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date: 01 October 2022

Black Literacy Education in the United Stateslocked

Black Literacy Education in the United Stateslocked

  • Arlette Ingram WillisArlette Ingram WillisDepartment of Education, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

Summary

Globally, nations have sanctioned histories, or versions of history, that they promote and use to indoctrinate the masses, usually from a flattering and narrow point of view that justifies actions and frames events based on a belief, ideology, philosophy, or value. There are multiple histories in every nation, histories among those who are not in power, that are dismissed, ignored, minimized, or removed; and this is especially true for people of African descent. Disentangling the interwoven histories of the past to provide a more accurate, honest, and thoughtful explanation is a necessary undertaking.

History is informed by those with a ready pen, and histories of United States education and literacy are no exception. These histories also are framed by the ideological, political, and social contexts and supports, of a select version of history. In short, histories tell a story, not necessarily the story. Within the history of education and literacy in the United States, the lives and literacy of people of African descent have been diminished, mischaracterized, unreported, and undervalued.

People of African descent possessed and used literacy prior to their arrival in the ‘New World’ from varying regions of Africa and prior to enslavement in the United States. Too often, Black literacy education, from the 1600s to the present, has not been informed by Black scholarship or an acknowledgment of the anti-Black racism and anti-literacy laws, policies, and statutes used to legally obstruct literacy access for Black people. Black historians seek to understand how beliefs, ideologies, and values framed and influenced Black literacy access. To do so, they have examined federal and state primary source documents and have interrogated written records describing the beliefs, ideology, and reasoning used to codify anti-Black racism and anti-literacy laws, policies, and statutes. Documents help to clarify how initial and repeated reasoning is used to justify patterns of behavior and maintenance of anti-literacy policies. Counternarratives informed by Black writers of articles, broadsides, essays, newspapers, novels, poems, slave narratives, and scholarship provide an alternative perspective on the history of Black literacy education. Vignettes celebrate and convey a rich history of Black people’s resilience and struggle for equitable literacy education from the late 1600s to the present, as the struggle continues.

Subjects

  • Education, Cultures, and Ethnicities

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