Season One, Episode Three

An Unexpected School and a Revolutionary Student:
A Young James McCune Smith Meets Lafayette

Click here for a transcript of this episode.

In this episode, we discuss the difficulties of finding children in the historical archives, and we celebrate one particular child who defies our assumptions of what life was like in the nineteenth century. James McCune Smith became the first African American to earn an M.D., but before that he was a star student, met the Marquis de Lafayette in New York City, and joined other African American students for advocating for change— all nearly forty years before the Emancipation Proclamation.

image gallery

reading list

Andrews, Charles C. The History of the New-York African Free-schools: From Their Establishment in 1787, to the Present Time; Embracing a Period of More Than Forty Years. Mahlon Day, 1830.

Crain, Patricia. Reading ChildrenLiteracy, Property, and the Dilemmas of Childhood in Nineteenth-Century AmericaUniversity of Pennsylvania Press, 2016.

Duane, Anna Mae. Educated for Freedom: The Incredible Story of Two Fugitive Schoolboys Who Grew Up to Change a Nation. NYU Press, 2020.

New York Historical Society Examination Days : The New York African Free School Collection.

Vowell, Sarah. Lafayette in the Somewhat United States. Random House, 2016.

The Children’s Table enjoys the support of: