Purpose of the Anti-Literacy Laws. "To Retain Their Apathy"

From C.G. Woodson, The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861

6/25/20231 min read

Rich planters not only thought it unwise to educate men thus destined to live on a plane with beasts, but considered it more profitable to work a slave to death during seven years and buy another in his stead than to teach and humanize him with a view to increasing his efficiency.

The majority of the people of the South had by this time come to the

conclusion that . . . the more you cultivate the minds of slaves, the more unserviceable you make them. [There was a] policy of keeping Negroes in ignorance to prevent servile insurrections.

If they are to remain in slavery they should be kept in the lowest state of ignorance and degradation, and the nearer you bring them to the condition of brutes the better chance they have to retain their apathy.

[The result of the reaction of the 1820-1850 period]: Most slaves who were once counted as valuable, on account of their ability to read and write the English

language, were thereafter considered unfit for service in the South and branded as objects of suspicion.