Educated for Freedom
The Incredible Story of Two Fugitive Schoolboys who Grew Up to Change a Nation
Published by: NYU Press
240 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- ISBN: 9781479847471
- Published: January 2020
The powerful story of two young men who changed the national debate about slavery
In the 1820s, few Americans could imagine a viable future for black children. Even abolitionists saw just two options for African American youth: permanent subjection or exile. Educated for Freedom tells the story of James McCune Smith and Henry Highland Garnet, two black children who came of age and into freedom as their country struggled to grow from a slave nation into a free country.
Smith and Garnet met as schoolboys at the Mulberry Street New York African Free School, an educational experiment created by founding fathers who believed in freedom’s power to transform the country. Smith and Garnet’s achievements were near-miraculous in a nation that refused to acknowledge black talent or potential. The sons of enslaved mothers, these schoolboy friends would go on to travel the world, meet Revolutionary War heroes, publish in medical journals, address Congress, and speak before cheering crowds of thousands. The lessons they took from their days at the New York African Free School #2 shed light on how antebellum Americans viewed black children as symbols of America’s possible future. The story of their lives, their work, and their friendship testifies to the imagination and activism of the free black community that shaped the national journey toward freedom.
"Many historians focus on Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and Mary Church Terrell as the leading African American civil rights advocates of the 19th century. Yet Duane reminds us of two critical black leaders who influenced the national civil rights debate and symbolized the era's frustrating potential: James McCune Smith (1813-1865) and Henry Highland Garnet (1815-1882). ... A compelling tale of two boys and their struggle to forge a path for freedom out of a slave nation." ~Kirkus Reviews