, or free; and the resources of the family's community. Many Black Loyalist children did not attend school; however, this does not mean that they did not receive an education which would allow them to survive and contribute to the welfare of the family and community.

Children who were enslaved or who were indentured servants were often provided training through a system of learning as they worked. This apprenticeship system had existed previously in the Thirteen Colonies. Boys were often taught industrial skills such as masonry, brick making, blacksmithing, cooperage, lumbering and mining; and techniques of farming. Some were trained to help run small businesses. Girls were trained to do housework, to hire out to work in the homes of more wealthy farmers and urban dwellers, to make baskets, to preserve and prepare foods, and to prepare and administer herbal medicines. Girls were vital to the survival of the family.

Education: Black Loyalist Period

Some free and servant children did attend schools which were organized by the Black churches. Church of England charity groups such as the Associates of the Late Dr. Thomas Bray and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts established free schools. Black Loyalist parents were anxious for their children to go to school. The parents worked together to build log school houses. Black teachers provided the instruction.

In Birchtown, the Associates of the Late Dr. Thomas Bray established a free Black Loyalist school. Colonel Stephen Blucke was the teacher and the children learned to read and spell using the New Testament of the Bible. Other book materials included The Sermon on the Mount and Religion Made Easy With Watt's Hymns. The girls were also taught to sew. The Birchtown School had 40 children between the ages of 5 and 11.

In Brindleytown, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts started a school in 1785-86. Joseph Leonard taught 34 students spelling, reading and religion. Girls were taught to sew and to knit.

William Furmage was the white schoolmaster of the Halifax Orphan School established by the Associates of the Late Dr. Thomas Bray in about 1785. Thirty-six children attended. Six of the children were slaves. They were taught spelling, reading, and the Anglican catechism. Girls were taught to knit and sew. The school had no paper so the children learned to write using a slate. The students learned many stories by memory.

In Preston, the community built a one room African school with the support of Dr. Bray's associates. Catherine Abernathy was the school teacher and she taught twenty children. Many of the Black Loyalist teachers left Nova Scotia in 1792 in the migration to Sierra Leone.

Education: Black Pioneers of 1812 Period

Schools continued to be built and supported by communities as Nova Scotia's second group of Black Pioneers arrived. Dr. Bray's associates and the Association for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts continued to support the development of schools in the communities of Preston, Hammond's Plains, Digby, Sackville, and Halifax. In Halifax, an African school was built at 155 Albemarle Street, the present site of the Metro Centre. It was commissioned by Anglican Bishop John Inglis. At this school, boys learned scripture and basic vocational subjects such as geography, navigation and surveying. The girls studied reading, writing and arithmetic, spinning, knitting, sewing and carding wool. Approximately 53 children attended the school during the day. The school year was eight months long. At night, parents and servants came to be educated. The program of studies prepared the girls to be domestic servants. This school also represented the beginning of segregated schools in Nova Scotia. Black and white children did not attend the same schools.

Because children were needed to do daily work on the farm, or to provide income for the family by working as domestic servants in the homes of others; some children attended school only a few days each year or for only a few years. Many of these schools were not able to offer the same quality of education as was offered in other schools of Nova Scotia because they lacked sufficient books and supplies.

After the 1870's, many Black schools were organized by Black communities, the government, and by private organizations. Most of the schools at this time were one room. They were heated in the winter by a box stove which burned wood. On cold mornings the children kept their coats and mittens on for warmth. Trustees of community organized schools went from home to home to collect money to pay the teacher's small salary. The school, like the church, became a focus of the community. Red Cross meetings and other community meetings were held in the schools. Organizations such as the Independent Order of Daughters of the Empire did provide many reading materials to support the efforts of the Black schools.

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