YOURS FOR THE UPLIFTING
Such were the words which concluded an
interesting letter from one of our Teachers
among the Freedmen—a young colored woman
from Philadelphia. They arrested attention;
and, curious to know something of the experi-
ence of the writer in her little corner of the great field, we selected her letters from the
hundreds on file, and carefully perused them.
They contained both the experience of the
writer, and a picture of her progressive work.
Educated at the Institute for Colored Youth, in Philadelphia, a school established when as
yet the friends of the colored people were few—
Graduating at a period when all eyes were
turned southward, and all ears had heard the
snapping of the fetters of the bondmen, with a
trained intellect and willing heart, this young
person quietly assumed the position of a Teacher.
Under the direction of some one or other of
the “relief” associations she had taught, pro-
bably as an Assistant, successfully at Norfolk,
Va., Wilmington, N.C., and Washington D.
C., being transferred from place to place, as was deemed best by her employers.
The beginning of her correspondence with our Secretary, dated from a little town in the mountains of East Tennessee, November 1,
1868. Here she had been but a year. A
single extract from her first letter will be seen
To be in harmony with the quotations which
“My school is doing well. Pupils are making good
progress. One scholar has just died in the triumphs of
These expressions coming together, simply
show the profession of the writer—a religious
The history of the work among the Freedmen
will probably never be written; but one thing
may be safely asserted, that wherever in a given
locality there is to be found to-day a colored
population of more than ordinarily good character
And growing intelligence, there will be discov-
ered the foot prints of a Christian Teacher, who
added to skilled work in her profession active
efforts for the formation of Christian character.
on the 26th of February this Teacher
writes as follows. It was the beginning of the farming
“Next month I shall lose nearly all my best pupils.
While I greatly regret it, yet I know it is right that
They must earn their bread by the sweat of their brows.
[P. 3, Continued]
“Our Sabbath School is increasing in interest. It is
good to be at the school prayer meeting, for God has
met with us. Not that his presence has been indicated
by the boisterous excitement which these people have
been accustomed to believe was the sure method of
worship, but by the still small voice which has calmed
away our fears, and breathed a hallowed influence
“The children have acquire a great love for reading
our little library books, but our supply is so limited
that they have exhausted it long ago.”
In this letter she also asks for the appoint-
ment of a serious young colored girl, a native of
the locality, as an Assistant.
There was a period when the annoyance and persecution of Freedmen’s Teachers was a com-
mon pastime with many “rude fellows of the
baser sort,” in the South; but we trust a better feeling now prevails generally, though we wot
of two localities even at this writing where
heads are pillowed upon anxiety, fearing a repe-
tition of the midnight visits of armed men.
A favorite method of injuring and retarding
the school work among the colored people, was
at one time the burning of school houses.
She who writes “Yours for the Uplifting,”
in a letter dated March 7th, thus describes a
calamity of this kind:
“The sun rose this morning upon a smouldering heap
of ashes. On the spot where this time yesterday our
[P. 4, Continued]
school house stood. An incendiary applied the flame,
it is supposed, to the Bible and maps, which communi-
cated to the building, and when discovered it was too
well under headway to be checked. The bell fell with
A heavy crashed and is rendered useless.
“How little did we think on last Friday afternoon
when we held our weekly prayer meeting that we had
met for the last time in that house.
“It was a sad spectacle to behold the little ones this morning, having come to Sunday School, gathered
around the spot where we have loved to meet and to
see the tears running down their cheeks, disappointed,
yes, sorely disappointed, at finding no house.
“The colored people held service this morning in a
white Baptist Church, and then and there commenced
to pray earnestly for the soul of him who had thus tried
to injure them.
“Could there be a more practical illustration of the
command of Christ, ‘Pray for them that despitefully
use you and persecute you.’
“The minister exhorted the people not to entertain
the slightest feeling of vindictiveness towards any man,
but to view the secret hand in this seemingly unfortu-
In this letter a donation of Bibles was asked.
The spirit of love is all conquering. The
strong bow before it, the resolute waver, and
the heart of stone becomes a heart of flesh. The
fixed, glassy eye is moistened at its approach—
remorse is followed by repentance; and from the low places of hated, malice, and all unchari-
tableness, there is a sweet uplifting.
A fortnight later she writes:
“On the 9th the citizens, irrespective of party, held
a meeting to express the sentiments of the community
in relation to the destruction of the colored school
house. The speeches made upon the occasion were
highly sympathetic—indeed, practically so—for one
hundred and seventy-five dollars were contributed tow-
ards a new building, besides offers of assistance in doing
the work. We are getting along nicely with the
A new school house is erected, and in less than two months we read:
“The new house is dedicated. The school is in good condition—the pupils exhibiting continued interest in
And a little later:
“On Friday afternoon we dispense with our usual
lessons, and have all who can read join the Testament
class, and peruse the Word of God for the space of one
hour. We commenced with the 1st Chapter of Matthew,
and have gone on until we have reached the 17th of
John. One pleasing feature in this connection is the
love these children have for the Bible.
“I never have reason to tell them to bring their Tes-
tament, for they are only too glad to have Friday come.
After the reading we spend an hour in prayer. Many
of the children who have been compelled to leave school
in order to work come in on Friday afternoons to take
part in these exercises.
“Those who attend show a fervent spirit, and fre-
quently when assembled around the Mercy Seat the
Spirit of God hovers over us, and causes us to experi-
ence that sweet calm which
“None but he who feels it knows.”
Thus, in a quiet, simple way, is solved the
vexed question of “religious teaching in com-
mon schools.” Notwithstanding the time thus
abstracted from secular learning, the school
reports from this locality compared very favor-
ably with others; for in the profession of teach-
ing, as in all other pursuits in life, the promise
holds good, “See ye first the Kingdom of God
and His righteousness, and all these things shall
be added unto you.”
In October she writes:
“Everything is moving along admirably; and upon
the whole, I feel that our labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
Near the close of the year, her services being
required in a school of somewhat higher grade,
where a teacher had just resigned, she writes:
“Never before have my pupils seemed so near to me
as now. I have labored here just two years, and I feel that by God’s grace I have been the humble instrument
of doing something for Jesus.
“Last evening three of my scholars professed faith
in Christ, and eight others are groaning earnestly for
“Sad were our hearts as we gathered at our last Fri-
day school prayer meeting. Remembrances of many
happy moments spent together at this place thronged
our memories, and we freely mingled our prayers and
“Since writing the above, another of my boys has
found peace in believing.
“Two of my pupils who have long been a source of
anxiety to me, have at last given the brightest evidence
of their acceptance with God.”
In striking confirmation of our belief that the
success of the secular teachers is in no wise
lessened by this direct christian effort, the suc-
cessor of this young woman, a white person
from the North, having no acquaintance with
her predecessor, writes in her first letter:
“I am much pleased with the School. It is very
orderly, and great pains have been taken with their
Studies, especially Geography and Mental Arithmetic.”
Such was the uplifting in an obscure place;
and in printing these extracts from letters never
intended for publication, there is no intention of
praising the writer—not the slightest. The
christian has no wish or desire to appropriate
to himself or herself that which has been done
through the influence of Divine Grace.
But these letters may possibly open the eyes
of some who read them, and who are long to
do something in the Lord’s great household, to
“ready work for willing hands.”
They may also remind some that our work
among the Freedmen is not simply teaching a
few negro children to read, but, through pious
and faithful instructors, to do that for them
[P. 8, Continued]
Which their parents cannot do—“train them in
the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
Reader, are you for the “Uplifting” person-
ally or by your means? Has not the denomi-
nation with which you are connected a work
among the colored people? Are you aiding
it? When the heart is lifted in prayer for all
who need light, and you think of the heathen in
lands afar off, do not forget those who, with
only the experience and judgment of children,
must for a long time to come look to you for
There is the same promise to “seed sowers”
in this field as elsewhere, and the same necessity
for Gospel labor.
There are to day cities in the sunny south,
villages by the river banks, and cabins in the “old fields” where,
through missionaries and missionary teachers to
the Freedmen, the Lord’s table is spread for all,
but there are also whole districts without a
single elevating influence. Are you for the
While the Teacher subject of this pamphlet about a Freedmen's Sunday School in Tennessee remains anonymous, she is likely Sarah L. "Sallie" Daffin, an 1860 Institute graduate who was appointed by the Presbyterian Church and supported by many relief organizations as she taught freedchildren in Norfolk, Virginia, Clinton, Tennessee, and North Carolina. The content of the pamphlet addresses the Teacher's work at the Tennessee school and how educating the Freedmen was a spiritual act as well as a social good.
Image: "American Negro Historical Society Papers," Leon Gardiner Collection [0008B], Historical Society of Pennsylvania.