Frederick Douglass

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorHigh School, 12th grade February 2008

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Reaction to Frederick Douglass' "Learning to Read" The short story "Learning to Read" by Frederick Douglass deals with his recollections on learning to read and write. Douglass lived in Baltimore in the 19th century. Douglass had no regular teacher. His mistress was the wife of the slave owner who housed Douglass. She started to teach him the alphabet. When her husband observed her teaching him, the master decided that the lessons must stop. Douglass resorted to making friends with a few white boys whom he met on the street. Since these boys were poor and had very little or no food, Douglass supplied them with bread. In return for the bread the young boys taught Douglass how to read in the short time that he was with them. Time soon passed and the knowledge that he learned was put to good use. Douglass acquired a book entitled "The Columbian Orator."

This particular book dealt with dialogue between a master and his slave. Douglass at times felt learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing. "I often found myself regretting my own existence, and wishing myself dead; and but for the hope of being free, I have no doubt that I should have killed myself, or done something for which I should have been killed" (Douglass, 430). Soon with all this aggression inside him, Douglass tried to console himself with the hope that one day he could become free. Douglass wrote in the spaces left in a copy of his master's book, copying what he wrote. He repeated the process until he could finnaly learn to write. Douglass triumphed in learning how to read and write only after years of dedication.

My response to "Learning to Read" by Frederick Douglass is...



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