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“The best way to hide something from Black people is to put it in a book.” -Anonymous


By: Chelsea Davis-Bibb, M.Ed. – Author of column series “The Overflow”
By: Chelsea Davis-Bibb, M.Ed. – Author of column series “The Overflow”

The Overflow- When I talk to different people at times, they can tell me the last show they watched, the last movie they saw, they can tell me something funny they found on Facebook, but when I ask them, “What’s the last book you read?” I don’t get a quick response.


The Facts

According to the Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation:

  • “Of the 75 most populous cities in the United States, Houston was ranked 56th, with number 75 being the least literate.”
  • “1 in 4 Houston adults have not earned a high school diploma, GED or equivalent.”
  • “75% of future high-growth, high demand jobs in the Houston/Gulf coast area will require the minimum of an associates degree.”
  • “Hispanic and African-American third graders in the greater Houston area were 2 times more likely to perform unsatisfactorily on the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) reading assessments in 2013.”
  • “Children who do not read on level by the end of Grade 3 have only 1 in 8 chance of ever catching up and are 4 times most likely to drop out of school.”


The Problem

We simply do not read, and if we do, it is simply not enough. As a race, we have not taken advantage of the fact that we can pick up a book and read. During slavery, many slaves were beaten and sometimes even killed if their master knew that they were educating themselves, or even if others educated them. There were also some laws that were implemented in order to help prevent slaves from learning how to read and write. Read below this excerpt from the South Carolina Law of 1740.


“Whereas, the having slaves taught to write, or suffering them to be employed in writing, may be attended with great inconveniences; Be it enacted, that all and every person and persons whatsoever, who shall hereafter teach or cause any slave or slaves to be taught to write, or shall use or employ any slave as a scribe, in any manner of writing whatsoever, hereafter taught to write, every such person or persons shall, for every such offense, forfeit the sum of one hundred pounds, current money.”


The masters were scared that if slaves were educated, it would interrupt the slave system, and their ability to control the minds of slaves. If you’re not educated, you’re naïve, and if you’re naïve, you will believe almost anything. If you don’t educate yourself, you are enslaving yourself to ignorance.





The Solution

There are two quotes that stand out to me by Frederick Douglass. “Once you learn to read you will be forever free” is one quote, and the other one states, “Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave.” The answer is simple, pick up a book and educate yourself. Even though I highly encourage education, people don’t have to go to school in order to be informed, or to learn something new. Turn off the television, get off of social media, and open your mind to something you can benefit from. Being educated opens so many doors as far as new opportunities, job growth, speaking and holding intellectual conversations, and more importantly, being able to control your own mind, just to name a few. The next time you have some free time, try reading something. It can be a novel, an article, a magazine and etc. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”