A Slaves Road to Freedom Through His Literary Works: The Frederick Douglass Story

In 1818 a baby boy by the name of Frederick Augustus Washington, later changed last name to Douglass, was born to an African American woman named Harriet Bailey, who was a slave in Maryland. Frederick Douglass would soon become a well known author and abolitionist who shares the evils of slavery in which he endured. However, this would not come easy for most African American slaves could not read or write in english. Through one act of kindness, a spark would create the ingenuity of Frederick Douglass and his attempts to learn. Douglass would become creative in attempting to learn new things, and by doing so would leave him unsatisfied with his situation. This is the story of how Frederick Douglass changed his world.

When you look at how far he has come from being an enslaved man to a free man you can almost pinpoint it to a single moment when there was a shift in the balance. That moment came when Frederick was around the age of seven or eight when he was sent to Baltimore to live with Mr. and Mrs. Auld. Instead of being in chains or working hard in the fields he lived in the home opening up a world of opportunities for him. Mrs. Auld was new to slave owning and had treated Frederick Douglass with kindness and hospitality. She would teach Frederick the A,B,C’s and would help him learn to spell words with just three or four letters. However when her husband found out he forced her to stop but it was too late.

He had the taste for learning and wanted more. As seen in Frederick Douglass book “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass An American Slave” he writes about his epiphany when he realized by learning to read he could become free. “From that moment, I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom. It was just what I wanted and I got it at a time when I least expected it” (Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Blight, 64). Without his teacher he would have to get creative in ways to learn how to read. He would make friends with little white boys and would gain information from them. He would in a way exchange bread for knowledge (67). As he learned how to read and write he was also able to learn from reading documents. He would eventually learn that his world was not the same everywhere. That not every African American was enslaved and would change him forever.

As Frederick Douglass learned to read a lot changed in him. While he became a more intelligent slave it also was sort of like a mental prison. The information he gained from reading showed no way out of the hole he was in. “It had given me a view of my wretched condition, without the remedy. It opened my eyes to the horrible pit, but to no ladder upon which to get out”(68). Along with this he began to realize that ignorance was indeed bliss at times and he was jealous of his fellow slaves’ ignorance. However, despite this feeling, he also knew he had to do something about it. As he read more and learned more he found that he could indeed escape to the north but not until he learned how to write. During this time he would be sent from one master to another. Because of him learning to read and write, he was not as complying as other slaves and was smart in finding way to get enough food. “One of my greatest faults was that of letting his horse run away, and go down to this father-in-law’s farm, which was about five miles from St. Michael’s. I would then have to go after it. My reason for this kind of carelessness, or carefulness, was, that I could always get something to eat when I went there”(79).

Through reading he also got a sense to fight back. He didn’t want to be used as a brute by Mr. Covey no longer. By fighting back he realized that he could truly one day become free. He attempted to escape many times but failed until September 1838 when he would escape to New York. However, it not being safe for him to stay there and through the kindness of Mr. Ruggles, He would be able to use his knowledge as a Calker to go to New Bedford (113). By learning to read and write he was able to use that to write speeches and be an advocate for the enslaved. He was able to become a free man by learning how to read. By reading documents and becoming aware of his plight, it almost set the chains to be broken. He wanted to learn how to read and write because as soon as Mrs. Sophie Auld taught him the ABC’s he wanted to know more. It was this curious mind of his that led to his life being changed.

Chiefly, one could often learn from Frederick Douglass and apply it to everyday life and situations. Frederick learned how to read and write on his own, used his intelligence to trick kids into teaching him more things( or supplying them with food) and eventually escape the evilness of Slavery. By seeing how he persevered through those hardships it shows that we have to be brave and stand up against what is wrong. We have to fight to get out of any bad situation. And furthermore, literacy is power…education is power.

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