Article abstract: Samson Occom was one of the first American Indians educated by whites who successfully bridged both cultures as a missionary and teacher.
Samson Occom was caught up in the religious enthusiasm of the “Great Awakening” when he was about sixteen. When he was twenty, his mother went to the Reverend Eleazar Wheelock, a prominent evangelical minister, and asked him to teach her son how to read.
Wheelock's success in teaching the highly motivated Occom led him to establish a school for Indians, Moor's Indian Charity School. Wheelock taught the basics of a secular and religious education. “Husbandry” (farming) was taught to boys, and girls were taught what today would be called home economics. Among other things, Wheelock taught Occom and his other students Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, which he believed were essential for future missionaries. (The Protestant emphasis on interpreting the Bible individually meant that students should be able to read the original Greek, Latin, and Hebrew biblical texts.)
Unable to attend college because of weak eyes, Occom became a teacher and minister to the Montauk tribe on the eastern tip of Long Island from 1749 to 1764. He was the town's minister, judge, teacher, and letter writer, and was expected to offer hospitality to visitors. He taught his students the alphabet, spelling, and the like. He received twenty pounds a year from the London Society for the...
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