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ERIC Number: EJ955123
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Nov
Pages: 31
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0018-2680
In Pursuit of Letters: A History of the Bray Schools for Enslaved Children in Colonial Virginia
Bly, Antonio T.
History of Education Quarterly, v51 n4 p429-459 Nov 2011
The pursuit of literacy is a central theme in the history of African Americans in the United States. In the Western tradition, as Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and others have observed, people of African descent have been written out of "culture" because they have been identified with oral traditions. In that setting, literacy signifies both reason and civilization. Performance in print earned the laurel of humanity. Consequently, for well over 200 years, the African-American literary tradition has been defined as one in which books talked and a few slave authors achieved, at once, voice and significance by making a book talk back by writing. Overlooked by that tradition are those literate slaves who did not make the book talk back. This essay is a history of how otherwise unlettered enslaved blacks achieved literacy. Building on Carter G. Woodson's seminal study of slave education from the colonial period to the Civil War, E. Jennifer Monaghan's recent work on reading and writing in early America, and others, this essay celebrates the life of enslaved African Americans like Isaac Bee, a literate, unlettered Virginia-born man and, more specifically, how he gained that knowledge of letters. His story offers a constructive narrative that can be used to examine at least one aspect of what can only be characterized as the African-American literacy tradition; a tradition that lies at the intersection of black literacy and orality. (Contains 92 footnotes, 2 tables, and 1 plate.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Virginia
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A