Anti Literacy Laws

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Educators in the South have also found ways to circumvent and challenge the law. John Berry Meachum, for example, moved his school (The Candle Tallow School) from St. Louis, Missouri when the state passed an anti-literacy law in 1847, and established it as a floating freedom school on a steamboat on the Mississippi River that was out of reach of Missouri law. In Norfork, Virginia, the anti-literacy law was only abolished after the Civil War of 1867, after black residents called on the federal government to end it.[17] Now, in 2022, we continue to see attempts to stifle the kind of learning that comes from reading, with the pressure to ban books in Texas by Rep. Matt Krause. In October 2021, Krause insisted that if libraries had this list of 850 books, it could «cause students discomfort, guilt, fear, or any form of psychological distress due to their race or gender.» This tactic and rhetoric coincides with the strong opposition to critical racial theory (CRT) maintained by many white conservatives. Critical racial theory is about recognizing and examining the true ways in which racial and judicial inequality is rooted in our systems so that some may suffer while others inherit «innate» privileges accordingly. Critical racial theory is not about creating discord, but rather about criticizing the formation of race itself and sharing history in a way that identifies and challenges how racialized laws and systems created the unjust society that exists today. Krause and his supporters present this as an attempt to «protect» children, but it is nothing more than a rather insidious act to control the youth paradigm.

These laws should not have been written in books if blacks could not learn, but they did not. The fear was that blacks could exchange ideas through learning. That they would learn their impressive history. That they would understand the value of their work and their innovative spirit. A great concern is that if they were educated, they could falsify documents of freedom. Above all, they would fight for freedom and eliminate the enormous source of free labor! Teaching people of color how to read was punishable by flogging, lashes, fines, and even death. However, black educators in Savannah, Georgia, took deep risks in teaching enslaved children of color who were free to read. Savannah is one of the oldest cities in Georgia. It is a picturesque place where oaks are covered with Spanish moss, which provides shade for the warm Georgian sun. The Savannah River carries a cool breeze while residents enjoy sweet tea on the porches of pre-war homes.

One cannot imagine what slavery looked like in this beautiful city centuries ago. The undercurrents of slavery have no respect for people or beautiful places. Slavery always functioned at the same time as normal life. There is the story of a courageous educator named Mathilda Beasley that is virtually unknown in the annals of Black history. Mathilda was born in New Orleans and moved to Savannah, Georgia in the 1850s. Despite the risk of fines and up to 32 lashes in the public square, Mathilda opened a «secret» school for children of color enslaved and free. Raising children of color in Savannah was Mathilda`s courageous act against illiteracy and unjust laws. Mathilda`s courage is remarkable, but the students must also be recognized. Savannah`s schools of color were considered open secrets.

As a result, the students had to take extra precautions to hide from the authorities. To do this, they wrapped their books in newspapers, changed their routes to school, and hid in a certain place if the authorities attacked them. Mathilda and her students showed courage, courage and willingness to learn by any means necessary. In Georgia, laws against literacy were enacted in 1829, which stipulated: In some cases, slave owners ignored the laws. They looked away when their children played at school and taught their slave playmates to read and write. Some slave owners saw the economic advantage of having educated slaves who could conduct business transactions and keep accounts. Others believed that slaves should be educated enough to read the Bible. [3] John Hope Franklin says that despite the laws, schools for enslaved black students existed throughout the South, including Georgia, Carolina, Kentucky, Louisiana, Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Virginia. In 1838, Virginia`s free black population asked the state as a group to send their children to school outside of Virginia to circumvent the anti-literacy law.

They were rejected. In 1854, national attention was drawn to anti-literacy laws after a white woman «Margaret Crittendon Douglas» was arrested, tried, and spent a month in prison for raising free black children in Norfolk, Virginia. Anti-literacy laws also arose from the fear of slave uprisings, especially at the time of the publication of «Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World» by abolitionist David Walker in 1829, who openly advocated rebellion, and Nat Turner`s slave rebellion in 1831. Towards the end of the pre-war period, literary societies served as forums for debate, strategies and the development of propaganda advocating the abolition of southern slavery. This historical process produced great African-American authors and works, such as Phillis Wheatley`s Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Morality (1773), David Walker`s radical anti-slavery document Walker`s Appeal (1829), and Frederick Douglass` Account of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845). When U.S. Army units arrived in Virginia in 1861, members of the liberated black community quickly began opening schools to African Americans consisting of black teachers and white Northerners. After the end of the Civil War, the literacy rate among black Americans rose steadily, from 20 percent in 1870 to nearly 70 percent in 1910, according to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy. Some laws arose from concerns that educated slaves might falsify the documents required to flee to a free state. According to William M.

Banks, «Many slaves who learned to write actually gained freedom through this method. Posters searching for runaways often mentioned whether the escapee could write. Here are some examples of laws that prohibit the training of slaves. Jay-p. investigation 136. Between 1740 and 1834, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, and Virginia passed laws against literacy. Anti-literacy laws in many slave states before and during the Civil War affected slaves, freedmen, and in some cases all people of color. [1] [2] Some laws arose from concerns that educated slaves might falsify documents required to flee to a free state.