Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Illiteracy was an instrumental tool used to deprive slaves in an attempt to keep them ignorant and manageable during the 1800’s. If slaves were to learn how to read, they could in turn be educated. The oppressing class during this time period realized that if slaves were able to become educated they could no longer be useful, for it would be increasingly difficult to exploit their services. The ability to read was the white man’s power over slaves.
Douglass, realizing the situation of his enslavement, took advantage of his privileges and began to secretly learn how to read and write. As he become more proficient in English, Douglass began to gain a following of slaves who were willing to learn. He used his knowledge to covertly conduct a school where he would teach other slaves the alphabet and numbers. The experience of teaching others brought tremendous joy to Douglass who felt he was providing a better opportunity to his fellow slaves. Frederick Douglass is an exemplary example of why literacy was such a guarded commodity during the 1800’s. When Douglass went to live with the Auld family, the mistress Mrs.
Auld had never before owned a slave. Her behavior towards Douglass was different-kinder, and she even began to teach him the alphabet. When her husband, Mr. Auld, found out of her actions she was scolded and told that a slave should never be taught how to read. From that day on, Mrs. Auld never again taught Douglass any letters.
Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass: Historically Accurate Or Just Propoganda Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass written by Frederick Douglass in 1845 has been one of the most read accounts of slavery since it was written. Although it is undoubtedly a piece of abolitionist propaganda it also seems to be historically accurate. His arguments appealed to the Northern whites by ...
Her attitude completely changed. Not only was the issue of slaves being illiterate keeping slaves ignorant, but the masters also. By Mrs. Auld’s sudden change in attitude to Douglass it became apparent that the idea of slavery was not a natural occurrence, it was taught.
When Douglass saw how protective Mr. Auld was over keeping him illiterate, he became more curious and concluded that education would be vital to the emancipation of his race. He used his knowledge of the alphabet to eventually learn how to read and write. “If you give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell” (47).
The words of Mr. Auld seemed to foretell Douglass too perfectly. It would be too unsafe for whites to educate their slaves because a slave “should know nothing but to obey his master-to do as he is told” (47).
Still, Douglass progressed to learn how to read and write without a formal teacher.
The reason that this is such a divine moment in his life is because it portrays equality between Frederick, the literate slave, and his literate masters. While Douglass lived with Mr. Freeland he gained a very close knit of friends with the slaves on the farm. They were a community which acted as one, each member responsible for the other. Before his escape, Douglass was able to ignite the will to learn into those on the farm and the farms surrounding.
He devoted his Sundays and three evenings a week to educating his community and “several of those who came to Sabbath school learned how to read; and that one, at least, is now free” (88).
He gave those who were trapped the same utensils that were given to him when he was younger. Douglass provided a way for other slaves to learn about religion, shedding light on their mental darkness and even “had at one time over forty scholars” (88).
As his ideology of education became more accepted throughout the farm, Douglass was able to gather an escape team. Amidst all the planning, Douglass wrote a protection for each of the men stating they were allowed to travel to Baltimore for the holiday. This is the advantage Douglass, a literate slave, has over other slaves and also other whites.
No other slave would be able to legibly write a letter of protection and no other white person would expect a slave to know how to write. By Douglass knowing how to write, it makes the authenticity of the protections seem more probable. Douglass, however, never got to execute his escape. Another slave betrayed him and his plans were abruptly halted. As far as religion in the south was concerned, the same slaveholders who were oppressing blacks operated the churches. “The slave prison and the church stand near each other” (119).
In both of the writings by Douglass and Stowe, the question is raised concerning the existence of God. On page 1790 while watching the sails of the ships on Chesapeake Bay Douglass cries out for God to save him and grant him freedom and then states, "Is there any God" On pages 2330 in response to Mr. Wison's suggestion to trust in the Lord, George replies, "Is there a God to trust in There's a God ...
He notes that he is not against the “impartial Christianity of Christ” but he does loathe the hypocritical Christianity of the land. Douglass spotlights Mr. Thomas Auld as an example of how southern religion induces slavery. Auld was already a cruel man but he grew even more punishing after he found Christianity. Douglass believed as slaveholders became more religious, they also became even crueler. It turned out that as their violent temperament increase, so did their religious devotion.
Auld “found religious sanction for his cruelty” (66).
In a sense, the master viewed himself as almighty. Auld’s treatment towards slaves turned for the worse. During whippings, Douglass explains, that Auld would often recite scriptures justifying to whomever was receiving a punishment the reason why they were being punished.
Douglass did not find it logical that the same master who is committing sins such as adultery, assault, and stealing can be a wholesome Christian. He did not find it logical that the same house that was witness to the atrocities of slavery was the same house where preachers would gather and eat until they were full while the slaves who served them were starving. Frederick Douglass increased awareness about the evils of slavery by educating his peers and others who would listen about the injustice and cruelty of slaveholding and slaveholders. He was able to overcome the ignorance of educating slaves, secretly teaching himself how to read by utilizing the little knowledge that was accidentally shared with him.
Douglass gained a better sense of religion by reading the Bible himself and he learned that his Christianity practiced in the south was often hypocritical. He observed the southern church act tolerable towards slavery. If the church accepted tithe money that was earned through slavery than surely they failed to protest it. Slaveholders would suddenly turn into devote Christians.
Frederick Douglas's narrative, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, depicts a vivid reality of the hardships endured by the African American culture in the period of slavery. One of the many things shown in Frederick's narrative is how slaves, in their own personal way, resisted their masters authority. Another is how slaves were able to create their own autonomous culture within the ...
They used their religion as a crutch for their evil deeds, which only intensified the ignorance of the slaveholders. The experiences described by Frederick Douglass in his narrative are so grueling and vivid that one cannot help but to rationalize the unmoral values that slavery and slaveholding posses, and that the abolishment of slavery would benefit society in many ways.