The resiliency and determination of African Americans to become literate, as part of a long historical struggle against slavery and racism in favor of freedom and equality, gives testimony to the value they placed on education. During the period of slavery, the desire for literacy was in itself an act of resistance. The quest for book learning served as a direct challenge to the repressive law and social customs that strove to keep both enslaved and free African Americans illiterate, as literacy meant empowerment and freedom from enslavement.

Such appreciation for the written word was passed down for generations in the slave community until slavery's abolition. After slavery, this cultural appreciation for book learning among freed Southern Blacks flourished and took on new forms. As an ...

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