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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library-Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass


As many of these as I could, I converted into teach-
ers. With their kindly aid, obtained at different times
and in different places, I finally succeeded in learn-
ing to read. When I was sent of errands, I always
took my book with me, and by going one part of
my errand quickly, I found time to get a lesson be-
fore my return. I used also to carry bread with me,
enough of which was always in the house, and to
which I was always welcome; for I was much better
off in this regard than many of the poor white chil-
dren in our neighborhood. This bread I used to be-
stow upon the hungry little urchins, who, in return,
would give me that more valuable bread of knowl-
edge. I am strongly tempted to give the names of
two or three of those little boys, as a testimonial of
the gratitude and affection I bear them; but pru-
dence forbids;--not that it would injure me, but it
might embarrass them; for it is almost an unpar-
donable offence to teach slaves to read in this Chris-
tian country. It is enough to say of the dear little
fellows, that they lived on Philpot Street, very near
Durgin and Bailey's ship-yard. I used to talk this
matter of slavery over with them. I would sometimes
say to them, I wished I could be as free as they
would be when they got to be men. "You will be
free as soon as you are twenty-one, ~but I am a slave
for life!~ Have not I as good a right to be free as
you have?" These words used to trouble them; they
would express for me the liveliest sympathy, and con-
sole me with the hope that something would occur
by which I might be free.

I was now about twelve years old, and the thought
of being ~a slave for life~ began to bear heavily upon
my heart. Just about this time, I got hold of a book
entitled "The Columbian Orator." Every opportu-
nity I got, I used to read this book. Among much of
other interesting matter, I found in it a dialogue be-
tween a master and his slave. The slave was repre-
sented as having run away from his master three
times. The dialogue represented the conversation
which took place between them, when the slave was
retaken the third time. In this dialogue, the whole
argument in behalf of slavery was brought forward
by the master, all of which was disposed of by the
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PinkMonkey.com Digital Library-Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass



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