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Centennial: The American Negro from 1776-1876; Oration Delivered at Avondale, Ohio, 1876
			
                          [ 31 ]

THE RELATION OF THE NEGRO TO THE INTELLECTUAL DEVELOP-
                   MENT OF THE CENTURY.
    Every class of the American people have had ample
opportunity for educating themselves, except the colored
people.  In a white child, of whatsoever nationality, a de-
sire for culture was looked upon as a virtue; but in a negro
child, both as a vice and a crime.  The one had a prize set
before him  to incite him to intelligent growth; while the
other had a penalty held over him to excite him and drive
him into deeper ignorance.  Hence the illiteracy of the
American negro.
    But notwithstanding these severe and unjust strictures,
the century holds forth to our astonished vision, literary
representatives of the negro race--men and women of ge-
nius and taste.
    Phillis Wheatley was perhaps the earliest person of
letters among the negroes of the Massachusetts' colony.
She was captured in childhood, and brought from the west
coast of Africa to the slave market at Boston,in 1761, some
time before the Revolution. She was purchased by one
Mrs. John Wheatley, from whom she received her name.
She was between the years of seven and eight, delicately
built, and suffering from a long sea-voyage.
    The intelligence of the child, together with her modest
bearing, attracted the attention and won the sympathy of
Mrs. Wheatley, and she purchased her. A short time soon
revealed the uncommon intelligence and aptness of this
little slave. Her mistress began to take a deep interest in
her; she taught her the English language, which she soon
acquired, and to which, at her landing, she was a total
stranger.
    Her mind was so tenacious, so quick, and intuitional,
that it was thought advisable to give her the benefit of the




			
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Centennial: The American Negro from 1776-1876; Oration Delivered at Avondale, Ohio, 1876

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