This paper responds to the importance of learning to self-development and emancipation. Knowledge is a powerful means of developing people’s abilities, so that they can free themselves from their different disadvantaged conditions, but knowledge is nothing without determination and ingenuity and through the latter…
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That knowledge is power is already a cliché, but it is most essential for the disempowered sectors of society because they can use what they learned to improve their conditions in life. Douglass becomes miserable because of having full awareness of his wretched conditions. As a slave, he is not a human being. He has no freedoms and rights. His master controls his life, even the lives of his children. Therefore, he is more like a beast with no identity and future than an individual with a deeper purpose in life. Before realizing what his learning is for, Douglass sinks to anxiety because reading exposed him to the ills of the institution of slavery. Fortunately, he learns about the abolitionist movement, and he focuses his energy on running away and becoming free. Furthermore, Douglass understands that knowledge will help him in his quest for freedom. Literacy will be his ticket to freedom, as well as his means for success as a free man. His plan of learning how to read and write first, before running away, shows that he is an intelligent person, who knows long-term planning. Indeed, if he remains illiterate, he can easily be manipulated by others who know how to read and write. Douglass uses his knowledge of the fruits of literacy in producing long-term plans, which proves the supporters of slavery that blacks are not an inferior race. Their weaknesses, if present, are not inherent to them, but are products of the conditioning of slavery, so that they will stay ignorant and lacking in initiative for self-development. Douglass breaks away from the stereotype of the passive slave because of his knowledge that as a human being, he has rights and freedoms. He must and should be free, so he does all he can to prepare for the fateful day of his emancipation. Douglass demonstrates ingenuity and a firm resolution in reaching his dreams, because knowledge is not sufficient to be free. He is determined to learn literacy, but he has to be extra careful. He is resourceful enough to pay bread to street children who taught him how to read. By bragging to other children that he knows how to write, he also learned writing skills. At the same time, Douglass is observant of his surroundings. He studies letters from ships, which shows his determination to maximize his resources, however limited they are. Moreover, the copybooks of his young master proved to be invaluable. He practices how to write, while his masters are away. Douglass clearly does not know how to give up. He knows the painful punishment, perhaps even death, which awaits him; if his owners learned that he was studying how to write. But he no longer minds his short-term need for safety, when he has the larger long-term goal of freedom. The human being in him naturally wants to be free, and slavery cannot stop him forever. He builds his knowledge and establishes contacts and resources, which will one day help him to be free. In his mind, Douglass has a singular mission: to be free and to be a human being with dignity once more. Education and slavery do not mix, as Douglass learns from his masters, because slavery is disempowering, while education
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