Learning to read and write Essay Example


Learning to read and write was an essential process whereby Douglass came to see himself as a human. Indeed the acquisition of these vital skills was inseparable from the dawning of the self –consciousness. Because of that, he pointed out that education and slavery are incompatible to each other. Reading gave him affordable access to a new world that opens before him. However, his detrimental anguish was so great that at times he felt learning to read and write had been a curse rather than a blessing. Hence it allowed him to see his wretched condition without any remedy at all. In addition self –consciousness produced such despair till he confessed having wished himself a beast (DouglassStepto & , 2009).

He portrayed the breadth of slavery’s ability to dehumanize through his insights into the mentality of slave owners. The mistress who began teaching the alphabets him was a kind and tender-hearted woman and lacked the depravity indispensable to shut him up in mental darkness. But under the influence of her husband and the institutions of slavery, she stopped teaching him to read and write and became more vigilant in preventing him from learning. Making friends of all the little white boys he met in the street succeeded him learning to read. Hence his vocabulary base grew as read the newspapers (DouglassStepto & , 2009).

His violent resistance to be whipped by Covey for disobeying him became a turning point in his career as a slave. As a result he emphasized the importance of literacy in developing his sense of himself as a human. Moreover he observed that slaves spoke of themselves as content while of their masters as kind hence it suppressed the truth. He confronted the misuse of Christianity in perpetuation of the widely belief in the slave owners. Indeed knowledge and education was the pathway from slavery to physical, spiritual and emotional freedom. Therefore knowledge helped the slaves to articulate the injustice of slavery to them and others (DouglassStepto & , 2009).


Frederick Douglass, Robert B. Stepto, (2009). Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave John Harvard library, Harvard University Press.