“We Slipped and Learned to Read”


It is common knowledge that slaves were lawfully restricted from learning to read and write. One less commonly stated fact however, was that slaves were not completely ignorant. They could not read and write English but this did not mean they could not read and write period. As strangers in a foreign land, many African American’s had no knowledge of English or even America itself and thus had to be re-educated. Something they were restricted from as slaves.

It was obvious that slave owners understood that their control over the slave had to supersede the physical. To keep a slave in bondage, not just physically but spiritually and mentally, slave owners knew they had to invent a much stronger rope than one that wrapped itself around the Magnolia. To do this, they realized that knowledge is power and this realization became the beginning of slave codes throughout the United States that put restrictions on slaves learning to read and write. This included, most especially, reading the bible.

However, ironically, it was the reading of the bible and listening to the speech of their slave masters (who often spoke openly around blacks they assumed ignorant) that helped coach slaves into the reading process. The law was specific, reading or even teaching reading both had death penalties. Still, persistent as they were, slaves still found a way to by pass the law, slipped, and learned how to read. For many slaves reading and writing meant, if not physical freedom, mental and spiritual freedom. They could use it as a tool to escape slavery physically or write of the horrors of the institution as did many in the famous slave narratives. The following is an excerpt from a writing done by Janet Cornelius and published by Clark Atlanta University on slaves and literacy:

“Despite the dangers and difficulties, thousands of slaves learned to read and write in the antebellum south. Few left traces of their accomplishments, but 272 ex-slaves who told how they learned to read and write during slavery provide insight into the literacy process within the slave community. For slaves, literacy was a two-edged sword: owners offered literacy to increase their control, but resourceful slaves seized the opportunity to expand their own powers. Slaves who learned to read and write gained privacy, leisure time, and mobility. A few wrote their own passes and escaped from slavery. Literate slaves also taught others and served as conduits for information within the slave communication network. Some were able to capitalize on their skills and literacy as a starting point for literacy careers after slavery ended. Historians of education have drawn a distinction between bible literacy, whose prime motive was the conservation of piety and liberating literacy (slaves used the bible to learn to read), which facilitates diversity and mobility.”

– by Janet Cornelius, Phylon (1960-)

Vol. 44, No. 3 (3rd Qtr., 1983), pp. 171-186
Paper Published by: Clark Atlanta University


I wasn’t going to comment on this, but I’m tired of hearing about it so I thought I’d weigh in. Hold your breaths. In fact, you may want to click that nice x button over in the top right corner of your screen. This is not something you want to hear.

Colors have always been strong symbols. Today, almost everything can be recognized or interpreted by its color. When you see red you think stop. When you see green you think go, nature, life, wealth. When you see yellow you think sunshine, light, happiness, peace. When you see pink you think girly. And then there’s black.


Since the Black Panthers, the color Black has been resurrected to be a symbol of power, strength, and rebellion. Rebellion against a system that has defined Black people as something dark and animalistic since the institution of chattel slavery. Today, black people who wear Black are seen as people who embrace black pride and become symbols for the African American rebellion against unjust systems.

However, everything that glitters is not gold and everyone wearing an Afro is not “revolutionary”. In witchcraft, the color black was used to indicate authority and power. It also symbolizes death, fear, and (wait for it) ignorance. Like any other symbol, when you see the color black it causes a trigger in your mind. For African Americans, it causes us to think about The Black Panther Party or Blackness in its relation to Black pride in general.


Why is Beyonce’s Formation being compared to The Black Panthers? What you saw in the half-time of the Superbowl was not a showcase of racial pride. It was not an image of strength and courage it was a coven of witches casting spells. This same thing happened back in 2014 when Solange rocked an Afro at her wedding. A group of people who are collectively worth billions of dollars held a wedding in an old crumbly building in New Orleans with chipping paint and stood like statues with blank stares. The whole thing made no sense and was the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen but because they wore Afros y’all praised it like it was something profound.

Am I a hater? Yes. I hate when people jump on bandwagons because of the appearance of something that looks positive but that they have no knowledge of. You weren’t shown Black Power, you were shown Black Cat Power and any Wiccan can tell you there’s a difference. Back in the day people worshipped the Sun and Moon and considered them Gods. Later, these worshippers associated specific animals with them. Concerning the cat, they believed certain Goddesses took the form of cats (cats are very sensitive to spirits), specifically, the Egyptian Goddesses Bast. Not only are cats sensitive to spirits, but black cats were symbolic of magic and darkness after the Goddess Diana (Known as Queen of the Witches) cult was said to have went underground.

By wearing all black, rocking Afros, and throwing clenched fist into the air you were made to believe something profound happened, just the same as when Solange threw an all white wedding. White, a symbol of purification and light. Thus this wedding gave you the perception of purity.