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Slave Codes and Literacy

Slave codes were laws enacted by colonial and state legislatures in the American South limiting the rights of enslaved African Americans and authorizing the use of force in an attempt to keep slaves subservient to their White masters. Typically, slave codes included provisions making it illegal to teach literacy skills to slaves. The driving force behind the literacy prohibitions was a fear on the part of slaveowners that literate slaves could use the ability to write to either initiate revolts by communicating with fellow conspirators seeking to overthrow slavery, or at the least, create forged passes that would allow slaves to flee to other regions.

The colonial legislature of South Carolina enacted the first slave code in 1740 as a reaction to the Stono slave rebellion ...

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