Fredrick Douglas And Harriet Jacobs

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During the 1800s, slaves received treatment comparable to that of livestock. They were mere possessions of white men stripped of almost every last bit of humanity in them. African-Americans were constricted to this state of mind by their owners vicious treatment, but also the practice of keeping them uneducated. Keeping the slaves illiterate hindered them from understanding the world around them. Slave owners knew this. The slaves who were able to read and write always rebelled more against their masters. Frederick Douglass, author of "A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass," and Harriet Jacobs, author of "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl," were prime examples. Both slaves had been taught how read and write at a young age, and both gained their freedom by escaping to the northern states. What they had learned also helped them stay free while in the northern states after the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 which left no slave truly free. The literate slaves thought with a more free mind and developed a sense of self-identity and denied the identity of a slave. Literate slaves caught on to the immorality and injustice of slavery on black people. Another problem slave owners had with literate slaves was the potential for them to educate other slaves and give them thoughts of escaping or helping other slaves escape. Frederick Douglas and Harriet Jacobs both wrote of this in their books.

Douglass was separated from his mother at an early age in order to prevent any feelings of attachment to her. His father was a white man, he might have been the man responsible for separating him from his mother. As a young child on the plantation, Douglass was exposed to the abuse of slave women received from their masters. Thi...

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...rson's writing meant nothing legally, it helped out when escaping to freedom. Jacobs was able to send letters to Dr. Flint from inside her grandmother's attic space. She kept him traveling the northern states looking for her by saying she was in that state in a letter and had the postmark from that state. This was a very clever strategy on her part that ultimately played a big role in her gaining her freedom.

If these slaves were not literate, it might have been more difficult to gain their freedom. Literacy saved Harriet Jacobs' and Frederick Douglass' sense of humanity from the dehumanizing institution of slavery. With the knowledge they had acquired, they published their books, "A Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass" and "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl." They also played a huge role in the abolitionist movement and in advocating human rights.
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