Documenting the American South Logo
Collections >> The Church in the Southern Black Community, The North Carolina Experience >> Document Menu >> Summary

Edward A. Johnson (Edward Austin), 1860-1944
A School History of the Negro Race in America, from 1619 to 1890, with a Short Introduction as to the Origin of the Race; Also a Short Sketch of Liberia
Raleigh: Edwards & Broughton Printers, 1890.


Edward Johnson wrote this book in 1890 to counteract the lack of African American representation in textbooks, or to correct, as he says, "the sin of omission and commission on the part of white authors." He offers sketches of slavery as it existed in the colonies--northern and southern. He presents the accomplishments of some of the most distinguished slaves, including poets Phillis Wheatley and George Moses Horton, as well as the mathematician and astronomer, Benjamin Banneker. Johnson is particularly interested in presenting the valorous roles African Americans played in America's various wars. For example, he discusses Crispus Attucks' patriotic death at the Boston Massacre and Peter Salem's at Bunker Hill. Johnson examines African American service at the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812, and he praises the bravery of African Americans during the Civil War at the battles of Port Hudson, Milliken's Bend, Fort Wagner, Fort Pillow, Petersburg and more. Johnson also offers numerous sketches of events, places, and individuals that are of importance to American history. These topics include, among others, Frederick Douglass, Liberia, Nat Turner, the Underground Railroad, and the Emancipation Proclamation.

The latter part of Johnson's book is devoted to the progress of the African American race since Emancipation. He describes the early successes of reconstruction despite southern white resistance. In particular, Johnson highlights advances in the education of blacks: "Such a stampede, such an ardent desire for knowledge, was possibly never witnessed anywhere before." Likewise, African Americans have made significant financial and religious progress since slavery. Johnson presents brief histories of major African American churches and their founders, and he discusses the significance religious institutions have had for the progress of the race. Johnson includes this information on the progress of the race in his textbook "to inspire new zeal and fresh courage, that each one of you may add something more to what has already been accomplished." Johnson concludes his book with a collection of sketches of notable secular and religious African Americans.

Andrew Leiter

Document menu