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Frederick Douglass Self-educated Himself to Obtain Freedom

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Frederick Douglass was a slave, who was also a very intellectual African American. His whole youth scarred him as he became more educated. For this research, I will be looking at how education impacted Frederick Douglass’s life. Education was important to Douglass because it helped him achieve freedom. Education also impacted his life by allowing him to have a voice during the Civil War. This paper will explore why education was an important factor in Douglass’s life and how he used his education to help make changes. Frederick Douglass is important to historians because he was an African American historical figure and he played a very important role in the abolitionist movement.

Literature Review

In Frederick Douglass’s early life, he never knew his father, only knew that he was a white man. He only saw his mother a few times his whole life and never really got to know her because she was sold when he was an infant. Frederick Douglass wasn’t always his name. According to Gale Biographies: Popular People, “She named her son Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey…”. He developed his name much later on. His first master was very aggressive and violent. As a young boy, he witnessed the brutality attack of his aunt his aunt by his master and soon after this incident was given to another slaveholder. Based on his childhood background, changing his name was a way of freedom.

In addition, Frederick Douglass didn’t have the right to read, but his second master’s wife, Mrs. Auld, taught him. When her husband found out his wife was teaching Douglass how to read, he forbade it. After learning the alphabet and small words he learned to read and write. Barnes states, “With this background he began his self-education” He soon realized that education could be his path to freedom. Being an intellectual allowed him to have a voice before and during the civil war.

Furthermore, his involvement during the civil war was to kill slavery. He argued that the abolition of slavery should be a goal from the war. Through education, Douglass made an impact on the movements, such as the abolitionist movement and the women’s suffrage movement. According to Gale Biographies: Popular People, In 1838, he borrowed an African American sailor’s protection papers and by impersonating the sailor to escape to New York. His self-taught and sophisticated manner of speaking had inspired some Harvard students that they influenced him to write an autobiography about his life. His autobiography, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass was published in 1845.

In his later life, he used his education to publish petitions for racial equality and full civil rights for African Americans. He also campaigned for women’s suffrage. In Barnes words, Douglass escaped to Massachusetts in 1838 where he became involved with Massachusetts’ antislavery society and seized the name, Douglass. This is when he adopted the name Douglass and he was able to get away from his slave name. He was persistent to fight against slavery, particularly through his speeches. He viewed the war as an opportunity to achieve racial equality. Douglass had campaigned for Abraham Lincoln and requested him to make liberation an issue in the war. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation not only made the abolition of slavery an issue in the Civil War, but also served his war aims by encouraging African Americans to enlist. Douglass continued his work on pushing for Reconstruction amendments. Mckivigan states that, such treatment coupled with the Republicans’ support for the passage of the Thirteen, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments . These amendments freed the slaves, which allowed them citizenship and voting rights.

Therefore, his early childhood background is what encouraged him to become educated to obtain his freedom. His impact helped African Americans become free and enable women to have a right in society. This is important because education helped Frederick Douglass in many ways such as becoming one of the earliest entrepreneurs for his time. He helped by making an impact during the Civil War era.

Explain the impact that the person or event has had on the United States. Has there been any changes to our society because of the impact that the person or event created? How important is that person or event in the makeup of our society? Is it relatable to events of the 20th or 21st Century?


Frederick Douglass made an impact on the United States by helping abolitionist and take a part of the women’s suffrage. This had an impact which helped shaped the way things are today in the 21st century. I believe that education has helped him make an impact on society by helping African Americans gain civil independence. Many people once admired Douglass’s courage to fight for his freedom, laying his life down at a young age towards the fight against slavery. He is important to our society because he is known as one of the earliest entrepreneurs of his time. He made an impact during the Civil Rights Movement and for the anti-slavery society.

In my opinion, it is relatable to events of the 20th and the 21st century because slavery is gone, however, there still is racism and that will never go away. This is also somewhat relatable to women’s suffrage for the reason that women still fight for equality as men in today’s society. Knowing the background of Frederick Douglass and understanding how and why education was important to him allow others to understand how events back then are relatable to today’s society. Understanding what he went through to earn his education can make others appreciate that they are getting educated today for free and allowing them to be intellectual because not everyone during his time had the right to learn and go to school. During his time racism played a huge role in not allowing African Americans to not being educated and not allowing them to attend school with other kids.

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Frederick Douglass Self-Educated Himself to Obtain Freedom. (2022, April 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 27, 2022, from
“Frederick Douglass Self-Educated Himself to Obtain Freedom.” GradesFixer, 29 Apr. 2022,
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