Reading Under Cover of the Veil: Oral and Textual Literacies in Antebellum America

Sandra Elaine Jones


This article examines the relationship between oral and textual literacy systems during the antebellum period of United States history. Rather than the traditional concepts of literacy that construct a binary between the textual and the oral, I argue that African-American intellectual processes are more accurately understood as existing on a literacy continuum that reflects equality between oral literacy and textual literacy. A literacy continuum deconstructs the notion of the supremacy of textual literacy and assumes a mutually dependent relationship between the oral and the textual. Ultimately, it enables a re-evaluation of orality as an intellectual process and system of knowledge production. 

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Publication of the Community Literacy Journal is made possible through the generous support of the English Department and the Writing and Rhetoric Program at Florida International University. The CLJ is a journal of the Conference on Community Writing.