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What Role Does Literacy Play In Frederick Douglass's Life

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What Role Does Literacy Play In Frederick Douglass's Life
Brady Ricks

T-Th 8:00-9:20

What role did literacy play in his life? How did it affect his life? How did control of literacy affect the slave system?

Fredrick Douglass lived a very painful and tiring childhood, he was separated from his mother Harriet Bailey at a very young age. “It is a common custom, in the part of Maryland from which I ran away, to part children from their mothers at a very early age” (narrative 42). Often young children are given to an older woman to be taken care of, since the woman is no longer able to help in the field. Although the children are not let out to do field work until they are of proper age, they are not taught to read or to write while they are growing up. This is the case for all enslaved African Americans. Their lack of ability to
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Reading books or a newspaper helped strengthen his vocabulary, giving him the ability to not back down to his masters anymore by them trying to bewither him with their large vocabulary. Douglass’s idea of learning how to write came when he was working in Durgin and Bailey’s ship-yard. He saw them applying the letters “L”, “S”,”L.F.”,”S.F.”,”L.A.”, and “S.A.” (Narrative 70) on the boards so they would be placed on the appropriate side of the ship that it belonged on. In seeing them do this, he thought he would like to do it so “he immediately commenced copying them, and in short time was able to make the four letters named” (narrative 70). In learning how to read Douglass was then able to learn of what date it was after he left Baltimore in March, 1832. This helped him for the remainder of his life track how old he was, even though he was not precise on his actual age. Literacy effected Douglass by helping him become stronger as an enslaved African American, who would go and help other slaves learn to read and write. Through helping others learn to read and write he gained a sense of accomplishment in his

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