Education as a Means of Control during Slavery, the 1930s, and Present

Topic: Education System
Words: 1096 Pages: 4

During the reconstruction phase, African Americans in the freed slave states considered schooling as an integral approach to achieving fairness, freedom, and wealth. As a result, they discovered methods to learn notwithstanding the many impediments that impoverishment and white individuals placed in their pathway. The 1930s saw a push for racially segregated instruction as a component of a more considerable effort to redefine the parameters of African America regarding discrimination, but also in the manner political and financial dominance was exerted in the US. Today, reform initiatives have aided African-Americans as they permit them to attend school, own school systems, and have quality instruction that would enable them to become intelligent academics and reformist activists. Drawing comparisons from the three ages, this essay evaluates the use of education as a tool to control African Americans. In doing so, the paper refers to Carter Woodson’s The Mis-Education of the Negro, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass, and Malcolm X’s Learning to Read.

First, during the 1930s, the education provided to African Americans was not intended to modernize them but rather to confront them with their fellow Africans to increase their degree of dependency on whites. The first chapter of Woodson’s The Mis-Education of Negro critiques the structure of the knowledge offered to black Americans. Wright insinuates, ‘It is not worthy of learning to hate your very being’ (63). Therefore, the type of schooling Africans received taught them to loathe themselves. Since as Woodson explains, ‘When you control a man’s thinking, you do not have to worry about his actions (15),’ the education given to Africans served solely to further the white people’s ambition to continue governing Africans. Following this notion, African education was the source of the problem for the so-called enlightened Africans. They were indoctrinated to despise their blackness and desire to ascend the social strata, symbolizing the concept of disregarding where they came from while still desiring to attain milestones they had never accomplished. The schooling was insufficient to obtain employment, so they returned to their village to continue deceiving other blacks.

Second, presently, training imparted to African Americans is considered vital to success. It should help them constructively enhance their lives and that of others and aim to depart one’s society better than they inherited it. Murray enumerates, ‘We are virtually racing against time, and we should not leave our neighbors behind irrespective of our races, religion, economic power, or political allegiance (65). Black is merely a color, and being either black or white, individuals’ creeds should not separate them. According to Woodson, While mis- teaching an individual, one is miseducating an entire neighborhood and prolonging a whole generation (67). It was throughout the slavery and white domination over Africans that the benchmark was missed.

Black people have failed to apply the knowledge gained to better their lives by developing original concepts, creative endeavors, and enterprise launch. All of this is a result of substandard education that encourages Africans to behave more like consumers rather than the businesspeople that whites are (de Royston et al. 67). Analyzing and critiquing the fifth chapter of Woodson’s novel provides a contrast between the expectations that African Americans have of gaining superior education in order to pursue jobs in large corporations and the expectations that they should use their talents to develop careers. In all honesty, the educational system in Africa is based more on consumption than it is on production.

Third, during slavery, the type of schooling provided to Africans kept them irrelevant in the community, constituting a security risk for Whites. In the third section of the book, white supremacy over blacks is criticized. It was a well-planned effort by Whites to sound intelligent to African Americans. The primary issue was why the white population deviated from the truth despite providing African Americans with inadequate education. Woodson implies, ‘The destroying of one’s history leads one to destroy their future too (42).’ Whites believed that doing so would make them more powerful than African Americans. One would concur with Woodson that straying away from reality did not improve the whites’ lives as initially anticipated. Individuals should therefore strive to achieve a balance among all human ethnicities. Woodson relates having excellent instruction to being a good parent. It becomes achievable if the parent obtains great work and has ambitious career objectives. Based on one’s background, the teaching should be relevant and appropriate to societal and institutional needs.

Finally, Malcolm X’s Learning to Read examines systematic racism and injustice, as well as the struggles of African Americans during enslavement to get an education. The article describes Malcolm X’s challenges in becoming educated and acquiring quality instruction owing to his skin pigmentation. While incarcerated, he self-motivated himself to learn by copying dictionary definitions page by page, striving to enunciate the phrases and preserve the meanings in memory. In his paragraph, Malcolm adds, ‘In the street, I had been the most articulate hustler out there – I had commanded attention when I said something. But now, trying to write simple English, I not only wasn’t articulate, I wasn’t even functional (258).’ The same notion is illustrated by Douglass when Hugh reportedly remarked, ‘If a slave were given an inch, he would “take an ell (15). In Maryland, as in numerous slave-holding jurisdictions, it was illegal to instruct slaves in reading and writing. In exchange for instruction from the poor white children he socialized with in the community, Douglass pursued his education secretly by reproducing the symbols in Thomas’s old schoolbooks.


In conclusion, The Mis-Education for the Negro by Woodson, Malcolm’s Learning to Read, and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Douglass is contemporary and pertinent, particularly for African students studying within the US. Since the beginning of the slave trade, indoctrination has persisted, and it still occurs in contemporary society. Obtaining an education is the most acceptable option because it renders one valuable in various settings. Histories demonstrate the disparities used to deceive Africans. Those in authority established strategies that dispel the impression that Africans are merely consumers and instead encourage Africans to become entrepreneurs of the goods they use before considering exports. The only way to convince the public that black is simply a color is through decent education. No one will dislike their history due to foreign knowledge. Those who have not learned to function independently and must rely entirely on others rarely end up with more privileges than they started with. Therefore, based on the paper’s claims, it is true that literacy was and has been used to dominate African Americans.

Works Cited

Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself. Chapter X, in The Norton Anthology of American Literature, ed, 2008.

Malcolm, X. “Learning to Read.” The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Ed. Alex Haley. New York: Ballantine, 1965, pp.257-266.

Murray, Alana D. “Resisting the Master Narrative: Building the Alternative Black Counter-Canon.” The Development of the Alternative Black Curriculum, 1890-1940. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, 2018.

Woodson, Carter G. The Mis-education of the Negro. Book Tree, 2006.

Wright, Brian L. The Brilliance of Black Boys: Cultivating School Success in the Early Grades. Teachers College Press, 2018.

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