Jackson’s Black Sunday School
One of the more interesting tidbits about Thomas Jonathan Jackson, universally known as Stonewall, is that he and his wife established a Sunday School for free and slave blacks in Lexington, Virginia. The school taught free blacks and slaves to read although this was against Virginia law.
Jackson’s personal views on slavery are probably best summed up by this statement from his wife:
I have heard him say that he would prefer to see the negroes free, but he believed that the Bible taught that slavery was sanctioned by the Creator Himself, who maketh all men to differ, and instituted laws for the bond and free. He therefore accepted slavery, as it existed in the South, not as a thing desirable in itself, but as allowed by Providence for ends which it was not his business to determine.
Jackson continued to financially support the Sunday School during the War, and one his last pieces of correspondence prior to his fatal wounding contained his regular contribution. Here is a letter Jackson wrote on June 7, 1858 describing the operation of the school to Lyle Davis, a Professor at Washington College and a member of the same Presbyterian Church in Lexington that Jackson attended:
Lexington, Va. June 7th/58
In compliance with your request I proceed to give you a statement respecting the condition of the Lexington Colored Sabbath School. But in doing so, I feel it unnecessary to say more than a few words, as you are already acquainted with its leading features. The school is usually opened by singing part of a hymn, which should be announced the previous Sabbath. This is followed by reading one or more verses from the Bible, with explanations & applications; this is succeeded by prayer. After this each class is instructed by its teacher from the Bible, catechism and hymn book. At the close of the school which is near forty five minutes from the opening, there is a public examination on two verses of the child catechism, published by our Board. These verses should be announced the previous Sabbath. After the close of the examination, the school is dismissed, the remaining part of the opening hymn having been sung immediately after the examination.
The system of reward you are acquainted with, and the premiums so far have been near a dozen Testaments and one Bible. The day of their presentation is the first Sabbath of each month. Several scholars are studying the shorter catechism at the present time. Each teacher keeps a class book in which is noted each scholar’s department in school. The lesson should be taught one Sabbath, with a view to examination & mark on the next. Each teacher at the close of the month give me a circular (blanks having been furnished) exhibiting for each scholar the manner in which the lesson has been prepared, the conduct in school, no. of lates, absences, &c. From these circulars, I make a monthly entry in the record book, which contains not only the no. of lates & absences, but also the names of the teachers, scholars, owners, persons with whom the scholars are living, the lates & absences of teachers, and a weekly record of the proceedings of the school. By reference to the record book, I find 91 to be the no. of scholars there reported.
Praying that the S. school convention may be a great blessing to the cause & to yourself I remain your attached friend.
T. J. Jackson Prof. J. L. Campbell