Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Learning how to Read....Frederick Douglass story

This is a story through the words of Frederick Douglass, explaining how his master's wife Mrs. Hugh Auld (also his mistress), taught him how to read. Douglass makes it clear that he was not treated like most slaves in the south at the time. Douglass actually states that he was "well off" compared to other slaves. Douglass goes into how he was introduced to what he calls "the wonderful art" through his "curiosity", which Mrs. Auld would "awaken" by Reading aloud when her husband was away.

"The frequent hearing of my mistress reading the Bible aloud.....awakened my
in respect to this mystery of reading, and aroused in me the desire to

Douglass also describes how Mrs. Hugh Auld's husband Mr. Thomas, when hearing about her teaching Frederick to read, was not pleased and "forbade" her to continue educating him. Fredrick said that for the first time, Mrs. Thomas "proceeded to unfold to his wife the true philosophy of the slave system".He would go on further to say:

"of course he forbade her to give me any further instruction, telling her in the first place that to do so was unlawful, as it was also unsafe,.....If you give a nigger an inch he will take an ell".

This to me was an important fact that Douglass points out because in reading this from the beginning, I was taken back by how Mrs. Hugh Auld went against the norm and taught Douglass to read during a time when African Americans were not even considered to be human. The statement that he makes in regards to Mr. Thomas, brought me back to the reality of the time and I (again) realized that our place in society was not to be "uplifted" and "educated" but to be used as free labor for America.


At 12:23 AM, Blogger A. Mattson said...

A very good post. Black literacy was seen as a threat to the power of the slave master. Controlling access to information and education has always been a part of power politics.


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