Work Sample



My writing sample is about Frederick Douglass, a slave that educated himself. He changed his life through his will to learn.


Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass Essay


By Talia Abrams

Professor Paterson

English Fundamentals class

June 16, 2015

When Douglass was sent to Baltimore by his previous master Mr. Lloyd, He learned that by using your knowledge and education you can change your situation in life. Frederick Douglass’s narrative shows how freedom can be achieved through education. By educating himself, he was able to understand his situation and escape slavery.

“The argument which he so warmly urged, against my learning to read, only served to inspire me with a desire and determination to learn” (Douglass 44). Douglass began working on his goal to understand the words written in books and signs around the streets. Douglass took advantage of his bountiful amount of food that was permitted for him and traded it with poor white boys for reading lessons. Soon Douglass could read what the signs were on the street. When he got a chance, he would get ahold of the newspaper and read about different things happening in the world. He got the understanding of how African Americans were controlled by white men through the brainwashing that was projected onto uneducated enslaved blacks. Because enslaved blacks had no knowledge of doing anything else with their lives other than being ruled over by whites, they didn’t think that there were options such as freedom for themselves. Douglass was also able to retain the information on how the North was a free place for African Americans. He wanted to be able to escape to freedom. Douglass began to teach himself how to write and could now sign his signature on things such as paperwork or for purchasing tickets. Douglass was sent back to his old master where he met several other enslaved African Americans who became Douglass’ brothers and new students. While secretly teaching these other Enslaved he realized how much harm had occurred due to lack of education. Enslaved African Americans had become puppets under the white man’s whip. Now that Douglass and his brothers could read directions and maps, finding their way to the north would be so much easier. Like Douglass, his new student’s mindsets were brightening, and they too saw the world differently. “The work of instructing my dear fellow-slaves was the sweetest engagement with which I was ever blessed”(Douglass 59). He noticed that it only takes a little knowledge to understand how the slavery system worked. Once you understood the system, you could find a way to get yourself into the free states and gain your liberty. Douglass also learned several different trades when he was hired out by his master Auld. For an enslaved Douglass made a good amount of money. He apprenticed to be a shipbuilder. He also learned carpentry and caulking. These trades helped him to make some money before his escape. These trades later helped Douglass retain a job when he was in the free states. It also helped him prepare for what having your own job and managing your life would be like. He became street smart as well as intelligent.

Not having an education is what kept most African Americans enslaved by Caucasian men and women. Mr. Auld states that “A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master — to do as he is told to do. You teach that nigger how to read; there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be enslaved”(Douglass 44). Keeping enslaved African Americans from being educated made it so that they didn’t know how to escape their situation. They would have done nothing else but serve their white masters. This way they would not know that freedom and liberty was even a possibility for them. Some enslaved blacks barely could comprehend having the freedom to do what they want. Not having a good education made it so that African Americans could not advance in life. They would be stuck doing labor jobs such as work in factories or on plantations. Slaves knew nothing of their situation. All they knew how to do was physical labor.

Receiving the proper education was Douglass’ key to escaping slavery. “After interrupting a reading lesson, Mr. Auld scolded Ms. Auld for teaching Douglass how to read. “From that moment, I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom” (Douglass 44). If Frederick Douglass had not been educated he would not have been a free man. He would have died working for a master. Other slaves that he taught would not have been educated. He also would not have been able to share his stories with the world. If he hadn’t shared his story, many other African Americans would not have known the importance of education. Being an intelligent person is what set him apart from other slaves. It was his key out of enslavement and his ticket to freedom. Beyond Frederick, Douglass education improves the person and allows society to advance. If Douglass had not been a learned enslaved African American, he would not have made it to freedom. He would have been caught trying to catch a train to Philadelphia. Not having the knowledge to know how trains work would have been an end to his goal for Freedom. Many other things such as miss reading signs, trusting the wrong people, hiding in dangerous places, etc. would have terminated Douglass’s escape.

Frederick Douglass spread awareness of slavery’s cruelty through his works. How education made the difference in his freedom and in his enslavement was major. Douglass shared his story with people through his words. Something that he could not have done without his education. He shows how education can not only change your life but can be the difference between enslavement and freedom. Frederick Douglass’s narrative shows how freedom can be achieved through education. By educating himself, he was able to understand his situation and escape slavery.





I have learned that there are meaning and symbolism in all content. Writing this paper, I was able to reflect on the life of Frederick Douglass, a slave that went through many challenges and hardships. I got to take an in-depth approach and analysis of someone’s life.