Narrativeof the Life of Frederick Douglas an American Slave:Role of Education in Attaining Freedom
Narrativeof the lifeof Fredrick Douglas is the autobiography of Douglas, a slave whoattained freedom of the mind and autonomy of choice. According to theauthor, education is the key to freedom,and one chooses what they are by choosing whether to educatethemselves or not. According to the writer, lack of education is theonly thing that kept people enslaved and s the reasonthe white masters did everything possible to ensure that the slaveswerenot educatedso that they would remain ignorant of the need for freedom andautonomy of life. In my opinion, and based on evidence from Douglas’sautobiography, education is the key to freedom. For anyone to be ableto free themselves from the bondage of ignorance that prevents themfrom knowing that they need to be treated equal with others, theyneed to be learned just like Douglas did for himself with the help ofa few individuals, but of course with resistance from the whitemasters(Douglas32).
Themasters of slavery did not want slaves to attain the ability to readand write to prevent slaves from gaining the knowledge of right andwrong, and preventthem from having the abilityto communicate effectivelythat would lead to uprisings and,therefore,freedom. Just like Francis Bacon formulated his philosophy of thefour idols, which according to him weeimages of the mind that were nothing until directed, the niggers, hadimagined freedom. However, it is only education that would enablethemtoshape their desire for freedom into actual freedom through voicingtheir thoughts and communicating with each other. One of the idolsBacon formulated was the idols of the cave, these according to him,were creations ofpeople’s minds. Bacon thought that the imaginations hovered aroundthe darkness of people’s minds until directed by temperament,education, among anotherfactor (Bacon,Lisa, and Michael).It is this direction of the thoughts inside the minds of the slavesthat the masters did not desire and,therefore,denied their slaves access to education. Denial of education ensuredthat the slaves would remain ignorant and work like animals, justlike Douglas said education is what would spoil a nigger. As Mr.Auld told his wife, a nigger was supposed to know nothing, but obeythe masters (Douglas33).Mr. Auld knew that if the slaves knew, much, they would become cleverand refuse to beenslaved.The masterswere afraid that if he niggers wereeducated,they would fight for their rights until they were free, somethingthat was true, as Douglas’ education made him find ways of freeinghimself from slaveryin the south to the north.
Educationisnot always givenunless one is willing to take it up. Douglas in his autobiographysaid that the wife of one of his masters started to teach him A, B, Cand D (Douglas,33).However,her husband was not happy with it,and therefore, he had to continue his quest for education on his own.It is common for people, to complain about denial of access toquality education, but they do not work had enough to gain access tothe little they can on their own. Mr. Auld’s sentiments to his wifetouched Douglas. He knew that education was the key to freedom,and it was their ignorance that their masters took advantageof.He,therefore,decided to educate himself even if he would not be allowed to do soby his masters. In the case of Douglas in his autobiography, he saidhe learnedhow to read and write to further the education on what his masterhas offered by befriending poor white children in the neighborhood.He would give themhis bread in exchange for their knowledge. This shows that,education, just like anything else, unlike the common perception thatas aright people should be educated by their government,is something that people should sacrificefor.People should stop waiting to befacilitatedtofree themselves from illiteracy.
Educationon its own may not help someone in life unless they apply it well intheir endeavors. Even after attaining education and moving to thenorth where slavery wasnot practiced,Douglas still knew he was not safe (Douglas32).There was still a probability of him being abducted and returned tothe south where he would beenslavedagain. The only way to stop such an occurrence from happening was toeducate people and hold public talks with people about the evil ofslavery and the equity of the races. Therefore with the help of whitepeople such as his friend William Lloyd Garrison, the prominentmember of the abolitionist movement that the author later joined tofurther his cause. Education is the key to freedom, but educationwithout action is useless. People should apply their educationforits worth to befelt.
Asmuch as education is importantfor freedom of the body and mind, it should not culminate toarrogance. It should beusedwith care and direction frommore experienced people in the trade in which it is applied. In thecase of the writer, he was adamant to give his first public speech asa member of the abolitionist movement. He needed the help of a whiteman to gain the courage to talk in public. He knew that he had notreceived regular education and may not be familiar with publicetiquette. He acknowledged it and was willing to accept directionfrom William Lloyd Garrison.
Educationis an important aspect of human life. Throughout the human life, oneshould always endeavor to further their knowledge and avoidignorance. The literature of Fredrick Douglas may be from thenineteenth century, but its relevance still holds. In the currenttimes, otherforms of slavery requireknowledge to attain freedom. These formsinclude drugs, prostitution, and domestic abuse by spouses,joblessness, and poverty among others. People may fail to understandthat they face these challenges because of the ignorance as a resultof lack of or at least inadequate education. Therefore, people shouldbe educated or at least be encouraged to attain education if thecurrent problems facing the world such as poverty, HIV and other areto be eradicated or reduced. Financial aid may help the poor, foodtoo may be of help for their survival, but without education, theywill never learn that they have the capacity of helpingthemselves (Arthur2).
Arthur,Chris. "Consumers or Critical Citizens? Financial LiteracyEducation and Freedom." CriticalEducation3.6 (2012).
Bacon,Francis, Lisa Jardine, and Michael Silverthorne. FrancisBacon: the new organon.Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Douglas,Frederick. Narrativeof the Life of Frederick Douglas an American Slave.Signet Classics, 1968.
Northup,Solomon, and David Wilson. Twelveyears a slave.Eds. Sue L. Eakin, and Joseph Logsdon. Penguin books, 2013.