Massachusetts Historical Society


Black Abolitionists and the Meaning of Higher Learning


Author: Michael Jirik, Carleton College
Comment: Craig Steven Wilder, MIT

How did Black abolitionists engage the meaning of higher learning at a time when American colleges were financially and intellectually tied to the political economy of Atlantic slavery? This paper will focus on Black abolitionist thought on higher learning and its implications for the colleges of the antebellum U.S. Using Black abolitionist writings and records of their organizations, the paper demonstrates that understandings of college education were contested as it developed in the early U.S. and that Black abolitionists conceptualized an alternative vision for higher learning and its purpose.

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