Frederick Douglass Learns to Read

Frederick Douglass Learns to Read

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  • Frederick Douglass was a young boy, born into slavery, who worked at a plantation every devastatingly hot day in Maryland. Douglass had no idea of who his father was, his birthday, or his age. When he was seven or eight, a couple that lived in Baltimore asked his master to allow Douglass to take care of their son. Baltimore was a city in the northern part of the slavery states; a place where the rules of slavery weren’t as strict. People of all color rushed past him, dressed in nice clothing with papers in hand. “Hello little boy!” a woman said in the doorway when he arrived at the house. “We are so thrilled to have you in our home. You may call me Mrs. Auld.” She was absolutely beautiful; her smile was warm and contagious and her eyes were bright and blue which seemed to see straight through his soul. Then she went on to introduce her husband and her son Thomas, who always hid behind his mother’s skirts. “Frederick did they teach you how to read at the plantation?” Mrs. Auld asked with a book in hand and an intriguing smile. Douglass never knew how to act around Mrs. Auld for a white person had never been so kind to him before, so he settled for a small shake of the head. “Chin up little one, I’ll teach you!” she seemed so cheerful when she had the opportunity to teach a child how to read.
  • Douglass and Mrs. Auld sat down at the kitchen table to start their lesson. This time Mr. Auld discovered what his wife’s intentions were with the boy and he stopped it immediately. Mrs. Auld was forbidden to teach the boy after being informed of the law by her husband. He explained to her that it was unfit for a slave to read. After hearing what her husband had said, Mrs. Auld had changed her ways entirely. She had grown cruel , similar or even worse than the plantation masters. She would make Douglass do all the physically demanding work and send him on endless errands. Mrs. Auld had turned from a angel of a lady to a woman that was as mean as a demon. Douglass was now without a teacher. When the boy was sent on an errand out in the streets of Baltimore he spotted a skinny, white boy in old ragged clothes playing  in front of a supply store. Douglass walked up to him and asked what he was doing. “Mamma said to wait outside until supper is served so here I am, waiting.” The boy answered, but it was as if his stomach had answered for him as it grumble loudly. Frederick happened to be carrying a loaf of bread with him. “Here, I’ll make you a deal,” Douglass began, pulling the bread out of his coat pocket. “ I will give you my piece of bread, and in return you will let me borrow your books.” “You don’t want those books,” The boy began. “ Those are my school books. They aren't interesting at all.” He again eyed the books and the loaf of bread while his stomach grumbled once more. “Deal!” The white boy said, snatching the bread out of Douglass’s hands.
  • Douglass smiled at the boy and then quickly went through his school books. When Douglass finished he politely said goodbye to the white boy and went on with his day.In the next few years Frederick Douglass became very good at tricking other oblivious kids into teaching him to read and write. With the skills he had developed, he successfully escaped slavery. Beyond freedom, Douglass had his ideas with his words and his pen. Douglass was determined and stayed true to his goals including learning to read, escaping to freedom, and sharing his story and new ideas.
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