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Albion Tourgée on Christianity as a northern motivation for abolition in Bricks Without Straw, 1880


Albion Tourgée on Christianity as a northern motivation for abolition in Bricks Without Straw, 1880


In the excerpt from Tourgee's Bricks Without Straw he discusses the how religion served as a motivating factor for Northern abolitionists to advance the rights and skills of African Americans.Specifically this section describes the work of Northern abolitionists to African Americans obtaining education. He goes on to describe the controversy this caused because southern Christians were very angry about the work of Northern abolitionists. It is Tourgee's aim to describe the disagreements that occurred between two groups of the same faith that fought because of their differing opinion on the status of African Americans.


Albion Tourgée


Tourgée, Albion. Bricks Without Straw. New York & London & Montreal: Fords, Howard, & Hulbert; Sampson Low & Co.; Dawson Bros, 1880.



Original Format



“ Perhaps there has been no grander thing in our history than the eager generosity with which the Christian men and women of the North gave and wrought, to bring the boon of knowledge to the recently-enslaved. As the North gave, willingly and freely, men and millions to save the nation from disruption, so, when peace came, it gave other brave men and braver women, and other unstinted millions to strengthen the hands which generations of slavery had left feeble and inept. Not only the colored, but the white also, were the recipients of this bounty. The Queen City of the Confederacy, the proud capital of the commonwealth of Virginia, saw the strange spectacle of her own white children gathered, for the first time, into free public schools which were supported by Northern charity, and taught by noble women with whom her high-bred Christian dames and dainty maidens would not deign to associate. The civilization of the North in the very hour of victory threw aside the cartridge-box, and appealed at once to the contribution-box to heal the ravages of war. At the door of every church throughout the North, the appeal was posted for aid to open the eyes of the blind whose limbs had just been unshackled; and the worshipper, as he gave thanks for his rescued land, brought also an offering to aid in curing the ignorance which slavery had produced.

It was the noblest spectacle that Christian civilization has ever witnessed--thousands of schools organized in the country of a vanquished foe, almost before the smoke of battle had cleared away, free to the poorest of her citizens, supported by the charity, and taught by kindly-hearted daughters of a quick-forgiving enemy. The instinct of our liberty-loving people taught them that light must go with liberty, knowledge with power, to give either permanence or value. Thousands of white-souled angels of peace, the tenderly-reared and highly-cultured daughters of many a Northern home, came into the smitten land to do good to its poorest and weakest. Even to this day, two score of schools and colleges remain, the glorious mementoes of this enlightened bounty and Christian magnanimity.

And how did the white brothers and sisters of these messengers of a matchless benevolence receive them? Ah, God! how sad that history should be compelled to make up so dark a record--abuse, contumely, violence! Christian tongues befouled with calumny! Christian lips blistered with falsehood! Christian hearts overflowing with hate! Christian pens reeking with ridicule because other Christians sought to do their needy fellows good! No wonder that faith grew weak and unbelief ran riot through all the land when men looked upon the spectacle! The present may excuse, for charity is kind; but the future is inexorable and writes its judgments with a pen hard-nibbed! But let us not anticipate. In thousands of Northern homes still live to testify these devoted sisters and daughters, now grown matronly. They are scattered through every state, almost in every hamlet of the North, while other thousands have gone, with the sad truth carved deep upon their souls, to testify in that court where "the action lies in its true nature."

Nimbus found men even more ready to assist than he and his fellows were to be aided. He himself gave the land and the timbers; the benevolent association to whom he had appealed furnished the other materials required; the colored men gave the major part of the labor, and, in less than a year from the time the purchase was made, the house was ready for the school, and the old hostelry prepared for the teachers that had been promised.


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Albion Tourgée, Albion Tourgée on Christianity as a northern motivation for abolition in Bricks Without Straw, 1880, Civil War Era NC, accessed May 21, 2024,