Monday, September 25, 2006

"Learning to Read and Write" by Frederick Douglass


In the short passage, "Learning to Read and Write," from Frederick Douglass' book, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Douglass battles the continuing problem of racism against black people. As slavery starts to slightly become more apparent in his life, he studies it again. As he furthered his understanding and knowledge of this horrible subject Douglass ends up gaining the ability to read and write making him literate. During this time only white people were allowed to be literate so Douglass used this to his advantage to be able to live a freed life, fulfilling his dream.


Stating in chronological order the process he went through to learn how to read and write, Douglass used his cunning to accomplish this. He had to first learn to take the first step which his mistress as he said was "teaching me the alphabet"(191). His vocabulary base grew as he read the newspapers in which the north was "praying for abolition in the District of Columbia, and of the slave trade in the States"(194). His drive for freedom grows more and more as he states, "I saw nothing without seeing it, I heard nothing without hearing it, and felt nothing without feeling it."(193)

Discussion Questions:

Why do you think Frederick Douglass didn't mention the names of the boys that helped him learn to read? Do you think it was just because he didn't want to feel embarassed about it?


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