Evolution of the African-American Voice
Equal rights are something that people have fought for over and over again. Whether it is equal rights based on the color of your skin, gender, or beliefs people have been arguing over who should have equal rights through time. Racial equality is one of our nation's biggest issues and we have been trying to solve it for decades. In their lifetimes many African-Americans had to face slavery and discrimination. In some places they still find themselves victims today. The essay “Learning to Read and Write,” spoke of the struggle that a person suffered through just to gain basic communication skills. The story “Stranger in the Village” the author writes about his experiences in a tiny Swiss village and how people looked at him so differently because they had not seen a negro before. In the famous speech “I Have a Dream” Martin Luther King, Jr. gives many examples about the struggles and challenges that African-Americans have overcome in the past. Freedom and equality held different meanings throughout each of these stories because of the perspective each author had on life. For some, freedom and equality are our dreams, while for others they represent the finish line of a frustrating obstacle course.
Frederick Douglass was the author of the essay “Learning to Read and Write.” In his work he showed how life was for the average African-American during times of slavery through a first person voice. His story shows how a young boy found the courage to learn and discover more about the world than it was legal for a man of his race to know. In the early 1800’s this young boy did everything he could to know how to read or write, but it was a dangerous task for him to undertake. If a slave were to be caught trying to read and or write, that slave would most likely be beaten by their owner. Within this essay Frederick Douglass stresses how the mistress went from being a kind-hearted woman to being a more strict and abusive slave owner. Frederick Douglass explains in his work that she had to adapt to fit the pre-defined role of slave owner just as he was forced to be a typical slave. Both the slave and the slave owner were being forced to fulfill roles neither wanted, but only the slave was willing to risk everything for change. Douglass had to risk everything to learn how to read and write, but he did not realize at first, learning these abilities would be how he would escape.
The author explains how the mistress changed as well. He referred to her as “a kind and tender-hearted woman,” (Douglass) yet after awhile he went on to say “the tender heart became stone, and the lamblike disposition gave way to a tiger-like fierceness.” Throughout his essay he continued to show the effects that slavery had upon the people he encountered. Douglass began the story talking about how his mistress would “treat me as she supposed one human being ought to treat another,” (Douglass) but under the influence of her husband’s support for white supremacy she changed into what Douglass feared. “She finally became even more violent in her opposition than her husband himself.” If she were to see Douglass with a newspaper she would rush at him with a face full of fury. His mistress had first given him the hope when she taught him the alphabet. Letters became words, words became thoughts in print and these thoughts fed his hunger for knowledge about first, slavery, and then later, abolition. Douglass understood the caution and skills he would need to execute the slavery that was repressive.
His mistress had first given him hope when she taught him the alphabet. By reading Douglass understood the caution and care he would need to execute his plan to escape slavery. Frederick Douglass enjoyed learning how to read and write. Obtaining new information was almost like a hobby for him. Sadly during these times learning to read and write was a crime. Douglass had to trick the local school boys into...
Cited: Baldwin, James. “Stranger in the Village.” Notes of A Creative Son. Beacon Press, 1970.
Douglass, Frederick. “Learning to Read and Write.” Notes of A Creative Son. Beacon
Press, 1845. Pages 109-113.
King Jr., Martin Luther. “I Have a Dream.” Notes of A Creative Son. Beacon Press, 1963.
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