by the Conference on College Composition and Communication
(May 1998, revised May 2016, revised June 2021)
The Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), composed of 5,100 scholars who teach at colleges and universities across the nation, is deeply committed to the development of literacy for all students. The “Students’ Right to Their Own Language” resolution and the “National Language Policy,” passed by CCCC in 1974 and 1988 respectively, continue to be strong organizational statements for appropriate pedagogies to ensure that all students are afforded the same opportunities to realize their potential as learners and citizens. Given continuing myths and misconceptions in the media and in the nation’s schools about the language many African American students use, the public deserves a statement reflective of the viewpoints of language and literacy scholars on Ebonics.
Ebonics is a superordinate term for a category of Black Language forms that derive from common historical, social, cultural, and material conditions. It refers to language forms such as African American Language, Jamaican Creole, Gullah Creole, West African Pidgin English, and Haitian Creole, as well as Afro-Euro language varieties spoken in European countries. The term “Ebonics” was created by Black psychologist Dr. Robert Williams in 1973 to identify the various languages created by Africans forced to adapt to colonization and enslavement (Williams, 1975).
The variety of Ebonics spoken by African Americans in the United States—known as Black English Vernacular, African American English, U. S. Ebonics, African American Language, among other names—reflects a distinctive language system that many African American students use in daily conversation and in the performance of academic tasks. Like every other linguistic system, the Ebonics of African American students is systematic and rule governed, and it is not an obstacle to learning. The obstacle lies in negative attitudes toward the language, lack of information about the language, inefficient techniques for teaching language and literacy skills, and an unwillingness to adapt teaching styles to the needs of Ebonics speakers.