“How does Douglass argue that education makes it difficult to be a slave?

The theme of ignorance as recipe to continued slavery of the blacks by their white masters dominates the book of the life of Fredrick Douglas, Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass. Although physical brutality presented intimidation that kept slaves working, lack of education proved to be the best tool at the disposal of the white masters to entrench the culture of slavery.


The white slave-owners ensured that slaves never learned how to read or write. The effect was an ignorant lot unaware of their rights and myopic about the happenings outside the plantation. The slaves could not communicate with each other, lacked skills or knowledge to protest or stage escape hence remained hopeless and of low self-esteem. As Douglass experience shows, literacy was known to bring with it an understanding of the world at large. In the event a slave became literate, the idea of justice and understanding of their history would provoke attempts to break away.

A review of Chapter VI shows how Hugh Auld orders Sophia Auld to stop Douglass’s from reading lessons because of a deep-seated belief that education ruins a slave for slavery. This moment represents a minor climax of the first half of the Narrative.

“Whilst I was saddened by the thought of losing the aid of my kind mistress, I was gladdened by the invaluable instruction which, by the merest accident, I had gained from my master.”


It is after Douglass overhears the conversation between the two that he realizes how white slave-owners use the ignorance to sustain slavery. The power of depriving blacks education is key in the whites exploitative and cruel slavery business. Douglass is able to make two clear conclusions from the incident.

The first valuable admission he makes is a reality that slavery is man-made and justified by the societal system, but is instead created power manipulation strategy pushed through deprivation and cruelty towards the blacks. In essence, Douglass develops a sense that he is not inferior as claimed but rather placed in such circumstance through deliberate deprivation of education by the white master. The second idea that Douglass derive from the conversation is that only education will set him free and so he must pursue it against all odds. This lesson about the value of education as Douglass explains is more important than the reading lessons he has been undertaking.

The quote above also shows that Douglass assign males and females w different forms of knowledge. Despite being a strong women’s rights campaigner in later life, the Narrative portray Douglass’s path to freedom as a confrontation with an adoption of male authority. Besides, although Douglass evaluates the dominant assumptions about power and race through his education, they implicitly embrace the dominant superirior assumptions about power and gender. The example of the gender assumption is exemplified by the fight between Douglass and Covey. In this case, Douglass presents his climactic moment of transformation from slave to man. In the aforementioned quotation, Douglass’ rhetorical structure sets the femininity of Sophia Auld’s help through reading as antithetical to her husband’s larger lesson about Sophia’s lesson. Douglass presents masculinity knowledge as critical in making informed decision in some circumstances, superior to feminine lessons. Douglass evaluates himself with Hugh Auld in this equation. He is able to achieve this by relentless opposition to Hugh Auld and concerted efforts to pursue knowledge at all costs.

Is your education freeing you?”

The question as to whether my education is freeing me elicits creative and critical thinking. The answer is yes; reasons are based on firsthand experiences and the prospects of a bright future. My position on the relevance of education to my freedom is based on in-depth analysis of the concept of education and its relationship with the socio-economic and political order.

Education is a process that involves mental and physical efforts to understand how nature works and the reason behind several observations. In regard to the experience of Fredric Douglass, limited or total illiteracy is able to keep one in darkness and perpetually enslave the mind. From the experience of Fredric Douglass, one should note the centrality of education in opening the door to freedom. Although there are different barriers to achieving freedom from physical challenges, mental conscience about the truth yield the real freedom. Education reconciles daily experiences with new ideas that generate creativity. Social stratification has always been subject to skewed knowledge. In reference to the case of suppressed education needs by slaves, it can be noted that acquisition of knowledge is a threat to individuals who use it to exploit the illiterate. In various spheres of life, lack of education reflects poor lifestyle, exposure to socio-economic and political suffering. From a personal reflection, physical slavery is a function of mental seizure. In other words, without access to education, the power to read, write, understand and speak out is locked. From time immemorial, transition through different generations has been influenced by new discoveries, inventions, and innovations. It is a process that takes time and constitutes education. While the contemporary society see education as the key to securing jobs, the fruits are far much better.

From childhood, progressive gain of knowledge keeps changing the way I see things. While naivety breeds ignorance, education has improved my motivation to break the socio-economic barriers and pursue higher pedestals of my career. Slavery lives with many people in respect to the rigid way of thinking that is established within the context or setting of the social environment. Previously, I have always believed in some school of thought due to a common pattern of observed behavior among the immediate social surrounding. Such is the case with many people. However, education imparts skills that aid critical assessment of each situation and making decisions based on logic. The challenges of attaining education have acted as the fire on gold that purifies behavior and mental processes.

The rapid change of the social order across the world is attributed to a few minds with strong belief and ability to convince the rest due to a sound education. One potential remains useless unless discovered at the right time and exploited. In my case, personal opinion and judgment influence my actions. Although I had a narrow scope of knowledge on various phenomena, education has informed my observation and instilled the spirit of a go-getter. In that way, my mind is free and personal goals on the right track. Despite humble background, education has helped me break away from the shackles of poverty. In fact, poverty is the worst form of slavery and advance hopelessness. Social stratification is determined through ascribed or acquired status. Like in the case of slavery in the United States in the 17th century, the knowledge gap is representative of the socio-economic class differences.

With little education, the illiterate are vulnerable to exploitation and oblivious of their rights. I must admit that education is a sure way to freedom. Expressing political opinion, decrying a social anomaly and addressing economic policies that emphasize equity is attributed to education. My absolute answer to the question is that education has freed me and will continue to break me loose from the remaining chains socio-economic and political slavery.

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