E. K. , "Extracts from Teachers Letters," The Freedmen's Record, August, 1865, 133-134



"FARMOOR," EDISTO ISLAND, S. C., June 3

My school I hold in the large parlor of the house which we occupy. At present, I have between sixty and seventy pupils; most of them are young, the older ones being at present busy in the fields. After the hoeing is over, I hope to have a much larger number of adults. We feel specially anxious that the young men should be taught, as whether they are able to read and write may decide their right to vote. Three young men come to me after their work is done, and I, sitting o the piazza, teach them their A B C's, and 2+2=4.

The wonderful accounts of their eagerness to learn have not been exaggerated, although I had thought so before leaving home. The little ones five or six years old are about as witchy and heedless as such children in our schools at the North, with all the variety of capacity; but those twelve and thirteen, who never have been to school, you cannot conceive of more earnest, attentive pupils. There's Hector, that boy with the red shirt, which speaks in glowing colors of the generosity of some lady of the North; just see him, he can't be more than eight, yet in his arms he brings "his baby," by one hand he leads his two year old brother, and in the other, with his arm around the wee thing, he holds a cup of rice; carefully covered over it is a piece of old cloth. One child he disposes of on the floor at his feet with the rice, while the other he holds most maternally. The novelty of things around fixes their attention for a little while; but soon even this tires, and baby in arms shows various signs of crying; when the boy mother, in a most peculiar manner, and with great tact, swings it to and fro, at the same time crowding in rice as if to force back the coming cry; and the child, as if in compassion for his beseeching look, is quiet a little longer, and Hector asks for a book. All is quiet for a few moments, and then the cry again: now nothing quiets; the jolting, the swinging, the trotting, the tossing, is all in vain; and I have to say, "Hector, take the children in the yard till I call you;" and his face will be so sad as he gathers them up, that I long to have him remain: but he must go, or soon all six of the babies would join in one grand chorus. These last few days I have been trying a new method; that is, sending all the babies, those in arms, and those too young to attempt to teach, out on the grass with an older one to care for them: the first day it was in vain I asked for a volunteer nurse; and at last appointed one, assuring her she should read just the same, and be relieved by another in half an hour. At first, I thought to object to these infant charges; but, finding that this boy or this girl must remain at home but for bringing the baby, I consented. Many a thing which would excite laugher in a school at the North is thought nothing of by these children. Let a boy or girl come ever so naked, with pants or without; a girl dressed in a piece of carpeting, or another with all the variety arising from a red shirt gay dress or string of beads; let a dog come in, run round among them, composedly lie down and sleep; or a mother from the field open the door, shout out, "Frank, bring the child to me!"--all this excites no attention from them: it seems to them all as a matter of course.

Thus far, I find them most worthy of confidence; in no case have I had reason to doubt the word of one, neither has there been a case of dishonesty, neither have I heard an oath from one of the pupils. I do not say these things of this people as a class, but of those with whom I have come into contact. I came here with the impression that all my effects must be carefully kept under lock and key; but, when my trunks reached here, the locks were out of order, and refused duty; not a door in the house could be locked, or even latched; so that in this way we have often left things, and returning find all as we left, and as yet have not missed an article. In these respects I am happily disappointed in these people.

In the first little prayer-meeting we held after our coming, their prayers for us were very affecting,--thanking God for putting feelings in our hearts to come way over the sea to teach them and open their blind eyes; and praying that we may be kept in health and strength, and we may have the patience of Job with their foolishness. The remembrance of this prayer--that I might have patience--has often helped me bear and forbear with them, and often has suppressed an impatient thought or word. I wish I might give you some adequate idea of the love and reverence these people had for our beloved President Lincoln. To them he was more than a great chieftain, more than a great ruler,--he was their Liberator, their Father; he was peculiarly theirs. The national Fast, the first day of this month, was observed by these people. Their church was thronged, also the yard, steps, and the road for some distance. Their exercises did not vary much from their excellent usual services. Mr. B _____, our efficient Superintendent of Schools, and Mr. A _____, Superintendent of the People, were the only white people who addressed them. we did not remain till the close of the service as it seemed there would be no end; but we were told they ended with one of their grand shouts. The next day, while calling on some of my parishioners, and talking of the meeting, said I, "Why, auntie, did they have a shout at a Fast, when we were mourning for our dear President?" Throwing up both arms, and striking her hands above her head, she exclaimed, "We shout, thank de Lord, Massa Lincum got safe home to glory!"

E. K.

 

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