Excerpt : “Very soon after I went to live with Mr. & Mrs. Auld, she very kindly commenced to teach me the A, B, C. After I learned this, she assisted me in learning to spell words of three or four letters.” (p 30 chapter 6)
Analysis: At the time he was being taught the alphabet and learning to spell simple words, he didn’t fully understand that knowledge such as that was a weapon. The slave owners, and white people in general, did not want the slaves educated because they did know that knowledge was power. Keeping the slaves ignorant kept them under control. With the ability to read and write, Douglass was able to read the works of people who wanted to abolish slavery. It lit a fire in him. He was driven with this new weapon of knowledge to learn to understand how wrong and unjust slavery was and ultimately led him to his freedom. As it was throughout the days of slavery, slaves were forbidden to learn to read or write. If they were caught, they would be whipped or worse. The white man feared what would happen with that type of knowledge in the hands of a slave. The slaves could yield it as a weapon to gain freedom in such a way as forging emancipation papers. Peter Fossett did just that for many of slaves including his sister. He also taught other slaves to read and write. Slave owners needed the slaves to remain ignorant thus making them more manageable. Thinking that once you start educating them, they will start to think they are equal to the whites. Frederick Douglass started to figure out a lot of things when he started reading that he otherwise would not have known. He actually used this knowledge to write fake permission papers, which he actually had to destroy before he was caught with them.