Slavery is one of the many vices that were characterized by the early white people. They would make slaves out of the blacks, who would work on their farms and take care of their houses. The black people would work on the odd jobs. Interestingly, they would never be allowed to learn how to read and write. They were only allowed to live with the whites as their servants, but the issues of reading were heavily discouraged. This was a very contemptuous theme, because one would argue that there would have been no difference if the blacks learned how to read and write. Could they become poorer employees or what difference would it have made? Or is it true that one cannot enslave a learned person? This could have been the fear that the white landowners feared, hence ensured that the slaves never learned to read and write.
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Language is important in the process of communication and integration of a nation. When people speak the same language, they tend to develop specific ties that are exclusive to them and they would tend to exclude people that do not understand their language. On the other hand, people who cannot use a similar language often find it hard to live together, unless they are compelled by the situation. The slaves in the United States were drawn from different regions of Africa. They did not have a common language, and this ensured that they could not scheme against their masters. Only two common things held them: their masters and the fact that they were slaves. The whites ensured that these people could not learn to read or write. When Douglass’ master learnt that his wife was teaching Douglass how to read, he was infuriated and commanded the wife not to continue doing this (Douglass, 101). This meant that he knew that the enlightenment of the black slaves and their ability to read and write would end the reign of the white over the slaves. Baldwin (1979) shared the same sentiments where he noted that
If two black people, at that bitter hour of the world's history, had been able to speak to each other, the institution of chattel slavery could never have lasted as long as it did.
This was an indication that the white masters knew the dangers of educating the blacks.
When Douglass learnt how to read and write, he started to read the Sheridan’s work that was geared towards emancipating the Catholics (Douglass, 100). He clearly denounced slavery, and the thoughts that he wrote down stung Douglass’ thoughts and feelings over the enslavers. His eyes became wider; his thoughts broader; and he fully understood why his Master Hughes did not want him learn how to read and write. Douglass (1845) expressed the extent of his ability to read and write, as
As I read and contemplated the subject, behold! that very discontentment which Master Hugh had predicted would follow my learning to read had already come, to torment and sting my soul to unutterable anguish (Douglass, 103).
This was his turning point from where he started visualizing freedom, and realizing that he was a human being who deserved to be free. He started to think on how he could run away, but his desire to learn how to write kept him waiting. He was not supposed to learn from anyone, hence it took him years of hard work and sacrifice to learn how to write and perfect his hand writing, to match that of his master’s son.
Language barrier is among the most nagging challenges that people from different decent face today when they come together. When such people are not offered a common language, they often come up with their own language that they would use to their advantage. In a strictly controlled environment that bars them from learning, they develop coded languages that would be dangerous to masters because they remain on the side of the unknown. This is how the American English developed, where people were limited to access the knowledge, and they had to come up with their own words in order to fill what the rest of the white population gave them (Baldwin, 1979). Baldwin wrote
There was a moment, in time, and in this place, when my brother, or my mother, or my father, or my sister, had to convey to me, for example, the danger in which I was standing from the white man standing just behind me, and to convey this with a speed, and in a language, that the white man could not possibly understand, and that, indeed, he cannot understand, until today (Baldwin, 1979).
Learning to read and write is a very important aspect in human development. It helps one to improve their social and intellectual being and perceptions, hence improving their thinking and social efficiencies. As most people correctly put it, education is a key to life. Whether one uses the intellectual knowledge gained or not, but a learned person is always better than an unlearned person. Education is therefore seen as a liberation tool, especially to people who regard it as expensive, or prefer making money to learning. They should know that an educated beggar might prove to be way better than an uneducated tycoon. People should be advised to learn in every opportune moment they get because it eliminates the mental slavery as opposed to the old physical slavery.
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