April 12, 2013
The Diary of Thomas Elliot
January 21, 1859:
My name is Thomas Elliot and I am a young boy from Louisville, Georgia. I am black and am a slave of a farm owner here in Louisville. I do not know how old I am or my birth date like most other slaves, for we were never told. I did measure myself today though and I have grown two inches in the past year, bringing my height to an impressive five feet. I found an autobiography written by a man by the name of Frederick Douglass over four years ago now, but never read it because I never knew how to read. Luckily my master’s daughter, Mary, has taken a liking to me and has been teaching me how to read over the past years, despite her father’s disapproval. A few weeks ago I finally finished reading this autobiography of whom I now view as a self made man and one of my greatest heroes. February 14, 1859:
I am excited to be able to write in my diary again considering how little I get to write. If my master ever caught me writing, I would be a dead man, so I have to hide my diary secretively and safely. After reading the autobiography of Douglass, I put much thought into how he was able to distinguish himself from all the other slaves, and actually make something of himself, for I wish to distinguish myself in the same manner. My first realization of how Douglass became a significant figure was that he was given the opportunity of being educated and valued his education greatly. Frederick Douglass was taught to read and write just like myself, but I know of many slaves that can read and write like Douglass who have done nothing close to what he has accomplished. I think that Douglass had a realization of his identity when he stated, “Whilst I was saddened by the thought of losing the aid of my kind mistress, I was gladdened by the invaluable instruction which, by the merest accident, I had gained from my master” (Douglass 34). Through Douglass’ questioning of why his master did not want him to read, Douglass realizes the importance of education, and how he must become educated in order to become free. Douglass sees that he is not naturally inferior because the color of his skin, but instead is inferior because of him being forced into ignorance by his owners. Although being taught literacy was very important to the distinction of Douglass, it was the realization of the value of education that made him truly stand out. I am going to continue to learn from Mary and hopefully be as intelligent as Frederick Douglass some day. March 20, 1859:
Today I was thinking about my diary and whether or not Frederick Douglass started off with a diary before he wrote his autobiography. Some have questioned the truthfulness of Frederick Douglass’ autobiography because of his powerful use of words to manipulate and influence others. However, I believe an autobiography is much like a diary. A diary is the most accurate way to interpret somebody’s life because a diary is filled with events, feelings and thoughts that make up one’s life. I feel that Douglass’ autobiography is the same in this sense. The intent of writing his autobiography was not to lie or forge in order obtain a more prominent persona. He had an aspiration to change the way people view slavery and freedom. His intention was to give people who are fortunate enough to be born free a chance to see freedom and liberty through a slave’s eyes. His autobiography was written in complete selflessness and only to benefit humanity. Autobiographies should be viewed as the most trustworthy form of writing, just like diaries. I would hope that whoever, if anyone came across my diary, would view it as the barest form of my identity and life; and this is exactly how I view the autobiography of Frederick Douglass. April 11, 1859:
My lessons with Mary have gone so well that she says I have surpassed her and that she has nothing more she can teach me. Douglass’ autobiography has really...