“Ignorance as a Tool of Slavery”

Recent events have made us sensitive to the absolute need to make available high quality public education to all our children. This is not a new theme but it is essential to remember that ignorance is the tool that has been used, perhaps through all of history, to control those that some wish to deprive of power in society. An example would be the use of “Ignorance as a tool of slavery (from a summary).” Below we continue on this theme. We read from:
“Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass”
” Ignorance as a Tool of Slavery”
“Douglass’s Narrative shows how white slave holders perpetuate slavery by keeping their slaves ignorant. At the time Douglass was writing, many people believed that slavery was a natural state of being. They believed that blacks were inherently incapable of participating in civil society and thus should be kept as workers for whites. The Narrative explains the strategies and procedures by which whites gain and keep power over blacks from their birth onward. Slave owners keep slaves ignorant of basic facts about themselves, such as their birth date or their paternity. This enforced ignorance robs children of their natural sense of individual identity. As slave children grow older, slave owners prevent them from learning how to read and write, as literacy would give them a sense of self-sufficiency and capability. Slaveholders understand that literacy would lead slaves to question the right of whites to keep slaves. Finally, by keeping slaves illiterate, Southern slave holders maintain control over what the rest of America knows about slavery. If slaves cannot write, their side of the slavery story cannot be told. Wendell Phillips makes this point in his prefatory letter to the Narrative.”
Knowledge as the Path to Freedom
“Just as slave owners keep men and women as slaves by depriving them of knowledge and education, slaves must seek knowledge and education in order to pursue freedom. It is from Hugh Auld that Douglass learns this notion that knowledge must be the way to freedom, as Auld forbids his wife to teach Douglass how to read and write because education ruins slaves. Douglass sees that Auld has unwittingly revealed the strategy by which whites manage to keep blacks as slaves and by which blacks might free themselves. Douglass presents his own self-education as the primary means by which he is able to free himself, and as his greatest tool to work for the freedom of all slaves.”
“Though Douglass himself gains his freedom in part by virtue of his self-education, he does not oversimplify this connection. Douglass has no illusions that knowledge automatically renders slaves free. Knowledge helps slaves to articulate the injustice of slavery to themselves and others, and helps them to recognize themselves as men rather than slaves. Rather than provide immediate freedom, this awakened consciousness brings suffering, as Hugh Auld predicts. Once slaves are able to articulate the injustice of slavery, they come to loathe their masters, but still cannot physically escape without meeting great danger.”
The above has great meaning today in a world where free and equal access to quality public education is under assault. It is not only in Frederick Douglass’ day and world that there had been an attempt to deprive citizens of the tools they need to reflect upon and evaluate the quality of their leaders and act accordingly with insight and courage.
(From SparkNotes Editors, (2002). SparkNote on Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Retrieved February 15, 2017, from http:/www.sparkotes.com/lit/narrative/.)
Fondly submitted,
For the Diversity Committee

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