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How Reading Empowered Frederick Douglass to Pursue His Journey to Freedom

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How Reading Empowered Frederick Douglass to Pursue His Journey to Freedom Essay

Learning to Read is an excerpt from Fredrick Douglass’ biography. He writes about the steps he undertook in learning to read and write. He displays all the levels in this single passage. Fredrick was a slave in his master’s house. He lacked the opportunity of going to school or receiving any formal education. However, the house mistress helped him and taught him the alphabet, an act which the master did not like. In the end, the mistress listened to the husband and returned to her inhumane nature of leaving Fredrick in his illiteracy state. The paper will specifically expound on various quotes by Fredrick, as a way of showing how reading empowered him to embark on the journey to freedom.

Even with lack of an opportunity for learning how to read, he was determined to span through the journey of gaining knowledge which he believed was the alternative to his freedom. He quotes, “When I was sent of errands, I always took my book with me, and by going one part of my errand quickly; I found time to get a lesson before my return” (409). Slavery was not going to be a restraining factor to his desire to know how to read. He believed ultimate freedom was going to be the ultimate end of his journey.

In his thoughts, the act of freedom spans through every time he underwent slavery and neglect. He really wanted to be free and knew the best way to attain the freedom he wanted was first knowing how to read. For instance, he mentions what part of the book said about the vice of slavery; “If a slave ran away and succeeded in getting clear, or if a slave killed his master, set fire to a barn. Or did anything very wrong in the mind of a slaveholder, it was spoken of as the fruit of abolition. Hearing the word in this connection very often, I set about learning what it meant. The dictionary afforded me little or no help. I found how it was the act of abolishing; but then I did not know what was to be abolished” (412). Through the quote, Fredrik explains how he was eager to learn how to read and understand what the book meant regarding slave abolishment. Through such knowledge, he understood that his freedom would be easier since he now had sufficient knowledge and understanding of his rights.

Indeed, freedom rang through his minds as he gained the art of reading by going through publications such as The Columbian Orator. He quotes this statement in regard to work he learned, “They gave tongue to interesting thoughts of my soul, which had frequently flashed through my mind and died away for a want of utterance. The Moral which I gained from the dialogue was the power of the truth over the conscience of even a slaveholder. What I got from Sheridan was a bold denunciation of slavery and a powerful vindication of human rights” (410). Through the statement, he knew that reading was the only alternative that could yield the anticipated freedom. He never wanted to continue living in servitude but time was not just yet. The best time to gain irreversible freedom was going to be at its best after gaining knowledge that could help him over the entire span of his life.

In summary, Fredrick Douglas had a burning urge of learning to read so that he would get back his freedom. Even though Fredrick did not have an opportunity of receiving formal education as a slave, he made use of little opportunities that helped him learn to read. The excerpt presents learning as a way through which people can be able to liberate themselves from servitude. Finally, he succeeded in learning the art of reading and writing before embarking on the path to his freedom.

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How Reading Empowered Frederick Douglass to Pursue His Journey to Freedom. (2018, October 26). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from
“How Reading Empowered Frederick Douglass to Pursue His Journey to Freedom.” GradesFixer, 26 Oct. 2018,
How Reading Empowered Frederick Douglass to Pursue His Journey to Freedom. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 1 Feb. 2023].
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