The Childhood of Frederick Douglass Essay

The Childhood of Frederick Douglass Essay

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"Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world" (78). Words that would serve as an affront to most work to inspire Frederick Douglass. Douglass himself states earlier in his book that the "mere circumstance of being removed from that plantation to Baltimore..." (75) would be the foundation on which he found his freedom, but I see this quote, from a conversation with his master to his wife on the risks involved in educating a black man, a slave, to be first and most significant (of many other quite important) lessons in Fredericks lifetime of lessons.

It was 1826 and Frederick was somewhere between the ages of seven and eight. Young Douglass is sent to Baltimore - an exciting prospect for a slave - to live with Hugh and Sophia Auld. Sophia had never owned a slave before and had herself made her own living before her marriage. She showed a kindness toward Frederick that he had never experienced from a white person. Sophia began to teach him to read and to spell which ended up being the end to a white woman's kindness to a slave boy and a slave boys awakening to the reality of his life. Mr. Auld inadvertently gave Frederick just the ell he needed to eventually gain his freedom. Frederick realizes it is the slaves illiteracy which allows the white man to keep hold over slaves, and "From that moment, (I) understood the pathway from slavery to freedom" (79). Sophia, now under the spell of ownership discourages Fredericks learning sending him to trade lessons for bread with the white boys on the street.

At age twelve Frederick finds The Columbian Orator. In this publication a slave is portrayed as not just chattel to be bought and sold, but as an interesting, logical and reasoning human being. He rea...


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...s to break theirs, and to tell the story a truthful and singularly poignant, remarkable way. Reading this account was an honor. The opportunity to glance at a life so far removed from my own is invaluable. I am astounded that Frederick was able to write this account in an objective way, that he could escape from his shackles and be able to rise above an opportunity to administer a more punishing pay back. He escaped with his honor and dignity intact and proves it page after page in this book. To learn such a lesson in the terrible cruelty and inhumanity possible in another is quite honestly overwhelming and saddening. Thankfully, while telling the tale, Douglass also exemplifies the beauty and strength, resilience and pure kindness possible in the human spirit.

all quotes from Frederick Douglass: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

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