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From the Publisher"An original, informative, and moving account. . . . [A] major corrective study of the struggle of African Americans."
— Arkansas Historical Quarterly
"Provides a needed corrective to the existing literature. . . . [A] readable and carefully researched work. . . . Represents an important expansion of knowledge about Reconstruction, the South, the political and cultural struggles of African Americans, and the nation's educational system."
— North Carolina Historical Review
"Groundbreaking. . . Williams marshals enormous primary evidence to reveal a previously untold story. . . . Ultimately, a book of triumphant reading—both enslaved and freedpeople's acts of reading."
— Southern Cultures
"Makes contributions beyond the author's stated goal of documenting the agency of blacks in acquiring literacy. . . . Williams provides a useful model for how to elucidate relations of power while also explaining their significance for larger historical developments. Hopefully, her success will inspire other historians to pursue similar work."
— Florida Historical Quarterly
" [It] is in every respect the first definitive study of the formative stages of universal literacy and formal education among ex-slaves. Never before has anyone described so fully the broad range of roles and the significant contributions of African Americans to the development of formal and public education in the South for themselves and for the entire region. (James D. Anderson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)"
"With great skill, Heather Williams demonstrates the centrality of black people to the process of formal education—the establishment of schools, the creation of a cadre of teachers, the forging of standards of literacy and numeracy—in the post-emancipation years. As she does, Williams makes the case that the issue of education informed the Reconstruction period—the two-cornered struggle between North and South over the rebuilding of Southern society, the three-cornered struggle between white Northerners, white Southerners, and black people over the nature of education, and the less well-known contest between black Northerners and black Southerners over the direction of African American culture. Self-Taught is a work of major significance. (Ira Berlin, University of Maryland)"