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Learning to Read and Write by Frederick Douglas

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Learning to Read and Write

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Frederick Douglass

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I lived in Master Hugh's family about seven years. During this time, I succeeded in learning to read and write. In accomplishing this, I was compelled to resort to various stratagems. I had no regular teacher. My mistress, who had kindly commenced to instruct me, had, in compliance with the advice and direction of her husband, not only ceased to instruct, but had set her face against my being instructed by anyone else. It is due, however, to my mistress to say of her, that she did not adopt this course of treatment immediately. She at first lacked the depravity indispensable to shutting me up in mental darkness. It was at least necessary for her to have some training in the exercise of irresponsible power, to make her equal to the task of treating me as though I were a brute.

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Feb 26
Paul H (Feb 26 2021 10:50AM) : "Various Strategems" more

A number of strategies that might not be along the lines of what one might consider traditional or formal training.

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Feb 26
Paul H (Feb 26 2021 1:54PM) : Return to Strategems more

In a re-reading of this essay, we learn that “strategems” is a more polite way of the sly tactics Douglass uses to educate himself.

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Mar 1
Trey S (Mar 01 2021 1:51PM) : Strategies more

In this passage Frederick Douglas say that in order to accomplish his goal to read and write he had to employ strategies or “strategems” as he calls them in the book in order to learn.

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Mar 1
Paul H (Mar 01 2021 2:06PM) : That Verb RESORT more

Doesn’t this kind of mean, “resign” myself to. . .? This sort of “trickery” in the interest of gaining access to literacy is much like our classmates are suggesting. Crafty. Cunning. It reminds me of the older phrase, “the last resort.”

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Feb 26
Paul H (Feb 26 2021 1:44PM) : But. . . more

He had TEACHERS.

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Mar 1
Daisy P (Mar 01 2021 1:49PM) : Teachers more

Douglass was a very determined child, he got a taste of knowledge from his mistress before she was engulfed in hatred. After she had stopped giving lessons Douglass used his unconventional way of bribing poor children with food and other things to create his own mini lessons to advance his education.

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Feb 26
Paul H (Feb 26 2021 1:46PM) : This Longer Sentence Here more

This is designed for Douglass to have “absolved” the Mistress for her not wanting to educate him. She was responding to the social norms of her time. . .is that a viable reason to not do the right thing, I wonder.

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Feb 26
Paul H (Feb 26 2021 10:51AM) : There is a Metaphor Here. more

The idea that someone has the power to “lock” someone away, into “mental darkness” might be a bridge across the other text being considered (Malcolm X).

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Feb 26
Paul H (Feb 26 2021 11:21AM) : The Mistress as Power more

Douglass makes a suggestion that the power over the mistress is in violation of her innate sense of power to affect change in a person by way of instruction and education.

My mistress was, as I have said, a kind and tender‐hearted woman; and in the simplicity of her soul she commenced, when I first went to live with her, to treat me as she supposed one human being ought to treat another. In entering upon the duties of a slaveholder, she did not seem to perceive that I sustained to her the relation of a mere chattel, and that for her to treat me as a human being was not only wrong, but dangerously so. Slavery proved as injurious to her as it did to me. When I went there, she was a pious, warm, and tender‐hearted woman. There was no sorrow or suffering for which she had not a tear. She had bread for the hungry, clothes for the naked, and comfort for every mourner that came within her reach. Slavery soon proved its ability to divest her of these heavenly qualities. Under its influence, the tender heart became stone, and the lamb‐Iike disposition gave way to one of tiger‐like fierce‐ ness. The first step in her downward course was in her ceasing to instruct me. She now commenced to practice her husband's precepts. She finally became even more violent in her opposition than her husband himself. She was not satisfied with simply doing as well as he had commanded; she seemed anxious to do better. Nothing seemed to make her more angry than to see me with a newspaper. She seemed to think that here lay the danger. I have had her rush at me with a face made all up of fury, and snatch from me a newspaper, in a manner that fully revealed her apprehension. She was an apt woman; and a little experience soon demonstrated, to her satisfaction, that education and slavery were incompatible with each other.

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Feb 26
Gavin L (Feb 26 2021 8:10AM) : Fredrick Douglas's mistress more

This entire paragraph talks about Douglas’s mistress, a kind and tender-hearted woman, who helped him throughout the time she knew him, but slavery took these heavenly qualities away from her, and she became a fierce presence with a stone cold heart.

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Feb 26
Carter S (Feb 26 2021 12:03PM) : Douglas's Mistress more

Fredrick Douglas in this paragraph says that his mistress was a really good person and that she was very kind, but slavery had changed her for the worse, and that she did not treat him like a human being.

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Feb 26
Paul H (Feb 26 2021 11:21AM) : Morality Comment (Social/Spirtual) more

Douglass makes comment here on the spirit of the Mistress with a “simplicity of her soul” who seems to have a “commission” within her to treat others as they should be treated.

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Feb 26
Ella M (Feb 26 2021 11:23AM) : Nature vs. Nurture more

It says something about both humans and the society of the time that Mrs. Hugh’s first instinct was to be kind to Mr. Douglas, and it was only after strict instruction and “training” that she began to treat him as “a brute.”

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Feb 26
Grant M (Feb 26 2021 10:45PM) : care more

Having someone that cared for him helped him to have the belief in himself to learn to read and write.Also that he was given the chance to be able to learn this sacred skill that he ended up looking at as curse because it shed more of the evil of his situation.

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Mar 2
Lacey T (Mar 02 2021 12:26AM) : compassion more

This sentence shows that her mistress was a warm-hearted person. She treated her as you should treat everyone, the golden rule as you might say. He felt like him being treated as a human was wrong which hearing that is so sad to think about because no one should ever feel that way.

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Mar 3
Joseph L (Mar 03 2021 9:53AM) : Douglas's Mistress more

As I first read this I read a lot about Douglas’s mistress. It really shows how much of a kind heart she had until slavery changed things for her and now she is very different and how her tender heart became stone.

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Feb 26
Paul H (Feb 26 2021 11:23AM) : "Mere Chattel" more

Property. The Mistress’s inner appreciation of the human is in direct violation of the economy of her time. Frederick is not a human; he is property (in the context of the essay here).

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Mar 1
Avery P (Mar 01 2021 1:41PM) : "...dangerously so." more

Treating a slave as a human is considered dangerous? Why is it dangerous?

Being considered an outcast from society because “maybe slaves shouldn’t be treated like livestock?” What made her so scared to treat Fredrick so differently? Would more harm than being an outcast come to her? Would she be arrested or beaten?

Would her husband be furious, is that who she is so scared of? Who she is always trying to do better for? Why did she change so suddenly, and how come she is so cruel to someone she once treated so kindly?

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Feb 26
Paul H (Feb 26 2021 11:24AM) : Slavery as Injurious more

Metaphorical here, but this poli-socio-economic paradigm of slavery proves to be harmful to those who would naturally oppose the idea.

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Mar 1
Paul H (Mar 01 2021 2:08PM) : Interesting Point by Douglass more

Shared “injury?” This might be questioned today, but how do this sharing suggest a similar state between the two figures?

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Feb 26
Paul H (Feb 26 2021 11:24AM) : "Pious." more

An adjectival that would come straight out of the Religious/Spiritual category.

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Mar 1
Zachary Z (Mar 01 2021 1:30PM) : Caring more

This women would do anything for them. The way they make it seem is that she puts everyone in front of herself. Her caring for everyone made them believe in themselves.

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Feb 26
Paul H (Feb 26 2021 11:25AM) : "Divest." more

The counterpart to “invest.” An ECONOMIC term.

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Mar 12
Sydney S (Mar 12 2021 12:28AM) : Effects of slavery more

This opened my eyes to show that slavery didn’t only have negative effects on the slaves, but also the slave owners. It turned a caring, gentle woman into a violent person with no regards to how anyone felt.

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Feb 26
Gavin L (Feb 26 2021 8:06AM) : Change of heart more

This sentence truly shows what it was like for the slaves. They would have people who were kind to them, then boom, they act like they never meet them before.

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Feb 26
mia p (Feb 26 2021 11:11AM) : Metaphor more

This line gives a very good example of a metaphor. I believe the author was trying to get across how salves felt and how she was feeling.

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Mar 1
Abigail M (Mar 01 2021 1:43PM) : In the beginning, she treated him like any other person. Not as a slave, but in the blink of an eye her actions towards him changed completely. As it says "the tender heart became stone". The mistress no longer felt the way she did. She had changed
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From this time I was most narrowly watched. If I was in a separate room any considerable length of time, I was sure to be suspected of having a book, and was at once called to give an account of myself. All this, however, was too late. The first step had been taken. Mistress, in teaching me the alphabet, had given me the inch, and no precaution could prevent me from taking the ell.

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Feb 26
Ella M (Feb 26 2021 11:31AM) : Similarity and disparity more

As soon as I had learned to read I was like this too, always squirreled away with a book. No manner of coaxing or threatening could get me to go outside when there were books to read. Once I had been given this gift, there was no going back. In his insatiable addiction to reading, I find a common place with Douglas. However, I was never at threat of a beating or other brutal punishment. Despites these consequences hanging over Douglas’s head, he continued on. This situation reminds me of Patricia Polacco’s book Thank you, Mr. Falker.

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Feb 26
Paul H (Feb 26 2021 11:27AM) : Give an Account more

Again, this metaphorical usage suggests economic leanings. This “accounting.”

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Feb 26
Paul H (Feb 26 2021 11:28AM) : ELL more

“a former measure of length (equivalent to six hand breadths) used mainly for textiles, locally variable but typically about 45 inches.”

The plan which I adopted, and the one by which I was most successful, was that of making friends of all the little white boys whom I met in the street. As many of these as I could, I converted into teachers. With their kindly aid, obtained at different times and in different places, I finally succeeded in learning to read. When I was sent to errands, I always took my book with me, and by doing one part of my errand quickly, I found time to get a lesson before my return. I used also to carry bread with me, enough of which was always in the house, and to which I was always welcome; for I was much better off in this regard than many of the poor white children in our neighborhood. This bread I used to bestow upon the hungry little urchins, who, in return, would give me that more valuable bread of knowledge. I am strongly tempted to give the names of two or three of those little boys, as a testimonial of the gratitude and affection I bear them; but prudence forbids‐not that it would injure me, ~ but it might embarrass them; for it is almost an unpardonable offense to teach slaves to read in this Christian country. It is enough to say of the dear little fellows, that they lived on Philpot Street, very near Durgin and Bailey's shipyard. I used to talk this matter of slavery over with them. I would sometimes say to them, I wished I could be as free as they would be when they got to be men. "You will be free as soon as you are twenty‐ one, but I am a slave for life! Have not I as good a right to be free as you have?" These words used to trouble them; they would express for me the liveliest sympathy, and console me with the hope that something would occur by which I might be free.

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Feb 26
Ella M (Feb 26 2021 11:33AM) : Nurture vs. Nature again more

The little boys, before they knew better, were happy to exchange knowledge for bread. However, Douglas points out now that they are older, they may be embarrassed by this fact.

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Feb 26
Emily W (Feb 26 2021 9:48PM) : Clever more

Fredrick Douglas was already intelligent enough to know how to use the resources that he had available to him. He learned from people who didn’t even know they were teaching him. He took every bit of information that he could get because he was so eager to learn.

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Feb 26
Paul H (Feb 26 2021 11:29AM) : Aid more

Has some leanings in ECONOMICS here.

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Feb 26
Jackie S (Feb 26 2021 1:51PM) : Reversal of roles more

This text seems to show how the roles have been reversed. Frederick Douglas seems to have the upper hand when he normally has no power at all. He gives bread to poor white children and converts them “into teachers”. He controls these children by giving them bread in exchange for something he wants. This could be categorized as manipulative, but clearly there was no ill will since he did not name them.

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Mar 16
Devonny W (Mar 16 2021 12:09PM) : secret manipulation more

Fredrick wanted to spread knowledge he believed knowledge is power so he used bread as a reward to get the kids to be a type of peer teachers to spread the word it was a very risky yet smart move from him.

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Feb 26
Paul H (Feb 26 2021 11:31AM) : Bread for Bread more

Watch the denotations and connotations here. More than metaphor. What we have a physical TRADE for a philosophical. TRADE is a solid term coming out of the ECONOMICAL category.

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Mar 12
Sydney S (Mar 12 2021 12:26AM) : Interesting title more

I loved the title of your comment, bread for bread. It was a trade of Frederick receiving knowledge while giving the little boys bread. I like the wording and analogy of the title.

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Feb 26
Emma P (Feb 26 2021 11:37AM) : comparison between Fredrick Douglas and Malcolm X more

In Mr. Hankin’s sample work he mentioned that in the essay by Malcolm X, it said a “stock of knowledge,” correlating with the theme category of ECONOMY. In this sentence it said “… bread of knowledge,” resembling the same thing just said in the other essay.
Fredrick called it the bread of knowledge because he would trade bread he got from the house for knowledge from the homeless boys on the street. This sentence matches in the theme categories of CLASS/CLASS SYSTEMS and SOCIETY/COMMUNITY.

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Feb 26
Paul H (Feb 26 2021 11:32AM) : TESTIMONY more

Toward kindness is a sort of a nod toward RELIGIOUS/SPIRITUAL here when grouped together with other terms within the essay.

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Mar 1
Jordyn R (Mar 01 2021 1:44PM) : "It might embarrass them." [Edited] more

Frederick Douglass received lessons from these boys at the ship yard on how to read. They taught him the base of what he knows. In his eyes, this knowledge is worth more than gold. But Douglass never once named them in hopes of saving them from the embarrassment. I think this shows how truly compassionate Douglass felt for these boys who gave him the wealth of knowledge he now has. Despite all of the bitterness he felt towards white people for knowingly enslaving his people, he still chose to keep their names unspoken.

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Feb 26
Colleen O (Feb 26 2021 2:01PM) : realizing more

Douglass longed for freedom and wished he could be a “normal” child. He knew his new friends would be free once they are old enough, but he would always be stuck as a slave. His friends felt for him, and hope for change, probably not understanding the path to freedom isn’t that simple. Maybe a potential social class?

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Feb 26
Ethan N (Feb 26 2021 11:47AM) : Goodness of Childhood more

This line shows how children are better than adults, because they do not have as much experience in their society. The children are kind to Frederick because their parents have not corrupted them to the idea of slavery. Using their kindness and inexperience in society, Frederick befriends the children and receives their help with learning.

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Mar 1
Zachary Z (Mar 01 2021 1:37PM) : reply more

The children are better but as they get older the parents will put things in their brain that they will believe because all kids believe what their parents say. That is what was so messed up back then because they did not know differently.

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Mar 1
Avery P (Mar 01 2021 1:36PM) : Children more

When people think of the times of slavery, many don’t think about the children who weren’t tainted by their parent’s ideals. The ones who would gladly play with whoever they could, regardless of skin color.

They were the kids who felt bad for the conditions in which many slaves lived. The ones who would hope for these playmates would be free one day. They thought every child as equal.

And when they grow up, how is it that their ideals shift so suddenly sometimes?

I was now about twelve‐years‐old, and the thought of being a slave for life began to bear heavily upon my heart. Just about this time, I got hold of a book entitled "The Columbian Orator." Every opportunity I got, I used to read this book. Among much of other interesting matter, I found in it a dialogue between a master and his slave. The slave was rep‐ resented as having run away from his master three times. The dialogue represented the conversation which took place between them, when the slave was retaken the third time. In this dialogue, the whole argument in behalf of slavery was brought forward by the master, all of which was disposed of by the slave. The slave was made to say some very smart as, well as impressive things in reply to his master‐things which had the de‐ sired though unexpected effect; for the conversation resulted in the voluntary emancipation of the slave on the part of the master.

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Feb 26
Meredith V (Feb 26 2021 8:23AM) : Realization more

This sentence makes me believe that Fredrick was twelve years old when he had the first realization that this might be his entire life, he might always be working as someones slave.

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Feb 26
Emily W (Feb 26 2021 9:52PM) : Understanding more

I agree. I think he was finally understanding what that really meant and what it would entail.

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In the same book, I met with one of Sheridan's mighty speeches on and in behalf of Catholic emancipation. These were choice documents to me. I read them over and over again with unabated interest. They gave tongue to interesting thoughts of my own soul, which had frequently flashed through my mind, and died away for want of utterance. The moral which I gained from the dialogue was the power of truth over the conscience of even a slaveholder. What I got from Sheridan was a bold denunciation of slavery, and a powerful vindication of human rights. The reading of these documents enabled me to utter my thoughts, and to meet the arguments brought forward to sustain slavery; but while they relieved me of one difficulty, they brought on another even more painful than the one of which I was relieved. The more I read, the more I was led to abhor and detest my enslavers. I could regard them in no other light than a band of successful robbers, who had left their homes, and gone to Africa, and stolen us from our homes, and in a strange land reduced us to slavery. I loathed them as being the meanest as well as the most wicked of men. As I read and contemplated the subject, behold that very discontentment which Master Hugh had predicted would follow my learning to read had already come, to torment and sting my soul to unutterable anguish. As I writhed under it, 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. It opened my eyes to the horrible pit, but to no ladder upon which to get out. In moments of agony, I envied my fellow‐slaves for their stupidity. I have often wished myself a beast. I preferred the condition of the meanest reptile to my own. Anything, no matter what, to get rid of thinking! It was this everlasting thinking of my condition that tormented me. There was no getting rid of it. It was pressed upon me by every object within sight or hearing, animate or inanimate. The silver trump of freedom had roused my soul to eternal wakefulness. Freedom now appeared, to disappear no more forever. It was heard in every sound, and seen in every thing. It was ever present to torment me with a sense of my wretched condition. I saw nothing without seeing it, I heard nothing without hearing it, and felt nothing without feeling it. It looked from every star, it smiled in every calm, breathed in every wind, and moved in every storm.

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Feb 26
Ella M (Feb 26 2021 11:34AM) : A single book can change a life.
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Mar 2
Isabel O (Mar 02 2021 8:26AM) : Reading more

As the author realized his privilege to other slaves, he realized that he was actually jealous of them. He envied their lack of knowledge on what was happening to them. The fact that he wished he could not read says a lot. He was probably one of the most privileged of his kind, and he did not appreciate it. I think this says a lot about this time and what knowledge meant to people.

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Mar 1
Paul H (Mar 01 2021 1:28PM) : A Real Example at Being at a Loss for Words more

Without literacy, Douglass might continue to have these flashes of inspiration but not have the tools to put them down into a physical form. As quickly as they might light, they would be extinguished.

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Feb 26
Paul H (Feb 26 2021 11:34AM) : The Moral Gained more

Isn’t a moral, like an aphorism, a kind of a theme?

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Feb 26
Heather P (Feb 26 2021 11:32AM) : Rights more

This sentence shows that Frederick Douglas grew up in a time when the thought of equal human rights and treating people of color equal was looked down upon by the general population. Only being talked about by certain white people.

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Feb 26
Emme R (Feb 26 2021 8:42AM) : Moral Value of Reading more

As the author grew in emotional and literary maturity, he began to realize truly how oppressed he is in life. Learning to read was a catalyst in his growth and his realization of oppression. The “truth over the conscience of a slaveholder” was also emphasized upon in this paragraph. This can be taken as the author’s interpretation of the truth about slavery being barred by those not fortunate enough to literally understand injustice- it was just their way of life.

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Feb 26
Lindsay B (Feb 26 2021 8:54AM) : Relation more

This piece from Frederick Douglass seems to correlate with Malcom X’s piece due to the fact both individuals thrived off of their appreciation for literature. It is an interesting observation that Malcom X fully believed in “black separatism,” while Frederick Douglass was in that oppressed category. It is symbolic for both sides of different beliefs to have a common appreciation within acquiring and learning literature.

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Feb 26
mia p (Feb 26 2021 11:24AM) : pain more

The author did very well with pulling in the readers with how he wrote and his wording. The boy seemed to climb one obstacle to be pushed down again. he is really seeing how unfair life is.

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Mar 1
Paul H (Mar 01 2021 2:02PM) : The Juxtaposition of Relief and Pain Here is Notable more

Here Douglass describes the painful aspect of learning more about (anything might fit here when looked at historical progression, losses along the way, etc.).

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Feb 26
Jackie S (Feb 26 2021 1:57PM) : Reading and Realization more

This paragraph highlights Frederick Douglas’s learning to read. The question here is would he have been better of not being able to read? Ignorance is bliss and by reading these texts on slavery he tormented himself. He learned about the slave trade and the greed that drove it. Once he read the books he couldn’t stop which led him to some grim realizations. If other slaves were forced to live that way for their whole lives, who was to say Douglas would get out? Knowledge in this case is a double edged sword.

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Feb 26
Brenna S (Feb 26 2021 2:01PM) : the curse of knowledge more

Douglas talks about debating whether or not his gift of knowledge is a good or bad thing. While on one end, Without his ability, it is unlikely that he ever would have made it out of his situation. And then again, with his newfound knowledge he still found out the history of how and why he was here; and all of the reason why his masters have been trying to keep him from learning to read and write.

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Feb 26
Emme R (Feb 26 2021 8:47AM) : Learning to Read more

Learning to read opened up the author’s eyes to the wretched truths of slavery, but provided a sense of understanding that there could be a better life one day.

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Mar 1
Yahir V (Mar 01 2021 1:56PM) : Great ability more

With Douglass’s ability to read it allows him to be able to perceive the world in a whole new light. Being literate is the barrier between being able to think more abstract.

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Mar 1
Daisy P (Mar 01 2021 2:02PM) : the power of knowledge more

Douglas as a young child has been privileged with the ability to read and expand his education, but at what cost? He is now a child with the burden of understanding and knowing that his conditions are inhumane. Along with that burden he has yet to find a way to change it, he now has the never ending thoughts of his conditions within his head.

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Mar 1
Ava R (Mar 01 2021 7:40PM) : I agree more

I think that the education he had gave him a advantage and disadvantage because he knew how bad slavery was, but also cause he had no way around it. I think that through these difficulties he learned to hear others stories and relate to them.

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Mar 12
Sydney S (Mar 12 2021 12:22AM) : Knowledge more

Frederick talks about how he wished he didn’t know so much sometimes so he didn’t know how bad his life really was. It would have been much easier at times to simply not know the full effect of what was going on and be clueless about the severity of their situation.

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Mar 1
Avery P (Mar 01 2021 1:32PM) : Blissful ignorance more

Would being a ’beast" truly be better than not knowing anything at all? And did Fredrick Douglas, who had learned to read, truly believe that only he was the man among beasts? The one who could have reasonable thought, and no other slave could think as though he does?

Perhaps they couldn’t describe their thoughts quite as well, but they still had the ability to think just as he does.

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Feb 26
Emily M (Feb 26 2021 12:16PM) : Freedom more

Once Frederick Douglas learned about and understood freedom from slavery he constantly thought about it. As it can be seen in these lines and the ones before it, when he was aware of the notion of freedom it was something that he truly desired and believed he deserved and was encouraged by the readings that he had done, and without him learning how to read he may have never had such intellectual insights.

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Feb 26
mia p (Feb 26 2021 11:30AM) : learning more

Fredrick is fully understanding his prize of being able to read but it is coming at him with a price.He can read but he can now also make out how poorly slaves are being treated. he is disgusted with the people who are allowing this to happen. This sentence uses good analogies to explain how he is feeling about everything.

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Mar 2
Isabel O (Mar 02 2021 8:28AM) : Learning more

With his knowledge comes negatives. The fact that he is more aware of what is happening compared to other slaves is a hard idea to accept. The fact that he has more knowledge actually puts him at a sort of disadvantage.

I often found myself regretting my own existence, and wishing myself dead; and but for the hope of being free, I have no doubt but that I should have killed myself, or done something for which I should have been killed. While in this state of mind, I was eager to hear anyone speak of slavery .I was a ready listener. Every little while, I could hear some‐ thing about the abolitionists. It was some time before I found what the word meant. It was always used in such connections as to make it an interesting word to me. If a slave ran away and succeeded in getting clear, or if a slave killed his master, set fire to a barn, or did anything very wrong in the mind of a slaveholder, it was spoken of as the fruit of abolition. Hearing the word in this connection very often, I set about learning what it meant. The dictionary afforded me little or no help. I found it was "the act of abolishing"; but then I did not know what was to be abolished. Here I was perplexed. I did not dare to ask anyone about its meaning, for I was satisfied that it was something they wanted me to know very little about. After a patient waiting, I got one of our city papers, containing an account of the number of petitions from the North, praying for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, and of the slave trade between the States. From this time I understood the words abolition and abolitionist, and always drew near when that word was spoken, expecting to hear something of importance to myself and fellow‐slaves. The light broke in upon me by degrees. I went one day down on the wharf of Mr. Waters; and seeing two Irishmen unloading a scow of stone, I went, unasked, and helped them. When we had finished, one of them came to me and asked me if I were a slave. I told him I was. He asked, " Are ye a slave for life?" I told him that I was. The good Irishman seemed to be deeply affected by the statement. He said to the other that it was a pity so fine a little fellow as myself should be a slave for life. He said it was a shame to hold me. They both advised me to run away to the North; that I should find friends there, and that I should be free. I pretended not to be interested in what they said, and treated them as if I did not understand them; for I feared they might be treacherous. White men have been known to encourage slaves to escape, and then, to get the reward, catch them and return them to their masters. I was afraid that these seemingly good men might use me so; but I nevertheless remembered their advice, and from that time I resolved to run away. I looked forward to a time at which it would be safe for me to escape. I was too young to think of doing so immediately; besides, I wished to learn how to write, as I might have occasion to write my own pass. I consoled myself with the hope that I should one day find a good chance.

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Feb 26
Emily M (Feb 26 2021 12:23PM) : Slavery more

While slavery was very difficult as those who were in slavery were treated unfairly, it could easily appear that death would be a better option as opposed to having to spend one’s entire life in slavery. That is essentially what Douglas is saying in these lines but he had the hope of one day becoming free to keep him from wanting to kill or get himself killed.

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Mar 1
Yahir V (Mar 01 2021 1:24PM) : Hope more

The only way Douglass managed not to end his own life was hope. Hope that one day he’d be free. Hope that he would not resort to killing for his own life. The chains of slavery has caused significant damage on Douglass’s mental state.

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Mar 1
Paul H (Mar 01 2021 2:03PM) : The Most Difficult Position more

To either commit self-harm or have harm brought to him is not a choice but a condition, yes?

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Mar 1
Ryan S (Mar 01 2021 1:37PM) : Hope more

Frederick believed his life was so terrible and miserable that the only reason he had for not dying right then and there was the hope that his life might change one day. All he had ever known was the pain and suffering of slavery and it is very apparent that these pains were taking their toll.

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Mar 2
Lacey T (Mar 02 2021 12:33AM) : the feeling slaves felt more

The fact that he was looking back on being a slave and wished he had killed himself is terrible. It makes you think how many other slaves probably felt the exact same way as he did and how many did kill themselves because slavery was so awful. He had hope that maybe one day he would be free and hope is something was slaves probably had but got stolen away from them because people thought it was okay to basically take people for hostage.

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Mar 1
Ava R (Mar 01 2021 7:34PM) : State of mind more

You can tell in this line how he longed to hear others tell their stories of slavery. I wonder if he was so eager to hear these stories to compare them to his own experiences in slavery? Then he goes on to say “I was a ready listener”, so maybe he wanted to hear them so he did not feel alone in his hardships.

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Feb 26
Ethan N (Feb 26 2021 11:51AM) : Differences in society more

This interaction with the Irishman shows how different society was between America and Europe at the time. In Europe, slavery had been banned for a while, while in America, slavery was at its height. The reaction of the Irishman shows how slavery disgusts him, and how he thinks it should be abolished, like in his homeland.

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Feb 26
Jackie S (Feb 26 2021 2:06PM) : Fear more

Lines like this put the time period into perspective for me. Frederick had to be worried about what he said to people and how it would be interpreted. If these men were looking for a reward his words would be taken out of context and punishment would ensue. He could not even engage in the idea of freedom because of the consequences. If you are the only person who can read and understand the value of freedom it must be lonely.

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Meanwhile, I would learn to write. The idea as to how I might learn to write was suggested to me by being in Durgin and Bailey's ship‐yard, and frequently seeing the ship carpenters, after hewing, and getting a piece of timber ready for use, write on the timber the name of that part of the ship for which it was intended. When a piece of timber was intended for the larboard side, it would be marked thus‐"L." When apiece was for the starboard side, it would be marked thus‐‐S.F." A piece for the larboard side forward, would be marked thus‐"L.F." When apiece was for starboard side forward, it would be marked thus‐"S.F." For larboard aft, it would be marked thus‐"L.A." For starboard aft, it would be marked thus‐"S.A." I soon learned the names of these letters, and for what they were intended when placed upon a piece of timber in the shipyard. I immediately commenced copying them, and in a short time was able to make the four letters named. After that, when I met with any boy who I knew could write, I would tell him I could write as well as he. The next word would be, "1 don't believe you. Let me see you try it." I would then make the letters which I had been so fortunate as to learn, and ask him to beat that. In this way I got a good many lessons in writing, which it is quite possible I should never have gotten in any other way. During this time, my copy‐ book was the board fence, brick wall, and pavement; my pen and ink was a lump of chalk. With these, I learned mainly how to write. I then commenced and continued copying the Italics in Webster's Spelling Book, until I could make them all without looking in the book. By this time, my little Master Thomas had gone to school, and learned how to write, and had written over a number of copy‐books. These had been brought home, and shown to some of our near neighbors, and then laid aside. My mistress used to go to class meeting at the Wilk Street meeting‐house every Monday afternoon, and leave me to take care of the house. When left thus, I used to spend the time in writing in the spaces left in master Thomas's copy‐book, copying what he had written. I continued to do this until I could write a hand very similar to that of Master Thomas. Thus, after a long, tedious effort for years, I finally succeeded in learning how to write.

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Mar 2
Lacey T (Mar 02 2021 12:37AM) : education more

Fredrick knew just how important education and being able to write was. This whole paragraph you can tell Fredrick used a lot of creative things to help him learn how to write and eventually he succeeded.

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Mar 1
Ava R (Mar 01 2021 7:55PM) : Learning to write more

This just goes to show you how desperate he was to write, that he would watch ship carpenters write on the timber for where it was going to go on the ship. He was very determined to learn how to read and write, no matter how challenging it was going to be. He had a mind set that shows he was going to turn his struggles from slavery into something he could make use out of.

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Feb 26
Ella M (Feb 26 2021 11:47AM) : Clever more

Douglas plays on the ego and temperament of his peers to get what he wants. I wonder why he chose this way and not the bread for knowledge transaction mentioned above.

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Feb 26
Heather P (Feb 26 2021 11:36AM) : Stereotypes more

This sentence shows the mind set of white people of the time. The whites thought of people of color were not very smart. No one was there to teach them otherwise espcially not the people of color who could not read or right.

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Feb 26
Paul H (Feb 26 2021 1:53PM) : Resourcefulness Example more

Even though this could be see as most manipulative, we see the sort of sly resourcefulness employed by Douglass in the interest of securing an education for himself.

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Feb 26
Meredith V (Feb 26 2021 8:44AM) : Getting an Education [Edited] more

Fredrick seems to be aware that having an education is important. He learns to read and write using anything he can get his hands on. For example he talks the little master, that can write, “I would tell him I could write as well as he could” knowing that he could not, but now the boy is going to write and provide Fredrick with a writing lesson.

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Feb 26
Heather P (Feb 26 2021 11:39AM) : cunning and smart more

I believe Frederick was very smart and logical in the way that he thinks. He is also very determined to get what he wants so much so he is willing to do anything for it. All the ways he learned could have been dangerous for him but he continued.

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Feb 26
mia p (Feb 26 2021 11:36AM) : writing more

Fredrick was determined to learn how to write. It would only better him and help him with his escape. He would challenging others that he could write better, thus helping him by getting a lesson while challenging others. He was very smart in how he played everyone, but it bettered him.

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Feb 26
Paul H (Feb 26 2021 11:38AM) : Watch This Part of the Passage more

This improvisation here looks a little bit “homemade” to me.

Remember. . .RESOURCES is a term that might have come right out of the ECONOMIC category. RESOURCEFULNESS is one that would come out of the PSYCHOLOGICAL category.

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Mar 12
Sydney S (Mar 12 2021 12:20AM) : Competition more

Frederick knew that making writing a competition to these kids would drive them to want to do it more. They didn’t realize they were helping him learn because they were so focused on trying to have the best handwriting. It was smart of Douglas to motivate these kids the right way.

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Taken from: http://www.gibbsmagazine.com/learning%20to%20read.htm

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DMU Timestamp: February 12, 2021 19:33

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Feb 26
Ella M (Feb 26 2021 11:50AM) : Possible Theme in state of mind more

Knowledge is power and ability, one that may be a blessing or a curse.

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Feb 26
Ella M (Feb 26 2021 11:52AM) : Could possibly fit into class too more

Knowledge in this time was considered a privilege, as was education

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Mar 1
Brandon M (Mar 01 2021 1:33PM) : Hope and perseverance more

I think the theme for this piece lies within hope and perseverance. Frederick Douglass held on to hope that one day he would escape slavery and he persevered to continue learning to read and write and to survive the terrible system he was in.

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