Frederick Douglass Becoming Literate Essay

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The Effects of Becoming Educated and Literate
Becoming literate and educated affects one person’s identity, selfhood, and subjectivity, by promoting personal qualities or beliefs and changing personality, individuality, and judgement.
This is demonstrated by Frederick Douglass in “Learning to Read” and Jonathan Kozol in “The Human Cost of an Illiterate Society.” In 1845, “Learning to Read” was a part of Frederick Douglass’s narrative about his life. He had been enslaved in the South where African Americans rarely knew how to read. His identity, selfhood, and subjectivity were affected once he took it upon himself to learn how to read and write. “The Human Cost of an Illiterate Society” was a part of a four-chapter book written by Jonathan Kozol
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In “Learning to Read,” Frederick Douglass was one of very few slaves capable of reading. This made him different from his family, fellow slaves, and most African Americans. His personality differed from the other slaves due to the world opened up by reading. He wished death upon himself, and his only hope was freedom. With that state of mind, he said, “I envied my fellow-slaves for their stupidity” (Douglass 128). He was jealous with their “settled” attitudes toward life, because they did not know of the world beyond their own. He was set apart from the other slaves with his abilities. Douglass forever acted differently due to his education. His selfhood, or individuality, was heightened. On the other hand, Kozol shows how a lack of education can set individuals apart from others in “The Human Cost of an Illiterate Society.” Nonreaders may not look different, but they certainly feel different than literate people. They are unique in that “Illiterates cannot read the menu in a restaurant…Illiterates cannot read the letters that their children bring home from their teachers...Illiterates cannot read instructions on a bottle of prescription medicine” (Kozol 256). Everyday tasks for a literate person will be stressful for the nonreader. Without education, a person is isolated and faced with confrontation and embarrassment. With chances of getting lost, hurt, …show more content…
According to “Learning to Read,” Frederick Douglass grew up in a time when slaves were not educated in fear that they would revolt on their slaveowners. Once Douglass secretly learned to read and write, he was able to read books like The Columbian Orator. A dialogue between a slave and his master discussing their argument of slavery ended up in the slave’s emancipation. Being informed on pro- and antislavery issues, abolition, and free African Americans in the north, drove Douglass crazy. “I would at times feel that learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing. It had given me a view of my wretched condition, without the remedy” (Douglass 128). His view of slavery was entirely changed when he learned his place in society, and that there was more than just his own plantation and town. His subjectivity was affected due to him learning how to read about slavery. Another example of how an individual’s subjectivity is affected can be found in “The Human Cost of an Illiterate Society” by Jonathan Kozol. Subjectivity is a judgement based off personal opinions. Someone who does not understand a simple sentence is not going to have very complex opinions. An illiterate will rarely travel due to being unable to find his or her way home. Street signs, names of places, and symbols mean nothing to them. “They are immobilized

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