Free people of colour, or the mixed raced, in Nassau, were in desperate need of schooling for their children. So desperate in fact, that they would send their children to a man who hunted down runaway slaves, and was both jailor of the prison, and supervisor of the workhouse, where the runaways, of all ages, were sent.
In the colour caste system created during slavery, coloured (or tinge of yellow or mulatto, as it was often noted) was considered on a higher level, than black. And, to be Free, was to be in a unique category, irregardless, if one was black or coloured. So the combination of free and coloured began to mean something in Bahamian society.
Cracks and crevices of economic and social opportunity were opening up for free coloured people, in those few years before emancipation in the Bahama Islands. They wanted their children to be ready to take advantage of the change that was coming. For that to happen, these free coloured children needed to learn how to read and write, even if it was the devil who taught them.
William Cushion Ransom, slaveowner, jailor of the prison, supervisor of the workhouse, runaway slave capturer and schoolmaster of fee paying school for free coloured children
William Cushion Ransom, slaveowner and jailor of runaway slaves, saw an economic opportunity and took sad advantage of it.
For free people of colour, in 1827, an education, just knowing how to read, was like possessing gold. Education for the free was scarce, valuable and worth any price to possess.
Slavery did not officially end until 1834 and the apprenticeship system ended in 1838. Governor Sir James Carmichael Smyth would not arrive in the Bahama Islands until 1829. Governor Carmichael Smyth famously demanded government paid schooling for coloured and black children. For this and other things, Smyth was denounced by the Bahama Assembly. His governorship of the Bahama Islands was shockingly revoked by London.
Ransom opened an evening school, undoubtedly so that it didn’t interfere with his day job. This evening school, probably all conducted in his house or on the porch, was specifically stated for coloured children only. Ransom charged 8 shillings per month. The school started at six in the evening, after his day job ended. The school ran for two and a half hours, until 8:30 pm.
Ransom was a slaveowner through his daughter Eleanor Amelia Ransom. In 1822, several slaves owned by the then minor Eleanor Amelia Ransom was attested to by her father and guardian William Cushion Ransom. Why this odd ownership is indeed curious. Slaves were bought and sold under her name. In 1822 Eleanor Amelia Ransom, a minor, had 5 slaves registered under her name. In 1825, she had 7 slaves. In 1831, she had 10 slaves registered. In 1834, Eleanor Amelia Ransom had 4 slaves.
1810 – W. C. Ransom, Jailor post 10 Dollars Reward for capture of Will Hastings, a negro, who escaped from jail.
1830 – W. C. Ransom, Supervisor of the Workhouse posts NOTICE for Joe Stubbs, runaway slave formerly owned by W. I. P. Johnson
1827 – William C. Ransom posts TUITION notice for his school re-opened for Coloured Children
WILLIAM C. RANSOM, respectfully informs the public of Nassau, that he has reopened his School – in reading, writing, and Arithmetic, for Coloured Children. Having given ample satisfaction to those who have favourite him with their Children, he hopes by his assiduty and attention to merit the Public favour. An evening school will be opened for a few scholars – from 6 o’clock to half past eight. Terms eight shillings per month.
By 1850, William Cushion Ransom had died. His widow received his pension as W. C. Ransom was employed as a public servant in his capacity as supervisor of the workhouse, jailor, and slave catcher.
An Act for granting a pension to the Widow of William Cushion Ransom deceased was officially passed on April 4th 1850.