""When I Can Read My Title Clear"": Literacy, Slavery, and Religion in the Antebellum South

Janet Duitsman Cornelius, Author University of South Carolina Press $34.95 (215p) ISBN 978-0-87249-737-5
Cornelius, professor of history at Eastern Illinois University, shows in an academic study that encouragement from certain plantation owners, clandestine schools run by free blacks, and churches and missionary groups sponsoring Bible-reading for blacks were responsible for a considerably higher literacy level among slaves than is generally acknowledged. Diaries of abolitionists and freed slaves, and church records quoted here testify to the blacks' thirst for knowledge as a key to self-determination and emancipation. This desire, along with religious revivals of the early 1800s, alerted slave-owners to the danger of revolt and led to harsher slave codes regarding literacy. The author concludes with post-Civil War efforts to satisfy the newly freed slaves' ``greed for letters.'' Addressing the related impact of literacy and religion among slaves, the book makes a contribution to scholarship. Photos not seen by PW. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/03/1991
Release date: 06/01/1991
Ebook - 234 pages - 978-0-585-32291-9
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