Frederick Douglass was a newspaper editor, lecturer, United States minister to Haiti, and a very successful writer despite living a childhood of slavery. In the essay by Frederick Douglass, Learning to Read and Write, Douglass describes his personal experiences as a young black slave during the 1800’s. Similarly, in another essay by Maya Angelou, Graduation, Angelou describes her experiences as a black girl in the 1960’s. Both authors bring out the challenges as a child that they had to overcome to become successful.
Although Frederick Douglass and Maya Angelou agree that education for blacks was extremely challenging, Douglass provides a more convincing argument because he became literate under more challenging circumstances. First, black slaves attempting to gain an education did not have the support from a community of friends and family; they were on their own. Douglass describes the people around him which include his master, mistress, other slaves, and white children. Many slaves feared their masters and did not try to educate themselves.
The author’s master and mistress did not allow him to study or read even the newspaper. On the other hand, blacks during Angelou’s time had the support of their own family, teachers, and other classmates. Angelou describes the day of graduation which is a time that everyone looks forward to. The spirit of everyone at this time is very positive which shows the support that the children are given to reach this point. Angelou describes the graduation time; she said, “The children in Stamps trembled visibly with anticipation.
Some adults were excited too, but to be certain the whole young population had come down with graduation epidemic. (43 Angelou)” Angelou portrays the attitude of the people in the town in this quote. Although blacks during this time did receive negative support from some, enslaved blacks received either none or negative support. Subsequently, black slaves did not have a teacher or mentor to learn from. Angelou had teachers in the school that she attended. In contrast, Douglass states, “I had no regular teacher. 46)” One of his first teachers was his mistress until his master demanded that she stop and not allow anyone else to educate him. From this point on, he educated himself through various people. His main educators were various white children. Douglass bartered bread which he had taken from his house for “the more valuable bread of knowledge. ” The hungry, poor white children in his neighborhood were a large part of his education. Another way he learned was by challenging white children in a spelling competition, learning from what they wrote.
In Angelou’s Graduation, she was graduating the eighth grade. Over this amount of time, she had had many teachers as well as a principal of the school. Her educators had more qualifications than Douglass’; at Arkansas Negro schools, teachers only had their eighth grade diploma and were qualified to instruct. , but this was a much greater amount of qualifications than Douglass’ teachers which were just white children around his age at the time. Lastly, enslaved blacks did not have a school or resources to take advantage of like blacks did during Angelou’s time.
Angelou was educated in a school with two buildings; although it still wasn’t the best education environment, it was a great deal better than Douglass’. He learned on the street or wherever he could get a bit of knowledge. Angelou had supplies to learn with such as books, pencils and tablets. In contrary, Douglass had next to nothing; he had whatever books he could get a hold of. Often, he read the newspaper when he could get it, but his master and mistress would become enraged if they caught him reading it. Therefore, this left him with no books that he could keep in his possession unless he had them secretly.
He said, “During this time, my copy-book was the board fence, brick wall, and pavement; my pen and ink was a lump of chalk. (50)” Douglass used what he could find; under his circumstances, he was very resourceful considering he had nothing of his own. To conclude, there were many struggles for blacks while attempting to be successful in earning an education. At one point, Douglass describes his first step in education and states, “Mistress, in teaching me the alphabet, had given me the inch, and no precaution could prevent me from taking the ell. 47)” Douglass was a determined man and overcame some challenging conditions. Enslaved blacks had next to no support and were self-determined. In addition, they did not have any formal teacher help in a successful schooling. Finally, they did not have a school or resources that would help them. Although Frederick Douglass and Maya Angelou agree that education for blacks was extremely challenging, Douglass provides a more convincing argument because he became literate under more challenging circumstances.