Frederick Douglass was a prominent figure in the abolitionist movement in the USA. His contribution to the progress of the abolitionist movement can hardly be underestimated because his work “Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave” revealed the truth about the actual life of American slaves to the entire society. At the same, this literary work could have never appeared if Frederick Douglass remained illiterate and if he had never learned to read and write. In this respect, it is possible to estimate that learning to read became a crucial factor that determined the life of Frederick Douglass and brought him the desirable liberation. On the other hand, the effects of reading skills developed by Frederick Douglass were quite controversial because, in spite of the growing conscious of his deprived position as a slave, he could not really change the position of other slaves.
In actuality, the development of reading skills laid the foundation for the formation of the personality and identity of Frederick Douglass as a convinced abolitionist. It is due to his reading skills he had managed to view the problem of slavery as a systemic problem, the problem which involved and affected the entire society of the USA. Moreover, it is through reading he had managed to develop his resistance to the seemingly overwhelming power of white slave holders. As he grew conscious of his being an individual, a personality who had his own rights, he, simultaneously, revealed the enormous injustice of the existing social system.
Probably, if Frederick Douglass remained illiterate, he would never think that his position as a slave is unjust or that regular violence against slaves he had witnessed since his early childhood is abnormal. Being illiterate, he would more likely accept the existing social order as a norm and he would view his oppressed, inferior position as a part of the universal established by superior white beings who ruled the world.
In stark contrast, his education and his reading skills allowed him learning the truth about the existing social order and about the injustice of slavery. Moreover, due to reading, he could learn the models of ideal societies where people could be equal and he could also learn that, being black, does not necessarily mean being a slave. At the same time, as he read, he grew more convinced in the righteousness of his abolitionist position and he resistance to his white masters.
On the other hand, the knowledge he acquired while reading caused a lot of troubles to Frederick Douglass because his growing consciousness and human dignity could not keep pace with his actual position forcing him to rebel that resulted in severe punishment. Moreover, his awareness of the unjust system of slavery made him even more desperate because he was unable to change this system. Nevertheless, he attempted to make his own contribution to the breaking this unjust system down and “Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave” was a direct effect of his reading skills and his growing social consciousness as a free man.
Thus, it is possible to conclude that reading played the determinant role in the life of Frederick Douglass. At the same time, learning to read was a mixed blessing because along with enlightenment and awareness of his rights and human dignity, Frederick Douglas revealed his inability to change the existing system.