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His mistress, Mrs. Auld, first begins teaching Douglass the alphabet before her husband prohibits her from doing this. His severe opposition told Douglass how important reading must be: “What he most dreaded, that I most desired.” He thanked both the master and his wife for enabling his interest in reading: “In learning to read, I owe almost as much to the bitter opposition of my master, as to the kindly aid of my mistress. I acknowledge the benefit of both. After he learned from “the little white boys” how to read, he would always find a book and take it with him where ever he went. Soon he started to read The Columbian Orator, which taught him about emancipation and changed his life even more. As for writing, Douglass recounts: "The idea as to how I might learn to write was suggested to me by being in Durgin and Bailey's ship-yard, and frequently seeing the ship carpenters, after hewing, and getting a piece of timber ready for use, write on the timber the name of that part of the ship for which it was intended." He again practices whenever he can, painfully learning how to make letters, and then letters into words.
Douglass relies primarily on two sources to learn to read and write. First, he learns from the little white boys of the town. He bribes them with food and things to get them to teach him. He also teaches himself some as he gets ahold of books.
Will douglass relpy on his mistress to help him and not no little white boys that was in the neighbor hood but he husband forbid it
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