Fredrick Douglass: Escape from Slavery

The Struggles of an Ex-Slave

The story by Fredrick Douglass vividly depicts the heartbreaking struggles of an ex-slave in America. The author describes the transition from slavery in detail and illustrates the difficulties that slaves encountered on their quest for independence. The story, which has drawn varying reactions from critics, describes how black people were denied social, economic, and political opportunities while working for white people on farms and in private homes. The book captures the writer's celebration of her hard-won freedom, but it also highlights a historical error made by white Americans who mistook another race for one of lower caliber. Exploitation and torture become a norm for the white slave owners who direct the overseers to break the spirit of the blacks to avoid any form of rebellion against the system. Nevertheless, Douglas manages to escape from slavery after strategizing on the means to escape the inhumane treatment of the system towards the victims. While downplaying other factors that contributed to his escape from slavery, Douglass indicates that his self-acquired knowledge enlightened him on the need to question and rebel against the system and thus struggled to attain victory.

The Importance of Knowledge and Education

Notably, slavery thrived because of ignorance among the victims (Douglass 2). According to the narrative, the slaves were denied access to information such as their birth, paternity, and other details that ended up depriving them of their sense of identity. Without any identity, the slaves became nondescript and ended up hopeless because they were not aware of the key issues in their lives. However, they could learn about themselves through reading, a skill they were denied by their masters. Additionally, the masters could not allow them to learn how to write because it could have enabled them to express themselves. Douglass' desire for freedom begins with his enlightenment from Sophia Auld, the wife to Thomas Hugh. Sophia teaches him how to read and the thirst for knowledge intensifies. Even when Hugh stops his wife from further teaching Douglass, the writer takes a personal initiative and learns more through reading the available literature.

The Evils of Slavery and the Fight for Freedom

Evidently, the writer became aware of the fact that knowledge liberates and begins to search to know more in order to enlighten himself (Douglass 17). At the same time, the author also mentions lightly how other boys assisted him in his learning. He narrates that he worked together with his friends in learning how to read yet the text seems to celebrate his acquisition of knowledge as a personal endeavor. Nevertheless, through his learning to read and write, the writer becomes aware of the evils of slavery. Further, he learns that there is an abolitionist movement seeking to help the blacks attain freedom. It follows that Douglass spent most of his time trying to create links with the abolitionist movement so that he can participate in the struggle to end the inhumane system. Through his learning also, the author desires to escape from slavery since he knows that there are places and people who were against the system and could help him establish himself and work together towards ushering change.

The Journey to Freedom

Significantly, Douglass was able to escape to freedom because of the support of some external forces, including one of his masters (Douglass 69). After the first attempt to escape with some other slaves failed after some traitor betrayed them, Douglas vowed to seek liberation on his own without raising much suspicion from his friends who might betray him to gain favor from their master. He worked harder to generate more money to finance his escape from Baltimore. While in Baltimore, Douglass learns ship caulking, and because of his impressive work, his master Hugh allows him to do other works during his extra time, a plan that enabled him to earn extra money. In essence, the author shows that many other slaves were unable to escape from bondage because they were financially incapacitated to finance their journey to freedom. It follows that he became financially able to escape to New York where he sought the anti-slavery movement where he worked together with the abolitionist group that found him resourceful in unveiling the actual experiences of slaves.

The Role of External Factors

Despite the fact that there are other forces in play that contributed to Douglass's success in escaping from slavery, the author downplays such immense factors. First, the contribution of his master to his financial capability, Douglass does not acknowledge that some slave masters were good enough to allow them relative freedom that in the end had significant contributions to the realization of freedom among some slaves (Douglass 69). Apparently, luck seemed to have been on the side of Douglass as seen through the masters he serves. While Sophia accidentally taught him how to read and write, sheer luck also enabled him to learn and internalize ship caulking that enabled him to get money to fund his escape. Unfortunately, Douglass does not show how other slaves could not get such masters. Second, Douglass seems to downplay the curiosity he develops when Hugh stops his wife Sophia from further teaching him. Although the end of teaching by Sophia hinders his progress, it does not stop him from learning on his own. At the same time, when Douglass discovers that his master did not want him to learn, he becomes interested in what education might impact on his life as a slave. Hence, his dedication to learn is also inspired by the attempts to stop him from acquiring writing and reading skills.

Works Cited

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Douglass, Frederick, and William L. Garrison. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Place of publication not identified:, 2009. Print.

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