TheGrio Daily

Black people have always valued education

Episode 92

“It is absolutely a lie to say that Black people do not want or value education.” The power of education was not lost on American slaves and despite the threat of death, they taught themselves to read and write. As Michael Harriot continues to share Black history you’re likely not familiar with, he explains the crucial role Black people played in creating America’s public school system. TheGrio Daily is an original podcast by theGrio Black Podcast Network. #BlackCultureAmplified


[00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network Black Culture amplified. 

Michael Harriot [00:00:05] On a previous episode of theGrio Daily. You always wanted to do that? I don’t know. Like if you watch or listen to these podcast, you know what we were talking about on the last episode? We’re talking about South Carolina, how it is the capital of Black America, which is the theme for all of our episodes during this Black History Month, and specifically about the history of education in South Carolina. And today we’re going to talk about, you know, specifically how that education system evolved. And that’s why I want to welcome you to theGrio Daily, the only podcast that will tell you why South Carolina is the origin story for Black education. 

Michael Harriot [00:00:58] Now, when I say that, I don’t mean that South, like Black people weren’t reading or writing or doing anything before. People in South Carolina were the first ones to do it. But what I’m saying is you have to realize there’s this thing that happened in South Carolina that was kind of different then the concept of slavery everywhere else in America. See? South Carolina, one of the first cash crops in America was rice. And on South Carolina plantations. MAN rice is hard to grow. And so South Carolina’s plantation owners actually went to what they call the Gold Coast of Africa, where people actually grow rice in large quantities. And they brought those enslaved people here to build an engineer. The systems that would create create America’s, I guess, second cash crop. The first one would probably be tobacco, but it was the first one that could actually feed this country. Well, the reason that’s important was. It was so hot and so humid. In South Carolina that, like white people would catch yellow fever, they would get attacked by mosquitoes. And it seems as if like a Black, those African people, were kind of immune to it. Right. So they went to Africa and brought these enslaved Africans back. But a lot in fact, most of those people in the beginning were brought from those plantations in Barbados. You got to look at a previous episode to understand that. 

Michael Harriot [00:02:57] So when those different cultures from different kingdoms and tribes and groups of people from Africa came here and they had to communicate with those different people from who had been in the Caribbean for generations, mostly Barbados. They had to figure out a way to communicate with each other. And that is what gave us the Geechee Gullah culture, the Geechee Gullah culture. There’s a mixture of like West African and Caribbean tradition, which is also rooted in West African ethnicities and people. But it was perhaps America’s first non-Indigenous culture, right? Aside from the Native Americans. The Geechee Gullah culture was created in the absence of white people because they did not want to hang around those hot, humid disease plantations, especially the rice plantations on the coast of South Carolina. So those people will learn how to communicate without white people. They learned how to create their own food, how to grow their own food, how to talk to each other and because white people were not around, they taught each other how to read and write, even though it was against the law. 

Michael Harriot [00:04:38] So when that Stono Rebellion happened, again, it caused the Negro act of 1740, but white people really weren’t around to enforce it. So Black people knew that reading and writing was illegal, but they still did it because again, the white people weren’t around. And then even when they were around, they really couldn’t understand what they were saying because they were speaking in the Geechee Gullah language. Why is that important? And what does it have to do with today? Well. If that Negro act of 1740 gave whites the right to be any white person, not just the slave master, any white person had the right to worship a Black person if they caught them reading or if they caught them writing. But still there were enslaved people like Denmark Vesey who still read and wrote. And they pass it along to other children. They even had schools on plantation in secret. Then how do you think that Black people do not value education? If we risked our lives to educate ourselves. If we created America’s first educational system. There is no logical explanation for the narrative that Black people do not value education. 

Michael Harriot [00:06:15] But there’s more proof. After emancipation Black people and the freedmen, they urge the Freedmen’s Bureau to create these public schools and those public freedmen schools after emancipation, after the Civil War, the attendance rate was 80%. Nah, not like 80% of the people who like registered on the first day came to class, like throughout the school year. 80% of school age children went to school to educate themselves. And there were no truancy laws. There was nobody riding around saying, “Baby, you better go to school.” This was a self motivated, self-actualized, education system that was created by Black people. It is absolutely a lie to say that Black people. Do not want or value education. Those freedmen, bureau officials, especially a man named Mr.. The head of the Freedman’s Bureau, Howard. For whom Harvard University is named. Were urged by people who were mostly out of the AME Church and out of Black congregations to say, look, if there’s anything that you can do for us, why not give us some Black teachers. 

Michael Harriot [00:08:00] And so Black people from the north, from Philadelphia, from New York, actually moved to South Carolina. A lot of those legislature legislators that took over the states in doing reconstruction were African-American pastors and preachers who moved to the south and became teachers and educators, because that is how much we valued education. It is an historic lie to say that Black people never valued education. They risked their lives for it. After emancipation, we built our own schools that taught ourselves how to read. And here’s another thing, right? Even after emancipation, when whites used violence to gain control of the state political apparatus, one of the things that Black people did was that they didn’t just create the schools, but they began creating their own combinations of churches and schools because those Black codes, after whites gained control of the political apparatus, specified that Black people were not allowed to learn. Or to teach each other a skill. Or to apprentice unless it was authorized by a white person. 

Michael Harriot [00:09:38] So let’s examine that before we go. Right. Because, you know, we’re running out of time. Black people taught themselves how to read before and after slavery. So much so that white people had to write laws against enslaved people learning how to read. They burned down Black schoolhouses. They eventually closed the Freedmen’s Bureau that created these HBCU’s and this Black public education. They tried to fight against Black created public education systems, and they wrote laws against. People teaching skills and apprentices apprenticing in stuff like being a Blacksmith or learning new skills and all of that energy that white people expended writing, creating laws, passing the laws, fighting for these laws, burning Black people at the stake, hanging Black people for reading, murdering Black people for reading. We’re supposed to believe they expended all that energy. But Black people did not want or value education. How can it be like either white people are stupid to use all of the energy creating a thing that Black people, fighting a thing that Black people didn’t want or Black people actually educated themselves because they valued education. But see, you’d never hear that perspective anywhere else. That’s why you got to keep listening to this podcast by subscribing, by telling a friend, by downloading theGrio app. And that’s why we’ll leave you with another Black saying. Each one teach one unless you’re white. In that case, each one prevent another one from teaching one. We’ll see you next time on theGrio Daily. If you like what you heard, please give us a five star review. Download theGrio app. Subscribe to the show and share it with everyone you know. Please email all questions, suggestions and compliments to podcasts at 

[00:12:07] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast network. Black Culture Amplified. 

Panama Jackson [00:12:12] Coming this February. The Real Black Podcast Network presents Dear Culture: Tru’ish Black Stories. 

Dr. Christina Greer [00:12:21] When you think of sheer artistry, sheer creativity, the ability for someone to bring Black people together in the most fundamental ways, it’s, you know, I would say of my more Randy Watson’s my number one. 

Michael Harriot [00:12:35] When the news about Ricky first broke, what I heard about it is the thing you hear about, you know, every time somebody Black dies that it was gang related. That means the police don’t know what happened. So they just said probably the gang’s probably, you know, the other Black dudes. 

Damon Young [00:12:52] When I think of a killer, you know, I think about I think about how impressionable white people can be. I think about how, you know, if you watch that movie again, you know, he should have lost like three times. 

Panama Jackson [00:13:04] Where were you when you heard the story about them suckers getting served by waves dance crew? 

Shamria Ibrahim [00:13:11] No, it’s crazy that you mention this. So as a New Yorker, right. Everyone knows where they were on 911, right? You know, couple of years later, right. It’s 2003. Everyone hears about this crazy moment in a boxing ring because that’s where dancers duke it out. Right. In boxing rings. 

Panama Jackson [00:13:28] If you could say something to Ricky right now, what would you say to him? 

Monique Judge [00:13:32] Ricky, You should’ve never got that girl pregnant. You knew I had a crush on you. You should have gone with me instead. 

Panama Jackson [00:13:36] Moments in Black culture examined like never before? Join us each week as we dive into the Black moments that changed us. That changed the world. Make sure to subscribe to Dear Culture so you never miss an episode.