Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type

Open Access Thesis



First Advisor

Nicole Maskiell


The study of literacy among enslaved people in South Carolina is often limited to legal literature, enslaver and enslaved autobiographies, and Northern accounts of education from teachers sent to the South. The use of these types of sources to describe literacy and education of enslaved people leaves out a major contributor to the enslaved literacy movement, the churches. Using documentation from two Presbyterian churches in South Carolina, this thesis expands upon the enslaved literacy movements in South Carolina to look at the roles ministers, missionaries, and congregations played in teaching enslaved blacks how to read religious literature, why these institutions are often overlooked, and why their impact on the education of enslaved people was so important. Salem Black River Presbyterian Church kept meticulous records of their education and examination of enslaved blacks to admit them into the congregation, and The Presbyterian Church on Edisto Island provides material culture evidence of enslaved blacks in the congregation despite not mentioning them in their written records. This thesis also examines why anti-literacy laws were seldom followed in South Carolina and the minimal consequences for breaking various anti-literacy legislations.