Journal 4 (B)
September 11, 2014
Douglass succeeded in learning to read from white children in the neighborhood in which he lived, and by observing the writings of the men with whom he worked. As he learned and began to read newspapers, political materials, and books of every description, the young Douglass was exposed to a new realm of thought and experience that led him first to question and then to condemn the institution of slavery itself. In later years, Douglass would credit The Columbian Orator, which he discovered when he was around twelve years old, with clarifying and defining his views of freedom and human rights.
Just as slave owners keep men and women as slaves by depriving them of knowledge and education, slaves must seek knowledge and education in order to pursue freedom. It is from Hugh Auld that Douglass learns this notion that knowledge must be the way to freedom, as Auld forbids his wife to teach Douglass how to read and write because education ruins slaves. Douglass sees that Auld has unwittingly revealed the strategy by which whites manage to keep blacks as slaves and by which blacks might free themselves. Doug-lass presents his own self-education as the primary means by which he is able to free himself, and as his greatest tool to work for the freedom of all slaves.
Though Douglass himself gains his freedom in part by virtue of his self-education, he does not oversimplify this connection. Douglass has no illusions that knowledge automatically renders slaves free. Knowledge helps slaves to articulate the injustice of slavery to themselves and others, and helps them to recognize themselves as men rather than slaves. Rather than provide immediate freedom, this awakened consciousness brings suffering, as Hugh Auld predicts. Once...