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<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library-Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

harsh and horrid discord; and that angelic face gave
place to that of a demon.

Very soon after I went to live with Mr. and Mrs.
Auld, she very kindly commenced to teach me the
A, B, C. After I had learned this, she assisted me in
learning to spell words of three or four letters. Just
at this point of my progress, Mr. Auld found out
what was going on, and at once forbade Mrs. Auld
to instruct me further, telling her, among other
things, that it was unlawful, as well as unsafe, to
teach a slave to read. To use his own words, further,
he said, "If you give a nigger an inch, he will take
an ell. A nigger should know nothing but to obey
his master--to do as he is told to do. Learning would
~spoil~ the best nigger in the world. Now," said he, "if
you teach that nigger (speaking of myself) how to
read, there would be no keeping him. It would for-
ever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once be-
come unmanageable, and of no value to his master.

As to himself, it could do him no good, but a great
deal of harm. It would make him discontented and
unhappy." These words sank deep into my heart,
stirred up sentiments within that lay slumbering,
and called into existence an entirely new train of
thought. It was a new and special revelation, ex-
plaining dark and mysterious things, with which my
youthful understanding had struggled, but struggled
in vain. I now understood what had been to me a
most perplexing difficulty--to wit, the white man's
power to enslave the black man. It was a grand
achievement, and I prized it highly. From that mo-
ment, I understood the pathway from slavery to free-
dom. It was just what I wanted, and I got it at a
time when I the least expected it. Whilst I was sad-
dened by the thought of losing the aid of my kind
mistress, I was gladdened by the invaluable instruc-
tion which, by the merest accident, I had gained
from my master. Though conscious of the difficulty
of learning without a teacher, I set out with high
hope, and a fixed purpose, at whatever cost of trou-
ble, to learn how to read. The very decided manner
with which he spoke, and strove to impress his wife
with the evil consequences of giving me instruction,
served to convince me that he was deeply sensible
<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library-Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

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