Essay About Frederick Douglass
During his tenure as a young individual, Frederick Douglass, known today as being an astonishingly inspirational abolitionist, was convinced that literacy, even as a slave, would help him flourish throughout his journey in life. Douglass was never given the opportunity to get any sort of education as a slave but was profoundly eager to learn after his mistress initially taught him the alphabet, but later turned on him and refused to continue teaching him. Afterward, he became a determined force to be reckoned with and did essentially everything in his power to obtain the gift of literacy, regardless of what it consisted of.
Whether it was trading bread for knowledge, or copying words one by one out of a dictionary, the process of learning to read and write, was not in any way accessible, nor was it easy. In fact, it ended up unconditionally changing the way Douglass viewed the world. In his article titled “Learning to Read and Write,” Douglass’ worldview changed abundantly in the sense that his eyes were now opened to the incredibly cruel world of slavery and inequality, which aided him in finding his voice in becoming an activist.
Douglass had gotten ahold of the book The Columbian Orator, where he found intense dialogue of a slave who was displaying unusually compelling assertions for emancipation, and it clarified his views on human rights. It had become very evident to Douglass that the ability to read and write came with the capability to comprehend the immense crudity on a whole new level. The more Douglass practiced and improved his reading capabilities, the more agony he felt as he was able to comprehend the abhorrent tragedies that his people underwent.
Although literacy was an idea that Douglass had once apotheosized, it doubtlessly revealed the harrowing truth about slavery. According to Frederick Douglass, “It opened my eyes to the horrible pit, but no ladder upon which to get out” (Douglass 3). In other words, both illiteracy and ignorance kept the lives of slaves relatively content, but once Douglass became literate, he was exposed to an incredibly dark world where extreme inequality and servitude were the norms. Douglass himself writes “In moments of agony, I envied my fellow-slaves for their stupidity… I often found myself regretting my own existence, and wishing myself dead…” (3). The essence of Douglass’s argument is that all the information he is taking in makes him feel incredibly hesitant in being a slave, and felt even more apathetic to persist while he is still a slave. It had impacted him tremendously, to the point where he wished death upon himself. In addition, he felt envious towards his fellow slaves who were uneducated on such matters and were content enough to manage.
In Douglass’s view, “The reading of these documents enabled me to utter my thoughts and to meet the arguments brought forward to sustain slavery; but while they relieved me of one difficulty, they brought on another even more painful than the one of which I was relieved” (2). Douglass’s point is that the masters prohibited slaves from receiving an education because they felt that the more knowledge the slaves were exposed to, the easier it would be for them to counterattack. With that said, finding this book was a domain where other individuals understood the hardships that the slaves underwent, and he no longer felt isolated. This awareness gave Douglass the utmost eagerness to spread advocacy about abolishing slavery to ensure liberty is attained.
According to Douglass, “The more I read, the more I was led to abhor and detest my enslavers. I could regard them in no other light than a band of successful robbers, who had left their homes, and gone to Africa, and stolen us from our homes, and in a strange land reduced us to slavery’ (2). In other words, Douglass believes in the ability to give meaning to black freedom. The more he was exposed to the cruel history of his enslavers, the more he wished to stand up against it. He felt as though his expanded awareness emboldens an immensely greater hatred for injustice and inequality. Douglass saw his slaveholders as robbers and now felt as though they were more impish than he could have ever imagined, and it afflicted Douglass exceedingly.