Literacy, Identity And Liberation – The Life Of Fr Essay, Research Paper
LITERACY, IDENTITY AND LIBERATION Frederick Douglass proved that slavery was wrong by educating himself to the reality in which he was sheltered from by being a slave. His literacy was used to gather information in texts that helped him proved that being enslaved was an injustice not only to himself but as a whole to all the people viewed lateral to him. His pass of total growth, from an ignorant child born into slavery to a literate free man speaking to the world, was cleared for him by his literacy. Frederick Douglass believed that a lack of education was the basis of oppression (and still is) and he used his education as a way to form an identity, which is liberated, both physically and mentally, from slavery. Douglass’ happiness came from his desire to read, and with this desire to read came a desire to understand his readings, and with this desire came his hatred of slavery and a greater motivation to achieve freedom. “I have observed…that whenever my condition was improved, it only increased my desire to be free… (93-94) While going through hardships and sunken in depression, he had no wish to read, but his happiness was not complete without his passion to read. For a slave, Douglass led a fairly good life under the service of the Aulds in St.Michael’s. He always had enough to eat, he was not beaten, and he was even taught his alphabet by Mrs. Sophia Auld. As a young boy, Douglass did not think much of his learning to read at that time. When Douglass was a little older, Mr. Auld unintentionally revealed to him what the basis of the white man’s power over the blacks was; control of literacy. Within the Auld family, the issue of slavery was ruining their relationship with Douglass. From then on, whatever Master Hugh “most dreaded, I [Douglass] most desired. That which to him was…to be carefully shunned, was to me… to be diligently sought.”(58) This particular episode ignited Douglass’ will to learn how to read. Douglass hoped for a better future starting with his education. He first had to learn about a different way of life before he could plan for one. An education would expand his mind about life, slavery, and most importantly freedom. ” It cannot be that I shall live and die a slave. There is a better day coming,” (67). Douglass realized he couldn t live his whole life in slavery because without an education he would have never known of this better life. Douglass knew that the only advantage the slaveholder’s have over their slaves is the ignorance they keep them in. His physical escape from slavery occurred because of his awareness, whereas he mentally escaped from these horrors through his writings, and he proved to the world that he was a capable, literate man just as worthy of equality as anyone else. Douglass’ book helped him to form an identity by sorting out his life and dealing with his past. This gave everyone within reach the inside story on how a slave truly feels and lives. Slaves could no longer be viewed as property if their feelings, hopes, and dreams were revealed because this showed that slaves were human being and not just cattle used for work or animals with sub-human living standards. This changed his identity from that of just a piece of property to that of an equal, caring man. It also gave few others identity by giving them something that they could relate to if they were literate. But just having his writings published would heighten people s awareness of what a slave actual goes through and maybe bring liberation to more slaves like himself. He became secure enough in his own identity to be able to write for himself. Narrative in itself allowed Douglass to be free because it was a form of liberation for himself. Writing down your feelings and thoughts on a subject has an incredible way of releasing you from your inhibitions and also of letting you go where you were afraid to go before. He strongly believed that it was the illiteracy and the ignorance of the black race that gave the white man the power to enslave them. He felt that language equaled power, so if the slaves had been more literate, then they may have been able to escape from captivity quicker. Moreover, it was his ability to express himself through language that allowed him to achieve some degree of mental liberation from his captors. This is best portrayed in Douglass’ “Letter to Thomas Auld.” By criticizing Auld, he placed himself on the same level of humanity as his master. In this, Douglass constructed a relationship based on equality between himself and Auld. He felt that since had become a free and prosperous man, he had the right to address Auld as his equal. (134-141)
Douglass moved on to live with Thomas Auld even though they had a number of differences. Thomas Auld and his brother Hugh Auld had the same views on slavery, which was the belief that teaching a slave to read would “forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable..”(57) Master Thomas had told Douglass that he was ruined for every good purpose, and was fitted for everything which was bad. The road to being literate did not come easy for him showing that his perseverance in his drive to become literate would eventually come out. When Douglass was under the service of Mr.William Freeland, his desire to read and write returned with a passion. This was because Douglass credited Freeland as being “the best master I ever had, till I became my own master. (84-85) He wanted to share this with his fellow slaves by teaching them to read, so Sundays became devoted to teaching them in Sabbath School. This was quite appropriate for Douglass, since he was sharing with his brothers something that was nearly sacred to him. By sharing teaching literacy to the other slaves he not only empowered them by the information they received, but he also contributed to the masses by starting the eradication process that would be followed for decades to come. At this time, the joy of instructing his fellow slaves encouraged him to make at least one escape attempt during the year. Soon, the idea of escaping became a real goad to him especially after reading “the Columbian Orator. Douglass encountered passage after passage about freedom, liberty, democracy, courage, virtue, and so forth. He especially learned and recited passages about the multilayered antithesis of slaver and bondage. Bingham s book also included a guide to techniques of oratory and eloquence. This book wrote left a dramatic impact on Douglass early life. He read about the slave who argued so eloquently with his master, and was finally set free. With this, the thought of life-long slavery was embedded in Douglass’ head, even after he became a free man. Douglass’ friends were the kind of people with whom he wanted to share his dreams of escape and freedom. While teaching them to read, he also wanted to teach them the evils of slavery, in the way that young Douglass had himself learned. With the great appetite for literacy that Douglass placed in their heads, he also embedded their minds with a thirst for freedom. “I have found that, to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one…to annihilate the power of reason.”(94) A “contented slave”(94) would be easily manageable under the terms of slavery. Once that slave found his mind, was enlightened by visions of the free world, began to rationalize and reason, or became educated and literate, he became “unfit to be a slave (57) and would want to be free and feel respected. Ultimately, his literacy could take him up the pathway to freedom, to where Frederick Douglass was taken. Slaves were denied many things like an education and an identity. It is an awesome achievement for him to have acquired both. Douglass uses his writings as a way to become a stronger individual. “What is possible for me is possible for you.” By taking these keys and making them his own, Frederick Douglass created a life of honor, respect and success that he could never have dreamed of when still a boy on Colonel Lloyd’s plantation.