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    Narrative of The Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself

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    Fredrick Douglass speaks on his life growing up as a slave. Fredrick Douglass’s educational journey began when his kind mistress begins to teach him his ABC’s. This only lasts until she is forbidding by her husband to do so. His reasoning’s are such as a slave “should know nothing but to obey his master-to do as he is told to”. He also goes on to mention that knowing how to read would make the slave “unmanageable, of no value”, as well as the fact that the slave himself would be unhappy. All these words did the exact opposite of what Thomas Auld was attempting to do. These words introduced Douglass to a whole new thought process. As he calls it a new “revelation”. Auld’s words demonstrate the value of literacy, because his fear of Douglass gaining knowledge demonstrates that he could use the knowledge against his masters.

    Through literacy Douglass gains conciseness, and by his master’s words he realizes the powers he can gain through them. He realizes everything his master wants for him, is what benefits him the least. This persuades him to continue to seek education. His masters’ bitterness and his mistress’s kindness inspires him to do the opposite of what they wanted.

    Douglass continues his journey to education, on his own. Having no regular tutor, he still manages to learn to read and write. He does this, despite his owners monitoring him to assure he isn’t learning. This shows his persistence, and the fact that he knew knowledge could get him far. He learns by taking lessons from boys on the streets, while he was on his errands. These boys were willing to give him lessons, knowing they could suffer consequences from their actions.

    As Douglass expands his education and becomes more aware of the details of slavery, he began to question everything. He realized it is not fair for the white boys to be free at 21, while he is destined to be a slave for life. The book “The Columbian Orator”, was one of his most influential books as it included a slave and master. In their discussions, the slave made some great points, that allows Douglass to further open his mind. The further he reads, the more his hatred grows for his owners, as he realized the unfairness of their actions. His reading makes him realize how awful and unfair his situation actually was, and the fact that he could do nothing about it despairs him. The thought of freedom consumes him, and eventually is all he could think about. The fact that his whole mentality was changed demonstrates how valuable literacy is, especially to someone in his situation. Another one of the writing’s that inspired him is Patrick Henry’s words “Give me liberty or give me death”, as he realizes he literally almost had to choose between them.

    In Douglass’s fight with Covey, he is tired of being treated awfully. He refuses to be treated like an animal, and fights back. This benefits him as Covey never touched him again. Douglass’s fight is caused by his knowledge that he deserves better, again demonstrating the value of his literacy. This fight also reassures him, as it was the first time he really put his knowledge to use, and the results were very beneficial. Douglass becomes aware of his powers when he compares himself to other slaves who are a lot more ignorant than he is. He realizes he is different from them. Douglass also realizes that the holidays that slaves are allowed to celebrate, aren’t actually beneficial to them. He becomes aware that this is just a manner that keeps them from revolting, and keeps them enslaved. An advantage that he gained from his wisdom.

    Douglass’s new confidence and his realization of his power allows him to persuade other slaves to begin to learn to read. They go as far as starting a school in a cabin. His already accumulated knowledge and wisdom allows him to take leadership to do this and even go as far as planning an escape, when he feels he is ready for it. Even though this plan failed, his willingness to do it is significant. His knowledge gained from reading, allowed Douglass to attempt to cross the line, and see how far he could get. Every time he did something, and succeeded, it helped him go even further. This allowed him to eventually object to give all his earnings to his master, once he was working for money. Eventually his master allowed him to keep a portion.

    After his master decides to stop giving him his wage, Douglass becomes angered. Him knowing that he works for it, and he is entitled to his money allows him to decide he deserves better. This is what persuades him to attempt to escape a second time, this time succeeding. When he is successful in gaining his freedom, he confirms all he learned. Slavery isn’t necessary, nor is it his destiny. When he is up north he realizes it’s a clean, productive city, without slavery. It is a prosperous city, where even blacks are living in good conditions.

    His access to education was what gave him not only the mentality that allowed him to succeed at all his accomplishments, but it completely transformed his mind. His ability to understand how truly awful his situation was, when it didn’t have to be this way, devastated him, but allowed him to eventually fight against it. If he had never learned to read, Douglass might have lived his life believing slavery was where he was meant to be. Reading allowed him to become more enlightened and realize he was as much of a person as the white people were. Douglass became aware that the only true power the white people had over him, was fear and the social norms.

    Although his reading, didn’t tell him exactly how to escape, he used it as a tool throughout his life as a slave to slowly gain rights. The slave owner’s grand opposition to slaves learning demonstrate the power behind knowledge, as they knew with knowledge they would become aware of what they deserved, and what else was out there that they could persuade.

    Through his story he does an excellent job at demonstrating the value of literacy, as that was essentially what allowed him to eventually reach freedom. Not only did this benefit himself, but he spread his knowledge to his fellow slaves by teaching them, and eventually writing to them, and others. His knowledge inspired his belief that all people are created equal. His courage to persuade education, changed his whole life. Throughout his autobiography he clearly demonstrates the message that knowledge is freedom.

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    Narrative of The Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself. (2022, Nov 29). Retrieved from

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