Free Essay: Lessons from Narrative of Frederick Douglass Autobiography

Published: 2019-10-29
Free Essay: Lessons from Narrative of Frederick Douglass Autobiography
Essay type:  Narrative essays
Categories:  History Literature Biography Slavery
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1482 words
13 min read

The narrative of Frederick Douglass demonstrates how white owners of slaves perpetrate slavery through ensuring that their slaves remain ignorant. By virtue of this element, this narrative shows that reading is important as it informs individuals pertaining to not only the world away from them but also their own rights. At the particular moment when Frederick Douglass was writing his autobiography, majority of people associated with the claim that slavery is natural for the victims and therefore acceptable in nature (Douglass, 2002). Besides, people believed that blacks had been inherently unable to partake in the civil society. Subsequently, blacks were considered to be responsible for working as subordinates for their white counterparts. Reading and writing skills reversed the notion.

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Frederick Douglass also explains strategies and methodologies through which the whites gain and retain powers over their black counterparts from birth henceforth. Frederick asserts that slave owners maintain their status by ensuring that their slaves remain ignorant of the basic aspects about selves. For instance, some slaves are unaware of their own birth dates and paternity issues. In particular, lack of understanding of the basic rights of the individuals was a mechanism that increased childrens rights while ignorance denies natural sense to individual identity. This assertion from the narrative provides me with an inclination to the importance of reading which in essence creates an opportunity for understanding individual right. It is impossible to align ones goal to the rights and privileges of individuals (Douglass, 2002). Reading the autobiography of Frederick generates insights into understanding the nature of human rights as far as the role of individuals in their private settings are concerned.

As the narratives assert, once the slave children grow order, slave owners prevent them from learning reading and writing skills. In essence, reading and writing skills provides an individual with a sense of self-sufficiency as well as capability that slave owners wish to deny their slaves. In particular, the enhancement of individual reading and writing skills creates an avenue for enhanced understanding of individual rights that precedes freedom. The narrative further indicates that literacy would equip learners with the knowledge that would lead to their questioning of the rights of whites to have slaves. This element posits a major impact of reading and writing skills. Douglas presents an argument that ascribes to the inferior position that the whites bestowed on black as slaves. In his narrative, he states, "It was a severe cross, and I took it up reluctantly. The truth was, I felt myself a slave, and the idea of speaking to white people weighed me down" (p. 119). In my life, this is a clear indication that reading skills provides a platform for enhancing individual position in the society.

Another critical aspect of the narrative is the impact of reading and writing skills to the future. According to Frederick, when slaves cannot read and write, it is hard to narrate their story in future. This instance retains the status quo. In this, I learn to appreciate history courtesy of written materials that prescribes to the occurrences that takes place in the society that escape future generations due to lack of written emblems for reference. Without a reference point to the origin of a problem, it is critically hard to resolve a problem. Frederick also claims that through retention of illiteracy among slaves, the Southern slave owners have a prolonged control over majority of other Americans as far as their knowledge of slavery is concerned (Douglass, 2007). Without such knowledge about the happenings of slavery, it is quite hard to yield positive outcomes. This is particularly demonstrated in the letter to the Narrative by Wendell Phillips.

Another critical lesson presented in the narrative is the impact of reading knowledge as a path to freedom. Like slave owners, they keep both genders as slaves through deprivation of education and knowledge. Subsequently, slaves must seek education in order to pursue freedom as Frederick claims. From this perspective, I learn that reading and writing knowledge is the main source of freedom. Frederick learns about this notion from Hugh. In the case of Hugh, Auld prevents his wife from teaching Douglas to write and read since education is presented as a dangerous element on slaves (Douglass, 2007). From Frederick perspective, Auld reveals strategies that whites manage to retain black slaves besides proposing ways in which black slaves might gain their freedoms.

Douglas also presents his personal education scenario in which he has been able to free himself as the main platform to gaining freedom for all slaves. This individual position taken by Frederick presents an important insight to the power of reading and writing in enhancing individual freedom. In this regard, this element generates an important less in the sense that individuals gain freedoms through gaining reading and writing skills. The impact of self-education like Fredericks and the general education that impacts on gaining reading and writing skills is very critical in promoting enhanced freedom. The prime gateway to freedom is ability to read and write. Frederick does not possess the illusion that knowledge has an automatic impact on imparting freedom among slaves. From this position, it implies that through reading and writing, the path to freedom is initiated but propelled by individual involvements. In essence, Fredericks narrative presents a critical insight that demonstrates that reading and writing ability enables the slaves to articulate the injustices that slavery inflicts to both selves and others besides assisting them to recognize men relative to slaves (Douglass, 2002). Rather than providing instant freedom, the narrative presents the consciousness predicted by Auld and presented by Frederick which emanates from the skills of reading and writing.

Through reading and writing, Douglas demonstrates the actual negative effect of slavery not only on the slave but also on the slave owners as well. In particular, the narrative shows that when individual slaves are impacted with reading and writing skills, they are able to communicate their plight to the caring society which implies moral health damage on the slave owners. This scenario creates a conviction on the role of knowledge and reading in particular in changing the status quo regardless of the perceived benefits in the long-run. This is deduced from the irresponsible and corrupt powers that slave owners enjoy at the expense of their slaves. In this regard, due to the negative impacts that slavery has on both the victims and the culprits, Douglas presents the practice as an unnatural practice for both parties involved (Douglass, 2007). This is critical for rethinking the impact of any engagement regardless of the perceived short-run benefits.

Through Douglass narrative, women are not presented as full character but mere vivid images of abused bodies. This is an aspect of negation of individual roles and positions in the society. Through this perspective, the narrative cites Douglas Aunt Hester among others that appear in scenes that demonstrate their inferiority in the society and subjects of abuses. In these scenarios, the subjects of such abuses mainly drawn from the inferior society are also mainly characterized with lack of reputable reading and writing skills. With the inclusion of emaciated and mangled body of women in the narrative demonstrates the pains and outrages that readers must have while reading the script (Douglass, 2007). However, without reading and writing skills, the plight of slaves manifested through the course of emaciated women and minority in the narratives would not be revealed. Without reading and writing of the plight of slaves, it would have been impossible to understand the challenge and establish mechanism including legislations that averts the problem. Slaves are treated as property of the owner.

Finally, in the narrative, Douglas first meets The Columbian Orator which is a collection of poems and dialogues at the age of about 12 years. This was the time immediately after learning the skills of reading. Once Douglas is educated on the concept of injustice perpetrated by slavery, he is able to manifest his insights to the issue of slavery as far as reading and writing skills are concerned in a bid to resolve the unnatural problem of slavery which he had been always against. With the reading skills, Douglas is able to substantiate his focus from the series of Columbian Orators master pieces. In particular, he confines to the dialogue and speech on master-slave for the emancipation of Catholic group. With the reading skills, Douglas is able to manipulate the insights generated from the master-pieces of the Columbian Orator to demonstrate his philosophy against slavery. These articulated perceptions are based on the reading and writing proficiency that Douglas boasted of. From this perspective, I learnt the positive impact of reading and writing as manifested by Douglas in making the right choices in a bid to resolve social-economic and political challenges. In essence, reading and writing skills are the gateway to problem solving.


Douglass, F. (2002). Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass., F. (2007). My bondage and my freedom. Modern Library.

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