Only one adequate plan has ever appeared in the world, and that is the Christian dispensation.
John Jay - First US Supreme Court Chief Justice
Wednesday's Word: African American History - Literature

Wednesday's Word

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Saturday, March 08, 2014

African American History - Literature

Like Author and Poet Phillis Wheatley, many African-American slaves were drawn to the Bible. But literacy brought with it knowledge, inspiration and sometimes the means to escape from slavery. In the early part of the 19th century, Southern society fought the spread of literacy among slaves, often with severe punishment. Oral histories from aging slaves compiled by the Federal Writers Project in the 1930s show how the slaves sought out the life-skill of literacy.

"None of us was ‘lowed to see a book or try to learn. They say we git smarter than they was if we learn anything, but we slips around and gits hold of that webster’s blue-back speller and we hides it till’ way in the night and then we lights a little pine torch, and studies that spelling book. We learn it too."

-Jenny Proctor, a former slave

The real-life experience of slavery is also preserved in autobiographies, or slave narratives. "These books added momentum to the abolitionist movement, and the build-up to the Civil War," according to noted University of Minnesota historian John Wright. "Literature, and the writings of fugitive slaves and ex-slaves become an important part of the rising sectional battle over slavery and its place in American life. And that context brought a flood of African-American writing to the attention of the American public. And slave narratives, literally by the hundreds, were produced between the early 1830s and the Civil War in the 1860s."


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