Topic: Family, Life & ExperiencesFriends

Last updated: April 22, 2019

In Frederick Douglass’s narrative essay “Learning to Read” he explains how he taught himself how to read and write. His slave owners did not want him to earn an education since they feared a slave who could read and write could think for themselves and would be dangerous to what they believed as far as slaves go. Douglass overcame various obstacles in his life, such as learning to read and write, and gaining his freedom. Initially, his mistress tutored him, but turned on him and quit.

Good thing, Douglass befriended the little Caucasian boys who helped teach him to read. Douglass claimed “The plan which I adopted and the one by which I was most successful, was that of making friends of all the little white boys whom I met in the street. As many of these as I could, I converted into teachers”. With the help of the caucasian boys in the neighborhood, Douglass successfully learned to read by getting the other little boys to teach him to read.

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As Douglass became more interested in reading, he took little steps to build his writing skills. His masters worried that if Douglass were to get an education he could endure ideas that would be harmful to what they believe was an organization meaning slavery. He started to read newspapers and books in the free time he had between errands. As Frederick began to read more he discovered what it really meant to be a slave. He started to wonder why he would not be free, unlike the other caucasian boys in the neighborhood. Douglass began to hate his masters because he considered that everyone should be educated. As Douglass worked in the ship-yard, he became more familiar with the alphabet thus started to learn how to create proper words and putting them in sentences only by learning his first four letters. Next, he would challenge other boys in the neighborhood whether they could write better than him.

Douglass expresses “I would then make the letters which I had been so fortunate as to learn, and ask him to beat that. In this way I got a good many lessons in writing”. Douglass learned how to write efficiently from challenging the other boys around the neighborhood.

In conclusion, Douglass recognized the inequality that his masters were making because they thought slaves should not learn to read nor write. By Douglass learning to read and write gave him the power to make his own decisions about who he really was. His perseverance underlines that the only who actually taught himself is himself.


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