Frederick Douglass was about seven or eight years old when his old master Captain Anthony sent him to Baltimore to live with Mr. Auld. His new job is to take care of their little son Thomas. When he finds out about his transfer, he spends most of his time washing off himself and getting ready to leave. This was considered a turning point of his life.
Mr. and Mrs. Auld were both at home, and met me at the door with their little son Thomas, to take care of whom I had been given. And here I saw what I had never seen before; it was a white face beaming with the most kindly emotions; it was the face of my new mistress, Sophia Auld. She did not deem it impudent or unmannerly for a slave to look her in the face.
Very soon after I went to live with Mr. and Mrs. Auld, she very kindly commenced to teach me the A, B, C. After I had learned this, she assisted me in learning to spell words of three or four letters.
Just at this point of my progress, Mr. Auld found out what was going on, and at once forbade Mrs. Auld to instruct me further, telling her, among other things, that it was unlawful, as well as unsafe, to teach a slave to read.
To use his own words, further, he said, “if you teach that nigger(speaking of myself) how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave.
A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master.
I now understood what had been to me a most perplexing difficulty—to wit, the white man’s power to enslave the black man. It was a grand achievement, and I prized it highly. From that moment, I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom.