14 von 14 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
- 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.