Florida Report National Freedmen's Association May 15, 1866
National Freedmen, Vol 2, Number 6
May 15,1866. Kev. Wm. C. Hawkins.
Dear Sir.-—During my six weeks' sojourn in this State, I have had opportunities of visiting most of your schools, and can truly say that I have been exceedingly gratified with the orderly and studious deportment of the children, as well as the faithfulness and energy manifested by the teachers. Different modes of government, of course, prevail in every school, but everywhere the children show that they have had careful training, and, as a matter of course, have greatly progressed in their studies. The labors of these teachers have been performed under circumstances of discouragement; and I have been surprised, as I have witnessed from time to time, their heroic devotion to their work. Nowhere in Florida have they any social sympathy from the citizens, who utterly ignore them, and often insult them as they walk the streets. Their work is regarded as disreputable, and even insinuations are irade against their moral character, by these miserable representatives of a false " chivalry." These and many other trials daily meet these noble women, but they labor on cheerfully in the right, and have their reward in the respectful love and affection of the humble people among whom they labor. The old people bless them, and the children emulate each other in bringing flowers and berries (their only possessions) to their kind teachers, waiting at times for hours till they can see them. And then many of these children have commenced instructing their parents at home, at night. One case is related in Jacksonville, where a little girl of seven years, who only learned her letters a few months ago, has already learned her mother and uncle to read. The adult schools are well attended, and are quits interesting.
The Orphan Asylum at Fernandina is doing a good work. 1 found 50 boys and girls in excellent condition, and a more healthy and happy lot of children I have rarely seen. The girls do most of the housework, while the boys raise vegetables for the Asylum table. The boys also have little plots of ground of their own, on which they raise corn, beans, and melons, which they show with much pride.
The whole number of scholars under instruction by your Society in Florida is about 1,800. They are taught by 30 teachers; 25 of whom are commissioned by your Society, and the balance by other Societies at the North. Other schools for colored children, maintained mostly by the colored people, include perhaps 700 scholars, thus making the entire number under instruction in Florida about 2,500.
I have had several interviews with Gov. Walker, who seems to be favorably disposed toward the education of the freedmen. He is aware of the unfriendly feeling toward our teachers, and says their work is regarded as antagonistic rather than co-operative. I gave him full information as to the object and aim of our Society, which seemed to strike him favorably, and much of it was evidently new to him. His ideas of education are in advance of most of the prominent men of his State, who generally care but little for the welfare of the blacks, except on account of their service as laborers.
Having heard accounts of extreme destitution in Alabama, I have decided to return North via Montgomery, but in accordance with instructions from Mr, Abbott, shall make no extended stop there, unless circumstances render it necessary. Respectfully, yours,