Social Studies

Grade Level


Framework Standards

D2.Civ.6.6-8, D2.Civ.10.6-8, D2.His.6.6-8, D4.3.6-8, D4.8.6-8

The Urgency of Our Pen: Literacy Laws

In The Urgency of Your Pen inquiries, students are introduced to materials that reveal the historical relevance of literacy and the importance of literacy, authorship, and publishing for abolitionism. The anti-slavery era is an exemplary time when people fought against injustice and took to reading and their pens to change the tide of history. The legacy of literacy and engaging society through multiple forms of writing continues to be a vibrant dimension of U.S. culture today. Students will be inspired to engage and influence society by using the power of their pen.

This inquiry focuses on pre-Civil War literacy laws and expands into education for Black Americans during Reconstruction. Through an exploration of anti-literacy laws, the determination of the enslaved to break these laws, and the literacy-based methods of abolitionists, students will come to understand the power of literacy. By examining first-person accounts and primary sources, students will also understand the benefits of including diverse perspectives in literature. Finally, students will apply these understandings to assess and improve diversity and inclusion in available reading materials.

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