Meetings of Colored Citizens about Equal School Rights

September 7, 1849

Here are notes from a meeting of colored citizens at the Belknap street Independent Baptist Church,  Monday evening, Aug 27th.   The resolutions recorded are long, but here are some words to give a flavor of them.   There is one which expresses sympathy for Ambrose Wellington, against whom a cry of “infidelity” has been raised, “unchristian and dastardly in design”.   Most of the resolutions are aimed to counter public criticism of their attempts to claim equal school rights.  “… we shall not be frowned down by the active opposition of the enemies of human progress.”    “… we renew our pledge to each other, never to countenance for one moment an exclusive school….we are not weary in our efforts in so just a cause.”  

The report of the meeting indicates that Thomas Paul Smith and John H. Roberts spoke in opposition to the majority, Paul having alluded to himself as in the minority.  “To which John Hilton replied, that he was mistaken in representing himself in the minority, for John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, the American Colonization Society, and the entire pro-slavery community, were with him.”

A Monday evening meeting, Sept 3, also at the Church, where there is reference to a meeting of the School Committee Board, on Aug 27th, and this meeting records opposition to the decisions then made, which included not to abolish the exclusive colored school.  The people here rehearse all the reasons provided at the Board meeting, and here refute them.  One resolution includes a censure of Thomas Paul Smith for his opposition to the petitions of the colored citizens requesting the end of the separate school.

Here there is also an item signed by John H. Roberts, providing a varied view of the Board meeting.  He characterizes the meeting as one in which “The object seemed to be to hear one side, or nobody.  It was confusion, gag, discord, and excitement all through….characterized by too much spirit to good….hissing, applause,….three deafening cheers for T.P. Smith…”  He indicates that his position is that “for the present the Smith School should continue; that the doors of the ward schools be opened, and a fair chance given to all parties.”