the value of education and a lesson in determination in the narrative of frederick douglass an american slave

“The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas an American Slave” by Himself “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas an American Slave” tells the story of the author a former slave named Frederick Douglass. After being born into slavery, he eventually escapes becoming a champion for freedom, a distinguished American diplomat, a well thought of orator, and an important writer. He accomplishes all these things despite being denied a formal education. Douglass was able to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to learn to read and write.

This narrative not only illustrated the value of education but, also showed that with determination one can overcome any adversity and succeed. Douglass begins by telling us he was born into slavery in Maryland, his mother’s name was Harriet Bailey, and he was separated from her at birth. He reveals he is not sure how old he is and that his father was a white man rumored to be his first master. He was later sent to Baltimore where his new master’s wife began to teach him to read. His Master Hugh found out and put a stop to it insisting Douglass would become unmanageable and unhappy.

When Douglass heard this he realized that the lock on the bonds of slavery was ignorance, and education was his key to freedom. Eventually he succeeded in teaching himself to read and write with help from his white friends. After educating himself he developed a better understanding of slavery and began to regard his enslavers as wicked. When he is sent to be broken by Mr. Covey he is whipped on a regular basis and almost loses hope, but he ends up fighting back regaining confidence in himself. Douglas marks this as a turning point and vows never to be whipped again.

Later, Douglass learns the trade of caulking, has a disagreement with his master over wages, attempts another escape and succeeds in reaching New York City. After a short period of adjustment he eventually meets other ex-slaves, finds work, changes his name, sends for his fiance and gets married. Later, he gets involved with the Abolitionist movement and is talked into speaking at an anti-slavery convention in Nantucket. The determination to overcome adversity that Douglass demonstrates throughout his narrative was very inspirational.

Douglass shows his determination from the moment he writes, “I set out with high hope, and a fixed purpose, at whatever cost of trouble, to learn how to read” (40). The dropout rates in America show we tend to take education for granted. Students who dropouts in today’s free society are in effect making themselves slaves to their ignorance. Despite the fact that he was a slave, Douglass never let his mind become enslaved. Although he does admit to sometimes losing hope when he writes, “I would at times feel that learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing. It had given me a view of my wretched condition, without the remedy. (45), but he also writes, “The silver trump of freedom had roused my soul to eternal wakefulness” (45). Some kids dropout due to outside influences such as work or family obligations. These students’ can learn how to overcome their adversities by following Douglass’ example. I wish that I would have read this narrative before I decided to skip college and join the work force. Now that I am starting college at the age of forty I can relate to Douglass when he writes, “I felt assured that, if I failed in this attempt, my case would be a hopeless one–it would seal my fate as a slave for-ever” (94).

In other words, I can relate to this because I view college as being my last chance at success. In conclusion, today we sometimes overlook how important education is. Douglass however, understood the value of education. We sometimes give up our dreams because they are too difficult to achieve. Douglass on the other hand, never gave up hope despite the difficulties he faced. Students can learn how to overcome adversity through Douglass’ example. I know he inspired me to overcome my difficulties and achieve my goals.

Works Cited

Douglass, Frederick. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass An American Slave. Boston: Anti-slavery office, 1845.

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