In the 1820s most Americans did not see a need to educate black children. Reading, writing and a bit of math would do very well. After all, these children were seen as inferior. But the people who established the New York African Free School system saw things differently. This is the story of two boys who became friends at the Mulberry Street New York African Free School: James McCune Smith (1813-1865) and Henry Highland Garnet (1815-1882). Smith became a physician, graduating from the University of Glasgow in Scotland, becoming the first African American to hold a medical degree. He worked for the abolitionist movement from within, quietly using his medical education to show that blacks were not at all inferior. Garnet became a minister and an eloquent passionate speaker who was able to move hearts and minds. The two friends disagreed, often violently, on the best way for blacks to attain true freedom. In an era where most saw only two options for freed slaves, continued subjugation or return to Africa, these two childhood friends sought a better solution. This is an amazing story. That the sons of enslaved mothers could become well-educated and successful in influencing public opinion through writing books, speaking before adoring crowds, even speaking before Congress, during this time period is a monumental achievement. I highly recommend this book.
eGalley review Publication date 1.14.2020