America’s Favorite Literacy Poster Child: Charles Dawson Learned to Read & Write at 98

Written by Jae Jones

George Dawson was an American author and laborer. He was also one of the oldest men in America when he learned how to read and write a book.

Dawson was the grandson of a slave. He was born in a log cabin in Marshall, Texas, as the oldest of five children. At just four years old, he started working full-time for his father. He would haul water from the well and work in the cotton fields, hand-combing the cotton and feeding the family livestock.

Attending school was never an option for Dawson during that time. At 17 years old, he witnessed the lynching of a young black boy who was accused of impregnating a white woman.

He married Elzenia Arnold, a literate woman. They moved to Dallas and Dawson began to work for the city in road repair. The couple went on to have seven children. Both parents were able to help the kids with their homework, despite the fact that Dawson did not know how to read. In 1938, he took a job with a dairy, where he worked until his retirement at the age of 79.

It was not until Dawson was 98 that he decided to learn to read and write. He entered a literacy program and excelled in it. He published his first book,”Life is So Good,” at 102. The book is an autobiography of a black man growing up and living in the deep south. Dawson died in 2001.



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About the author

Jae Jones

Jae Jones has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She holds a degree in Business Administration, and enjoys writing on various topics.

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