Northern Schools, Southern Blacks, and Reconstruction: Freedmen's
Education, 1862-1875. By Ronald E. Butchart. (Westport, Conn.:
Greenwood Press, 1980. Pp. xiv+3o9. Preface, notes, selected
bibliography, index. $25.)
This excellent book is a major contribution to the literature of
Reconstruction. It deserves wider readership than its narrowly mono-
graphic title may win for it because Ronald E. Butchart never forgets
where education fit in the whole of the freedmen's postemancipation
experience. He analyses the efforts of white northerners to define an
education appropriate for the South's former slaves, and traces the
contest in which the secular freedmen's aid societies that advocated
liberal common schools were bested by evangelical Christians who
prescribed a school system that stressed subservience to the white peo-
ple who held power. In a powerful concluding chapter Butchart ad-
dresses the irony that even if an educational system based on "positive,
humane ideals" had been achieved, it would not have been nearly
enough. Indeed, it is his view that education was relied upon as an
inadequate substitute for the economic power to which the nation had
refused the freedmen access.
One of the great strengths of the book is that Butchart tries hard to
understand what was happening on both sides of the teacher's desk.
He examines the texts used and makes an assessment of the freedmen's
response to the curriculum. Unfortunately, what he does not have
evidence for are the stories the teachers told their pupils in defiance
of the texts. His judgment is a bleak one: "In the end, the attitudes
and values underlying the philosophy of black education and pervad-
ing the curriculum and teaching were entirely inappropriate to a
people attempting to deal effectively with a hostile region and race."
Maybe so, but maybe not quite everyone shared that philosophy.
Butchart has documented the pervasiveness of those attitudes and
values that did indeed serve to keep the Negro in his place, but my
guess is that, from the start, a few of the teachers and more of their
pupils had it in their heads that that place was not an unchangeable
one. After all, the postemancipation people have done a lot of chang-
ing in only a little more than a century. Fourth-grade teachers can be
Mount Holyoke College WILLIAM S. MCFEELY
Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America and a
Stay of Several Years Along the Missouri. By Gottfried Duden.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 85, July 1981 - April, 1982. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101208/. Accessed May 23, 2015.