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Fredrick Douglass And The Power Of Knowledge

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In modern societies, an education is seen as the key to a successful life. It’s a well known fact that if you go to college you’re more likely to get a higher paying job or a raise and if you never get a college degree then most job opportunities will be locked for you. This is nothing new as proven in the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Fredrick Douglass. Frederick Douglass, a born slave, always wanted to know what it was like to experience freedom. He knew the difference between the free and enslaved was the color of their skin, however, he believed it went deeper than that. Fredrick Douglass, being enslaved for all of his early life shows the reader through his story that knowledge is not only power but also the key to freedom.

Fredrick Douglass’s thirst for knowledge is what separates him from other slaves. Douglass makes it quite apparent that from a very young age he has always pondered even the simplest of questions withheld from him such as his birthdate or who his father was. He did not understand why a white kid had this right, yet he did not. After his slave owner in Baltimore Mrs.Auld teaches him about reading her husband Mr. Auld states “A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master-to do as he is told to do. Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world.” (26) Douglass learns what holds him back. His master unknowingly reveals that ignorance was his most powerful tool, and Frederick intended on removing it.

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After learning to read and write from poor children and pieces of a boat in Baltimore Frederick Douglass’s feelings of accomplishment did not last long as he succumbed to anger. He had come to the realization that the real barrier to his freedom was knowledge. Frederick Douglass states “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 sucessful robbers….and in a strange land reduced us to slavery.” (30) Reading had allowed him to see the cause for his enslavement which in turn caused him to see why he must become free. It had made him fear his captors less and encouraged him to find freedom.

While most slaves fear the opportunity to be free, Douglass learned to embrace any opportunity he got to escape. He was done with being enslaved and in his own words “You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man.” (41) Fredrick later uses his new found courage to fight his current master Mr.Covey. This causes Covey to rid Douglass and he soon found himself back in Baltimore as Covey did not want the other slaves to know that he resisted. Douglass uses his new circumstances as his opportunity to find freedom.

Overall, Frederick Douglass’s story reminds the reader of the overwhelming power that knowledge can bring. Knowledge should not be seen as simply a tool to land you a job in today’s economy. In the past it was what seperated the free from the enslaved and today it is what separates those who can see and those who cannot. Without knowledge we can do nothing but what we are told.

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Fredrick Douglass And The Power Of Knowledge. (2022, Jun 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 4, 2023, from
“Fredrick Douglass And The Power Of Knowledge.” Edubirdie, 09 Jun. 2022,
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Fredrick Douglass And The Power Of Knowledge [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 09 [cited 2023 Feb 4]. Available from:
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