Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

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The Role of Education in the Narrative

Slavery tends to be looked at casually by people in today's society. People have little knowledge of the truths that lie behind slavery. Many people view slavery as white plantation owners abusing the civil rights of colored people and forcing them to work using physical punishment to reinforce their authority over them. Although these events did occur, slavery was more complicated than this. Frederick Douglass' autobiography opened the door on a new view of what slavery was about. The main conflict in the story is Douglass' struggle to be free physically and mentally from slavery. He discovered at an early age that education was the key to freedom.

Slave owners were not ignorant to the fact that keeping slave's un-educated was the only way to maintain their power of enslavement. They start this process early age by cutting off the natural bond that is typically formed between a mother and her child. Douglass knew his mother very mildly and saw little of her before she passed. He was separated from her at birth because their master sold her to a different plantation by her master who sold her to another plantation. He never developed a natural relationship with his mother and, when she died he felt nothing. When his mother was sold he felt nothing because he didn't know her well: "The ties that ordinarily bind children to their homes were all suspended in my case. I found no severe trial in my departure. My home was charmless; it was not home to me; on parting from it, I could not feel that I was leaving any thing which I could have enjoyed staying (73)". The limited education that slaves possessed reinforced the power of enslavement that whites had over them. Slaves were encouraged to be religious and follow the teachings of the bible, which taught them to be loyal and follow their master. Religion was used to place in their minds that a life of slavery was pre-determined and the way of the world. The...
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