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John Hope Franklin, Historian, on
Missionaries in the South

John Hope Franklin Who are the missionary groups who are coming into the South?

Franklin : There were a number of organizations– some of which had been organized before the war, some of which came into existence during the war. And they were of the common belief that educational opportunities should be one of the things that they should provide for the ex-slaves. The American Missionary Association had been organized back in the 1840’s. The freedmen’s aid societies, many of which were flourishing in the late 1860’s, had been organized during the war and just at the close of the war. And then there were Christian commissions of one kind or another, and various other organizations (religious and—and educational) that formulated programs and plans to educate the freedmen. We can visualize them sort of milling around in considerable numbers, seeking opportunities, setting up schools, using barracks that had been left by the soldiers, and bringing in young men and young women from the North to teach the freedmen. And there’ll be a feverish activity in this area between 1865 and 1870.

Why are they doing this? Is this a Christian mission? Is this a social mission? Is this an extension of abolitionism? Talk about what’s driving them to do this.

Franklin : From the time that the American Missionary Association was organized in the 1840’s, there was the view that one of the things they should do would not only be extend Christian practices and opportunities for the slaves, but that they should be in a position to raise the slaves out of their ignorance and out of their darkness, their religious commitments to the old way of living, to a new dispensation, to a new level. And this would, of course, mean that they would have the opportunity to work intimately with the slave– with the freedmen and provide educational opportunities for them. And so you have setting up schools, setting up churches, sometimes Sunday schools, which would be the training ground for the freedmen.

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