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19th-Century Black Children Faced Threats, Obstacles In Pursuit Of An Education

Courtesy NYU Press

It was nearly impossible for black children to achieve academic success before slavery was abolished in the United States, but those who did signaled the promise and possibility of a viable future. 

James McCune Smith and Henry Highland Garnet were born to enslaved mothers and came of age in the early 19th century.

As children, they attended the New York African Free School -- an experimental institution created to give slaves and free people of color access to education and the tools to become productive members of society.

Garnet and Smiths' achievements, both political and academic, helped shape the national conversation as the U.S. grew out of slavery and into a free country. 


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*This interview was recorded on Thursday, February 20.

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Kim Johnson is the producer for Texas Public Radio’s live, call-in show The Source. She is a Trinity University alum with bachelor’s degrees in Communication and Spanish, and a Master of Arts Degree from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.