Margaret Douglass

Margaret and her daughter Rosa moved to Norfolk, Virginia after her husband died. They lived together in a two story house with the slaves that they owned. Even though Margaret was a slave owner she was a good person. One day when she was passing a barber shop she saw two little colored boys in the shop studying a spelling book. Ms. Douglass asked the store owner who they were and why they were reading a spelling book and the store owner replied, "those are my children, there was no one who took interest enough in little colored children to keep a day school for them.” Margaret offered the father to teach all his children to read and write, no charge. After a few months Margaret and Rosa concluded they would open up a small school for free black children so they would learn to write and read. They charged families $1.00 per month for their children and they ended up with 25 new students in June of 1852. On May 9, 1853 two city officers went to Ms. Douglass' home and had an arrest warrant for Margaret and her daughter. They were taken to the mayor's office and even though Margaret was aware of the Virginia code against teaching any black children to read or write, she fibbed to the mayor that she was unaware of this recent law. He let her go, but the Grand Jury found her guilty. She was sent to prison for a month and was fined $1.00.

Do you think Margaret Douglass did the right thing by eaching those children to read and write or should she never have gone against the law?

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