Douglass’s efforts to learn how to read and write
Describe Douglass’s efforts to learn how to read and write. Why did he want to, and did he learn to read and write? How did literacy help change him and his situation?
Frederick Douglass noted down his entire life experience in his autobiography or memoir called Narrative of the Life of the Frederick Douglass (1845). He was an American by birth and African by origin and had been enslaved for years. In fact, he was born as a slave. But, with his revolutionary mind, he escaped slavery and evolved as a remarkable statesman. He had been an abolitionist orator. However, as per his accounts in this book his life was not a piece of cake and he had to take many struggle and trouble to stand up in life. His first struggle was with acquiring an education. One striking feature of his character was that he hoped, he hoped for a bright life, out of this dungeon of slavery. In this book, he described the pathetic conditions of slaves, the extreme exploitation by the owners and the relationship between slaves and owners. In the initial 4 chapters, he rambled about his unfortunate birth and the demise of his mother when he was only 7 year old. His life gained momentum first, though implicitly, moving to Baltimore. He reflected his move to be very significant for his present life. However, in this essay the efforts and process of learning will be discussed along with its implications in his life as a life-changing experience.
Focusing on the first part of the question, he was introduced with education when he was enslaved to the son-in-law of the Captain Anthony that is Hugh Auld and accordingly was moved to Baltimore to serve those. He found softer situations over here in comparison to Talbot. He further clarified that his relative freedom was caused by the irrelevant exhibition of pride by the slave owners through being tyrannical and terror over the slaves. It led him to build a cordial relationship initially with Sophia Auld. Due to sheer inexperience with having slaves, she used to be extremely sober to Douglass in the initial phase at Baltimore. She was the one who taught him how to read for the time in his life. However, very soon she adapted the typical self of a slave owner with a little bit brainwash by her husband who told her that educational exposure led to develop audacity among the slaves. This incident made him realise the root cause of slavery and how the white slave owners made strategy by keeping them illiterate and ignorant. Interestingly, he did not succumb to this obstruction rather continued with the assistance of local friends.
So far life has taught him many lessons such as the out and out horrific survival of slaves, how owner women fell into the victim of patriarchy forcefully leading act like an inhuman and most importantly the strategy of the slave owners to tame the slaves forever by keeping them away from the enlightenment of education. This helped him to acquire an uncompromising attitude to be educated, to be enlightened. In fact, to him education was equivalent to freedom. For these prevailing caused he became determined to learn read and write. Owing to the initial compassion from Mrs. Auld, Douglass got acquainted with the alphabets. To learn reading and writing, he started providing poor local boys in exchange of their teaching. In the due course, he encountered an intense and interesting conversation between a slave and a master in a book named The Columbian Orator (1797) by the age of 12 years. There the slave seemed to fight off all suppositions logically presented by the master. It influenced Douglass to a fair extent to gather a complete understanding over the concept and politics of slavery. He very sincerely stated his inner dichotomy between the emancipation of the soul through enlightenment and acquiring avenge from Mr. Auld. Even, the severity of this dilemma pushed into the dark well of despair. His ears strove to hear something related to the end of slavery. Notably, during this phase he came to be aware of a term called ‘abolitionist’ and finally from a city newspaper he came to know its meaning to be ‘antislavery’.
The eventual change in the personality of Douglass is very explicit and his desire to escape was fuelled by two Irish sailors. His efforts for learning to write is an equally inspiring ass in this phase, he has no compassionate support. He on his own learnt it from several sources, practiced extensively and finally acquired the skill. However, the consequence of faith directed him towards a more devastated life and at the same time got the chance to escape. His relentless struggle to get out of slavery and more importantly abolish the barbaric practice of slavery he laboured relentlessly to acquire the exposure to the world through education. In fact, he owed more to Mr. Auld than Mrs Auld to show him indirectly the of achieving anticipation through literacy.
At the time of publication of this book, slavery was a contemporary and concerning issues mostly in the colonies. Thus, that time period was very much benefitted by the vivid account of a self-made abolitionist who was formerly slave himself.