African American Literacies

  • Elaine RichardsonEmail author
Living reference work entry
Part of the Encyclopedia of Language and Education book series (ELE)


The term African American Literacies encapsulates sociocultural approaches to African American literacy education advanced by the various subfields: including sociolinguistics, critical pedagogy, reading, rhetoric and composition, and New Literacies Studies. African American Literacies offers Black people a means of accurately reading their experiences of being in the world with others and acting on this knowledge in a manner beneficial for self-preservation through economic, spiritual, and cultural uplift. Such literacies, include manipulation of cultural identities, social locations, and social practices that influence ways that members of this discourse group make meaning and assert themselves sociopolitically in all communicative contexts. Importantly, African American literacies extend beyond acting with print and language in their strict and broadly defined senses to include a host of multimodal strategies for making meaning in the world. As Americans of African descent had been enslaved and marginalized within American society, the early scholarly thinking about Black language and culture reflected the common prejudices of the time: Blacks were culturally and intellectually inferior. Since the 1940s, scholars presented the systematicity, the West African background, and the history and development of what is currently referred to by mainstream linguists as “African American Vernacular English,” with many language educators advocating inclusion of African American language and literacy histories, structures, and discourse practices in critical conversation with those of the dominant culture’s to make literacy education socially just by repositioning students as knowledge-making agents of social change. Other societal domains should have an awareness of African American literacies.


Education debt African American English (AAE) Black English Vernacular (BEV) African American Language Ebonics Capitalistic-based literacy De facto segregation Efficacy Freedom through literacy Gender-focused literacy Hip Hop Literacies Language policy alliance National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) essays Critical language awareness pedagogies Social justice approaches Sociolinguistics Vernacular literacy White supremacy 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland (outside the USA) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Teaching and LearningCollege of Education and Human Ecology, The Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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