Many people face hard times searching for their place in the world. This search is made more difficult for those people without a solid foundation to stand on. People lacking a safe home, loving family and stable support network are forced to work harder than those born into less impoverished conditions. The plight of these underprivileged people is intensified further by the scarcity of positive choices to improve oneself when born into slavery without basic rights or when orphaned and abandoned by their parents. These people, stripped of their freedom, are forced to fight hard to overcome their circumstances or spiral downwards into misery and desolation. In The Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass and Jimmy Santiago Baca's A Place to Stand, both authors discuss the significance of education in overcoming obstacles and enabling a pathway to freedom.
Douglass grew up in disadvantaged environments that deprived him of a strong sense of identity. Douglass was born into slavery and did not know when he was born. Douglass never knew his real age, which impacted his identity at a young age. "The white children could tell their ages. I could not tell why I ought to be deprived of the same privilege" (Douglass 1). As a child, Douglass was confused about why he could not know his age. Because Douglass was a slave, he was robbed of this basic identity-forming information. Douglass was also denied the most basic of human rights, including protection from degrading treatment, safety, compensation for work performed, education, and equality. He was someone else's property that could be bought, sold, hurt or killed. His identity was banished, never existed in this specific period. Douglass also endured many horrid conditions as a slave. Aside from him suffering from brutal beatings and lashings from his overseers and masters, he also received meager food rations, was under clothed and often cold, and bore witness to the murder of fellow slaves.