Friday, April 25, 2014

Book Review: Words Set Me Free: The Story of Young Frederick Douglass

Words Set Me Free: The Story of Young Frederick Douglass, Lesa Cline-Ransome, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, New York, 2012.
This is a brief short story of how Frederick Douglass learned to read and write, and gained his freedom.  It is taken from his own autobiography “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave”.  The title of the book is not really accurate.  He attempted to gain his freedom using pass letter he had written for himself and same friends, however his plot was foiled.  He asked everyone to swallow the letters so he wouldn’t be punished for knowing how to read.  He later gained his freedom, after he had been shipped to Baltimore because his master didn’t think he would be any good where he was.
When Frederick was young he was sent to Baltimore to work as a house boy.  He had a mistress who taught him his letters, and he learned very quickly.  When the mistress bragged to her husband about teaching Frederick his letters, his chances to continue learning and reading went away.  The library was locked to him and he wasn’t suppose to read.  However he was still young, and in doing errands he would read word on signs in town.  He would also practice his letters using chalk and fence posts or stones or whatever was handy.  Sometimes he would play games with other boys in town, see who can write the best letters, or spell a particular word, and in this way he was taught how to read more and more.  When his master died, he was sent back to work on the farm as a field hand.  However he had enough knowledge to read about freedom, and then he wanted to be free.  This lead to the above story about his writing the passes.

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