Learning to Read and Write

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Alana Roberts
Essay I
February 26th, 2013
“Learning to Read and Write” by Fredrick Douglas is a story about a slave breaking the bondage of ignorance by learning to read and write. During the course of 7 years Douglas discreetly teaches himself to read and write by means of stealing newspapers, trading food with poor white boys for knowledge and books, as well as copying his master’s handwriting. Douglas learning to read gave him extreme awareness of his condition as he says “…I would at times feel that learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing. It had given me a view of my wretched condition, without the remedy” (Page 168-169). With his new consciousness he suffered with depression envying his fellow slaves for their “stupidity.” But, like a true underdog, Douglas perseveres and through hope he escapes to the freedom of the North. There’s a quote by Harriet Tubman “I freed a thousand slaves, and could have freed a thousand more if they had known they were slaves.” Throughout the essay Douglas evaluates his slave master’s ignorance, his fellow slaves ignorance, and most importantly his own. The definition of a slave is “a person legally owned by another and having no freedom of action or right to property”. Another definition says slave means “a person under the domination of another person or some habit or influence.” Douglas finds proof of the flawed ideology that is slavery through the book “The Colombian Orator.” The book validates Douglas’s belief of human rights and gave him ammo to use against slaveholders who thought otherwise. The dilemma in him learning this illuminating information is his inability to figure a way out of slavery. Douglas writes “It was this everlasting thinking of my condition that tormented me…I saw nothing without seeing it, I heard nothing without hearing it” (Page 169). White slave owners made it unlawful for slaves to read and write, this ignorance kept them in a state of limbo which stopped their...
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