Frederick Douglass was One
Frederick Douglass was one of the very few slaves that learned to read and write. In the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass recalls his life in slavery. Slave Codes made it illegal to teach a slave to read and write. Slaveholders did everything possible to rip slaves of any rights they may have had. Slaveholders differed in attitude but most were very violent and aggressive. If the slaves did not know how to read then they could not learn about their rights and fight back.
Frederick Douglass was born into slavery near Easton in Talbot County, Maryland. He believes his birth was either in the year of 1817 or 1818. He was owned by Captain Thomas Auld. Mr. Auld was married and had two boys and one daughter. Frederick ended up escaping slavery in 1838. The main things on this plantation were tobacco, corn, and wheat. This is what the slaveholders rely on. If they do not have slaves to work their land and help produce these products then they lose money. It also says in the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, The shoemaking and mending, the blacksmithing, cartwrighting, coopering, weaving, and grain-grinding, were all performed by the slaves on the home plantation(Chapter 2). So, slave owners depend highly on slaves for all their wants and needs. If slaves learned to read and write then the owners could lose all of that.
How it works
Also in Chapter 2 it says, The frequency of this had the effect to establish among the slaves the maxim, that a still tongue makes a wise head. Slave owners did not want to own slaves who had any form of education. Mrs. Auld started teaching Frederick to say his ABCs, when Mr. Auld found out about this he said, If you give a nigger and inch, he will take an ell. A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master- to do as he is told to do. Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world (Chapter 6). With saying this he believes that a slave who knows how to read and write will not work as hard because they will learn much more than he thinks they should know. Most slave owners would agree with him that the only thing a slave should know is to obey his master. When slaves know more, the owners lose money.
Slaves were treated harshly even after doing all the work they did. One example of this is, We were not regularly allowanced. Our food was coarse cornmeal boiled. This was called mush(Chapter 5). Slaves were not treated fairly and did not even have a regular allowance. They never knew when they would be paid no matter how hard they had been working. If slaves would have known how illegal that is then they would not stand for it. This is another reason Southerners did not want slaves to know how to read.
Frederick Douglass went through many trials in his life to get to where he is now. In his last years of being a slave he goes to say, I went through it without receiving a single blow. I will give Mr. Freeland the credit of being the best master I ever had, till I became my own master(Chapter 10). This quote is very powerful. It shows that with hard work and dedication, he was able to free himself. This is what the Southerners were trying to prevent from happening. Giving a slave the power to read, extends their powers elsewhere.