Expert Answers
jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As the first person to answer this question noted, Douglass discovers that his pathway to freedom is learning how to read. After his initially kind slave mistress Sophia Auld begins to teach him how to read, Douglass's slave master becomes irate and tells his wife to cease her lessons immediately. He says that learning to read would forever make Douglass unfit to be a slave. It is at this moment that Douglass understands that literacy is the path to freedom for several reasons. First, learning to read will prove he is bright and the equal of whites, and reading will also enable him to learn how to diffuse and contradict the arguments that whites use to keep him enslaved. Literacy also has a practical purpose, as learning how to read will give Douglass the skills he needs to survive economically once he escapes north. Therefore, Douglass begins to use tricks to make the white boys he meets in Baltimore teach him how to read. 

dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 6, Frederick comes to understand that literacy is the pathway from slavery to freedom.  It was against the law to teach a slave to read, and, as Mr. Auld explains to his wife, "If you teach (a slave) how to read, there would be no keeping him.  It would forever unfit him to be a slave...he would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master".  Frederick from this point begins to understand that it is by keeping the black man in ignorance that the white man derives his power over him.

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question