Once again, you have produced exemplary work. I think you have done a fine job pointing out all the different individuals who were instrumental in helping Douglass learn and escape to freedom. One area you might also have explored in more depth was the Columbian Orator issue, because Douglass points out that this source contained a dialogue between a slave and master, and Douglass believed the slave made the more compelling argument. Since this was an assignment about rhetoric and making a case for a position, this source was also an instructive “tutor” of sorts for him. Still, though, I do not have anything to complain about here.
26 February 2013
Taking the Ell
Frederick Douglass was a literate slave and visionary that dreamed big. The chapter “Learning to Read and Write”, in his autobiography, describes the many different types of tutors that assisted him in becoming literate during the 19th century. From the moment Douglass entered the world, in 1818, he had a plan to learn these valuable tools in life. Tools that led to him escaping the clutches of his Master, Edward Covey, and fleeing to Massachusetts where he became a leader in the abolitionist movement and publisher to a newspaper named “The North Star” some years later. Douglass believed that education was the most fundamental material for all slaves to improve their lives and social standing – from slave to freedman.
At first, Douglass was no more than a young slave that was passed from family to family until his birth mother died when he was around ten. After this separation, he was taken care of by his grandmother, who abandoned him at a playground, and he was sent to the Auld Plantation in Baltimore, Maryland. When Douglass was twelve-years old, he was brought into Hugh Auld’s house to work as a servant. Sophia, Auld’s wife, decided that she was going to teach Douglass the alphabet and how to read, despite the laws on educating slaves. Douglass described her as a caring and compassionate woman, who treated Douglass the way one human being ought to treat another. Soon after Douglass’ lessons started, Hugh Auld became aware of what his spouse was doing and strongly discouraged her from teaching him any further; but the damage had already been done. Whenever he had a spare chance, he was reading any and everything he could get his hands on, to include a book that he found called “The Columbian Orator,”-- which was a collection of political essays and dialogues originally intended for educating reading and writing to schoolrooms along the eastern seaboard. Now that Douglass knew how to read he began tricking the neighborhood children in teaching him how to write by challenging them with words and letters that he had learned the meanings of while working at a shipyard from the other laborers. In exchange for food, they would also teach him other lessons that they were taught in school. As often as he could, he would take any homework left lying around by the Master’s children and practice sentence structure and punctuation while the household was sleeping. In secret, his education levels increased and surpassed even the brightest children in the community. Douglass once stated: "knowledge is the pathway from slavery to freedom.” (Wikipedia.com)
Running away to the northern states didn’t seem possible until Douglass overheard his owner’s discussing rumors of the abolition of slavery. This motivated him tremendously and he learned later on that slaves were fleeing to New York with hopes of being free. In 1837, Douglass fell in love with a free slave from Baltimore named Anne Murray. Her freedom gave him just enough determination to make a final attempt on freedom, after previously failing two other times. With the help of Murray giving him part of her savings, and another free black seaman providing him with a sailor’s outfit