Literature

The question of slave literacy still affects discussions that relate to the academic performance of African Americans. In many slaveholding American states, it was against the law to teach Blacks to read and write, because it was thought that this act might empower and liberate them.  This is something that Frederick Douglass deals with at length in his Narrative. The reader sees how the laws of racial discrimination of southern American states, at a particular time in history, were used to limit certain groups from acquiring knowledge through literacy, one of the hallmarks of western civilization. And even after the end of formal slavery, the 1896, Plessy v. Ferguson ruling, helped to enshrine various Jim Crow laws, which were used to restrict blacks from having access to equal education. The landmark 1954, Brown v. Board of Education ruling, which helped to undo the Plessy ruling, is still important today, because many wonder if things have really changed since that time. In an essay that explores Douglass’ extensive discussions of the liberating effects of literacy for those who were thought to be less than human, show how his arguments remained essential to the struggles for literacy and education that African Americans waged in the 20th century. Scholars such as Catherine Prendergast, Ronald Judy, Robert A. Margo, Janet Duitsman Cornelius, Adam Fairclough, Jonathan Kozol, Orlando Patterson, Hazel Carby, Eric J. Sundquist, W. E. B. Dubois, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Houston Baker, William L. Andrews, Charles T. Davis, Patricia A. Herman, Frances Smith Foster, William H. Watkins, Heather Andrea Williams, Daniel J. Royer, Ronald Judy, Alfred Tatum, Jocelyn K. Moody, James D. Anderson, Mev Miller, bell hooks, Angela Davis and others are good resources. Remember that you must use Douglass’ Narrative to frame and focus your essay.

– must make substantial reference to primery text (QUOTES)
– must require at least 4 scholarly secondary sources
(must come from scholarly books or academic journals)
-quotations from primary text must be used to support critical arguments
– no book reviews

 

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