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Self-Taught: African American Education in Slavery and Freedom (John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture) (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 26. Februar 2007


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"Upon finishing Self-Taught the reader will be changed. Untold stories of protest and resistance come alive through Williams's expert analysis and captivating storytelling." - Black Issues Book Review"

Synopsis

In this previously untold story of African American self-education, Heather Andrea Williams moves across time to examine African Americans' relationship to literacy during slavery, during the Civil War, and in the first decades of freedom. Some slaves devised creative and subversive means to acquire literacy, and when slavery ended, they became the first teachers of other freedpeople. Williams argues that by teaching, building schools, supporting teachers, resisting violence, and claiming education as a civil right, African Americans transformed the face of education in the South to the great benefit of both black and white southerners.

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14 von 14 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
A crucially important book 11. August 2007
Von danger ranger - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Books on education in the Reconstruction period are relatively rare; some of the more important ones--Northern Schools, Southern Blacks, and Reconstruction: Freedmen's Education, 1862-1875 (Contributions in American History) by Ronald Butchart and Soldiers of Light and Love: Northern Teachers and Georgia Blacks, 1865-1873 by Jacqueline Jones--are themselves getting old by now. Even another, updated book in the vein of Butchart's or Jones's would've been valuable, but Williams's book is different in both scope and focus, and it makes a vital contribution to educational history and the history of race relations.

For one thing, Williams's book focuses on black education broadly, not just on the school and not just in the Reconstruction period. Williams's book includes not only information on the freedpeople's schools that are the subject of other studies in post-Civil War education for African Americans but also on the "underground" learning taking place in the slave quarters and elsewhere prior to emancipation. Williams is also interested in more than the "Yankee schoolmarm," who has been frequently studied (though, admittedly, not that often in recent decades). Instead, taking the lead of such scholars as James Anderson (The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935), Williams focuses on black initiative in founding, running, and maintaining schools despite white indifference and hostility. While the northern missionary teacher is--rightly--a part of this story, so too are the "native" black teachers who taught other African Americans, formally and informally. While other books and articles have attested to ex-slaves' desire for learning, Williams's book goes to great lengths to illustrate it through a rich array of primary sources and extended examples. Where Self-Taught truly shines is in its highly detailed exploration of the intricacies of starting, staffing, and maintaining schools for African Americans in the immediate postwar period; equally impressive are her efforts to discuss the role of black teachers, both those from the North and those native to the South.

Williams is less successful, however, in contextualizing her study, both historically and historiographically, and the two aspects of the problem are closely related. Williams objects to Butchart's earlier study on the grounds that Butchart seems to her to be suggesting that northern whites imposed education on southern blacks. This is, in fact, a misreading of Butchart's main point. He argues not that southern African Americans had education imposed on them per se (he's quite willing to acknowledge that they themselves wanted education) but that schooling was, in essence, a weak lever for creating social justice, where land reform would've been a more powerful tool. Williams's misreading here points to the larger historical problem of her work: black education is treated mostly in a vacuum. While she does an admirable job of conveying the variety of white northern and southern attitudes to black education, Williams doesn't really explore the issue of what value, ultimately, education had for African Americans in the South. Clearly, it had personal importance, and there were clearly cases where education helped individuals, but Williams's book doesn't really grapple with the thorny question of whether education aided freedpeople economically and politically. Indeed, as the book ends and Reconstruction efforts wane, we get the distinct (and, I think, correct) impression that increasing levels of literacy and education generally weren't able to forestall generations of discriminatory laws and practices. In short, Williams treats education unproblematically, as if it were, ipso facto, as important as its seekers made it out to be, as if (were it attained) it would achieve the full panoply of goals African Americans (and many whites) believed it would, including civil, political, and perhaps even social equaliy between the races.

In general, Williams spends relatively little time explaining the nature of Reconstruction itself; this is a legitimate enough approach, but potential readers should be aware that terms such as "presidential Reconstruction" and "Redeemers" are going to be used without much gloss.

Ultimately, Self-Taught is a great contribution to historical literature and truly covers new ground (as well as old ground in an invigorating way). I would highly recommend this book, even as I would suggest that some of its premises be interrogated.
10 von 10 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
profound piece of scholarship 15. Oktober 2006
Von Ronald T. Jones - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
African American efforts to become literate during slavery is frequently associated with the experience of bondage in the U.S. The story of Frederick Douglass is emblematic of the enslaved person's attempt to assert, through literacy,his or her humanity. The written word represented to those trapped in the blight of slavery a means to free the mind. As Heather Williams so brilliantly documents in this seminal work, Self Taught: African American Education in Slavery and Freedom, the black quest for literacy did not ebb with the abolishment of slavery. African American hunger for education in the wake of slavery, according to the author, was insatiable. Formerly enslaved men, women and children flocked to the standard of education with an enthusiam and determination that often invoked negative reactions from surrounding white populations. Reactions from Northern whites, who journeyed South to teach blacks, tended toward admiration.

The one theme threading its way through this book is agency. Agency is what African Americans demonstrated as they acted on their own initiative to steal the education denied them by slave owners. It was that same agency that blacks drew upon to create their own educational opportunities in the era of Reconstruction. Williams relays numerous accounts of blacks, partially to fully literate, teaching other blacks, building schools and trying to obtain resources such as books and writing material to keep the schools functional. Freed people did more than seek education. They sought to operate as active partners with Northerners in their own educatiional development. They refused to be sidelined or patronized. In several instances African American educational self reliance reaped rich dividends in the form of lasting institutions. The black soldiers of the 62nd and 65th United States Colored Infantry, for example, made financial contributions that established Lincoln University.

Williams highlights white Southern resentment of blacks' educational aspirations. Such resentment was accompanied by jealousy. Southern whites' fear of dominance by educated blacks generated violence. At the same time black eagarness for education, sparked a desire on the part of Southern whites for public schools. Public school systems, widespread in the North prior to the Civil War, were practically nonexistent in the south of the same period. That blacks contributed to the rise of public education in the south does not figure prominently, if at all in the landscape of American history. That a small minority of whites risked ridicule to attend black schools established by Northerners, due to the superior academic performance of black students, may not be widely known by scholars or laypersons.

The author reveals much in Self Taught that has remained hidden in the shadows of history. Drawing from a wealth of sources, Williams shatters the spurious idea that blacks, freshly emerged from slavery, were too helpless or too ignorant to embark upon a direction of individual and collective uplift in the form of literacy and education. Nor, as the author conveys, were they so cowed by subservience as to prevent them from making their voices heard, and their demands felt in the cause of advancement. Self Taught is an extremely interesting read. No full length study that I am aware of has focused exclusively on black education in the immediate years following the Civil War. Heather Williams has written a classic, one that should be required reading for college courses dealing with the Civil War and Reconstruction periods.
7 von 8 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Encouraging 26. Oktober 2009
Von Belle Haup - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
Finally a book that acknowledges the grass efforts of the nameless folks who took up the grass roots call of "Each one, teach one" effort in the difficult post-Civil War era. As limiting as it was, there was nothing else in place to address the manmouth job of getting generations of now free African American literate. Interesting, provacative read.
3 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Excellent descriptive work of African American education, but not powerfully interpretive 26. Februar 2009
Von Ioana Stoica - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
This research is a much needed contemporary history of the education of African Americans in the South from slavery through reconstruction and the beginnings of the common (public) school. It addresses the question from the local, 'grassroots' perspective--Williams explores how blacks sacrificed to build schools, pay for teachers, advocate for their own education, and how these individuals striving for freedom inspired a movement for education across the South. Poor whites, seeing blacks entering schools, were driven to anger, jealousy, violence, and imitation. Some whites enrolled in freedpeoples schools, as they believed them superior to the poor white schools in the neighborhood (if there were any).

Williams' work could definitely use an update and a broadening of perspective. Her research is education-centric--she does not consider broader social forces at play in her analysis, or if she does, she brings them up for a paragraph before moving on. In other words, she does not string her analysis along broader themes of race/ism, freedom, democracy, etc, all at play during this period. Education was in fact the very foundation of new conceptions of democracy: it was foundational to the ideology of freedom, and it was not coincidental that freedpeople associated education with a way up in the world. They were in some ways appropriating a republican ideology of free labor that valued education as foundational.

By not considering the broader context--the North, the new forces of industrialization and the changing meaning of labor, contestations of freedom, and so on, Williams' point is less forceful, less connected. However, as descriptive work, and as *the* contemporary (21st century) work on the subject, this is definitely must-reading.
An Extraordinary Book! 20. August 2014
Von Cole - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
An Extraordinary Book!. A must read for anyone interested in the history and culture of African Americans in this country. The struggle for literacy and connection between literacy and freedom are important issues for us to explore and understand even today. There was a reason that it was against the laws for enslaved African Americans to learn to read and write. Self-Taught explores in great detail how African-Americans both enslaved and free struggled against the forces that sought to keep them in chains. This book has many lessons for today.
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