The Key To Freedom

Essay by kshannon8028College, UndergraduateA, November 2014

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Kelsey Shannon

Ms. McCray

ENG 111- D7


The Key to Freedom

"Learning to Read" by Frederick Douglass (1845) was written to show the many obstacles he encountered as an African American slave while refusing to give up hope. As a slave, he has to resort to learning the skills without any proper instruction. His mistress first begun instructing him, but soon put an end to it when she realized the knowledge to read and write would hinder his usefulness as a proper slave. Douglass preserves through the challenges and hurdles he approached by finding innovative means of learning. He made friends of the white boys and converted them into teachers; he would give them bread in return for the more valuable bread of knowledge. As Douglass continues learning how to read, he becomes aware of how awful slavery really is. He enters a period of nearly suicidal despair and finds himself regretting his own existence.

He later comes across two Irishmen at the wharf where they advise him to run away to be free. Pretending to be uninterested, he decides before taking their advice he must learn to write. Open to any form of a teacher, Douglass finds his way to write by spending time in the ship-yard. After continuous practice, and a never failing attitude, Douglass learned to write. Douglass creates vivid images in the mind of the reader, conveying mixed emotions and feelings and sets out to overcome racial barriers by learning to read and write in order to pursue freedom and achieve success.

Education plays an important role in Douglass' life and is ultimately his key to freedom. After reading "The Columbian Orator", a dialogue between a master and a slave, he realizes the truth about ignorance, freedom, and knowledge. He is corrupt by the...