The Life of Frederick Douglass

The investigation into the works of human nature may be a common theme in the philosophical tradition. In the fight for liberty, some people may propose cooperation as the fundamental human instinct; or some may advocate for education and others for violence. The best approach in examining the human nature may be analyzing the experiences of people who lived at extremes of human interaction. Born in Maryland at around 1818, Frederick Douglas may be described as a person of farfetched intelligence and perception. Frederick defied odds of growing in slavery and became a renowned women rights advocate, an abolitionist and a key philosopher. Frederick wrote several autobiographies. His works exhibit his experiences that he describes in ways that emphasize key learning points in his life.

The role of literacy and violence

Literacy and violence comprise of means of fighting for freedom used by slaves in various dynasties. Literacy may be viewed as the ability to search for knowledge, write comprehensibly, and think critically while violence means the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against a person, or against a group. In this essay, these terms are illustrated extensively.

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In his struggle to attain freedom, Fredrick used literacy as a vital tool. This idea came to his mind when Mrs. Auld started teaching her slave how to read and write, and when Mr. Auld realized it, he said that literacy could make a slave of no value to his master. That he would become aware of his rights as a human being (Douglass & Stepto 43). He, therefore, understood that literacy was way out of slavery.

Mrs. Auld hated slavery with a passion, and when Fredrick went to serve her family in Baltimore, she treated the boy very kindly. Later, circumstances forced Frederick to go back to his St. Michael's home. Ongoing back, Thomas Auld noticed the boy's lack of respect, this would be attributed to the little knowledge he had acquired from Mrs. Auld. This forced Thomas to hire him out to Mr. Covey; a well-known farmer for slave breaking. The Covey farm would be occasioned by non-stop labor and whippings. It did not last long before Fredrick could fight back. This became one of the celebrated scenes in all African American literature. At this point, one may argue that Frederick had realized that literacy could not work on its own, thereby turning to violence where he fought Mr. Covey (Douglass & Stepto 156). His fight with Covey became the turning point of his life as a slave; it restored the expiring embers of freedom he had and revived his sense of manhood. Once more, he acquired self-confidence and inspiration in his determined quest for freedom. Afterward, he tried to escape but failed, this made Thomas Auld send him to Baltimore to learn the trade on the city's docks. Since Fredrick had become literate, he planned on how to escape, and finally made it.

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He used his knowledge to preach to a black congregation in New Bedford, which in no time impressed the officials of the American Anti-Slavery Society (Douglass & Stepto 234). He would later get a chance to speak at an anti-slavery rally in Nantucket, Connecticut, where he recalled his experience as a slave in a manner that made William Lloyd Garrison describe him as the leading antislavery activist.

The risk of literacy to a slave

Based on the life experiences and actions portrayed in Frederick's narrative, literacy may be purported as dangerous to a slave. The risk associated to literacy ensues from the experiences in Mr. Auld's family. When Mr. Auld, in his speech to Mrs. Auld, exhibits the danger linked to a slave who acquires literacy. Auld says, "If one gives a nigger an inch, he would take an ell; a slave should know nothing but obey the master" (44). In Mr. Covey's farm, Frederick seems to resist the torture and hardships due to the knowledge he had. As evidenced in the novel, it would be dangerous for a slave to show signs of literacy; the prosperous black men would be murdered. From this perspective, it may seem risky to educate a slave as he would not deliver to the master.

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The circumstances that shaped Douglass' life once he was free

In this autobiographical work, Douglass did more than describing his experiences, in them; we find clues to the circumstances that may have contributed to his choice of becoming an abolitionist and a key philosopher. The most significant occurrence in his life would be meeting his slave mistress, Mrs. Auld. From the life experiences with his mistress, Douglass learnt how sadistic and cruel a person could become, because of what he called "irresponsive power" (Douglass & Stepto 286). From her, Douglas learnt how to read and write. Mr. Auld seems to object the issue of his wife teaching Douglass, this would later be his insight to what knowledge would do to a slave, and on the flipside, how ignorance would hurt a slave. Douglass fell in love with a free black American woman from Baltimore by the name Anna Murray. Her freedom strengthened his hope and believes of achieving his freedom. Secondly, his return to the Eastern Shore where he became a field hand may be a vital circumstance. Through experiencing some of the most horrifying conditions as a slave, it would be here, that he met Edward Covey, a slave breaker, and his new owner. The tussles ensuing from their interaction and his ultimate victory restored Douglass' sense of self-worth. Douglass' finally succeeded to escape from slavery and moved to New Bedford where he married Anna. This may be purported the third crucial step in his bid to become an abolitionist. While here, he got a chance to attend abolitionist meetings; in 1841, he became lecturer with the Massachusetts Antislavery society after attending the anti-slavery convention. This acted as a platform for perpetuating the theme of anti-slavery and abolition. Douglass later attended the first women's right convention while still here. Through his new paper; The North Star, he achieved international recognition as an indefatigable advocate for justice, uncompromising abolitionist, and an obstinate champion for women's rights.

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Frederick Douglass used literacy and violence in his quest for freedom. Like many African American slaves, he faced various hurdles in the path to liberty. Douglass may be described as a man of high intelligence and persistence; he would never relent in his effort to emancipate himself and abolish slavery. Even in his second novel (The American Slave), the traits abolition and emancipation still ensue. Those who read it could acknowledge his remarkable ability to write such an up to standard book and yet he was a slave. In his narrative, Frederick may have disclosed that despite slavery being a way of civilizing and Christianizing Africans, it would keep them as illiterate as possible. Later, he traveled to Great Britain to rally abolitionists where he met Julia Griffiths, a white Englishwoman who helped finance his paper and became his tutor. Douglass also advocated for women rights. Today he may be celebrated as an indefatigable advocate for justice, uncompromising abolitionist, and an obstinate champion for women's rights.

Works Cited:

Douglass, Frederick, and Robert B. Stepto. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave. Cambridge: Harvard university press, 2009. Print.

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