Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


School of Library and information Science


Libary & Information Science

First Advisor

Jennifer W Arns


Drawing from 1992 data, The National Adult Literacy Survey recently indicated that a large portion of the US population lacks the literacy skills typically required to complete complex tasks and take advantage of a wide range of employment opportunities. This report also indicated that the reading proficiency of African Americans was substantially lower than that of the White population, particularly within the elder population. A similar picture emerges in the more recent report, Literacy in Everyday Life: Results from the 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy. As a group, African American adults ages 65 and older had the lowest average prose, document, and quantitative literacy (Kutner, et al., 2003).

In the State of South Carolina, over half the population is estimated to be reading at levels 1 or 2. Less than half of the African American students achieve test scores that indicate that they are proficient or above on state reading assessments. Adult illiteracy, especially among older residents in the southeastern states, remains high, (2003) and although there is considerable research that links these levels to political conditions and educational attainment, there is little scholarship that explores the relationships that lay the inter-generational foundation for this situation in terms of the availability of reading materials. This study addresses this topic using data from annual reports submitted by the South Carolina State Superintendent of Education between 1945 and 1952 that describe the slow progression of public school library service to Blacks in South Carolina, including the number of schools that blacks could attend, the number of books per pupil in these schools, representative monetary expenditures, the presence of professional staff, and other related issues. Through interviews of six older African Americans, between the ages of 69 to 96, who attended a segregated elementary school with no school library; this study explores the impact of these situations and the role these situations have played in their lives and the lives of their families.