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Fredrick Douglass’ Explaination On The Dangers Of Educating Slaves

912 words - 4 pages

In Fredrick Douglass’ narrative of his own life he makes known his difficulty in receiving an education, something we take for granted today. He goes on to restate a conversation between his master and mistress: “Learning would spoil the best negro in the world. Now, if you teach that negro…how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave. He would become unmanageable, and of no value to his master. As to himself, it could do him no good, but a great deal of harm.” (Douglass 41) One educated slave poses an immense threat upon the act of enslavement and those who enslave. Knowledge is dangerous in any form; it was feared to cause a slave to question authority and the entire slave institution. Intelligence enlightens slaves of the evils of slavery and that has a spiraling effect as such information would not be kept to one's self. Knowledge edifies enslaved men and women of their quality of life and to distinguish themselves as human beings rather than property. Slave owners would deprive their slaves of basic education in hopes of a decreased chance of rebellion and in contrast, a slave would need education to be liberated. Acquiring knowledge was far more powerful than any weapon. We see this idea throughout Douglass' narrative as Douglass was able to liberate himself through education.
Slaves are not inherently dangerous until they have come to understand and acknowledge the evils of slavery. It is only when they are educated and made aware of the situation that they were forced into, that they loathe the concept of being enslaved. Further, this enlightenment threatens the entire foundation of slavery as the enslaved have the mental capability to rebel against their master, although a majority of the slaves did not rebel in fear of the consequences. Slave owners assumed if a slave was taught to read and write they would no longer obey their master and consequently be worthless. (41) Douglass' Mistress Auld, who was not ruined by the temptations of slavery, began to teach him how to read and write until Master Auld, a typical southern slave-driver demanded his wife never educate the slaves again. Master Auld was well aware that knowledge threatened the commerce of slavery. Douglass comes to the conclusion that whites deprive slaves from education in hopes of keeping order and preventing rebellion.
Throughout the narrative, Douglass discusses the idea of a greater providence, never alluding to a certain religion, but recognizing a greater power. After the narrative was written and stamped with approval, Douglass went on to write his appendix about the hypocrisy of religious slave owners: “I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping,...

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