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Frederick Douglass

             In the early 1840's, Frederick Douglass wrote an autobiography of his life as a slave. His abhorrence of slavery stemmed from two fronts. The first was the reprehensible treatment and dehumanization of the African-American slave. The second was the corrupting influence the power of slavery had upon the slaveholder. "But, alas! this kind heart [of his mistress] had but a short time to remain such. The fatal poison of irresponsible power was already in her hands, and soon commenced it's infernal work" (2). In chapters 6-8, Douglass makes one particular point, among many, quite clear: unjust laws corrupt honorable souls and make criminals of law-abiding people.
             Douglass relates his experience of learning the alphabet from his mistress and the subsequent cessation of this study by his master. Due to his master's explanation of why his mistress shouldn't teach him, a slave, to read, Douglass realizes exactly where white society gets its power to enslave black society. That is " education and slavery were incompatible- (3 & 6). Upon the heels of this revelation is a second: the pathway from slavery to freedom lies in learning to read (3). The basic injustice of keeping an entire race in mental ignorance for the soul purpose of exploiting them as a work force is one of Douglass" main criticisms. .
             Douglass conveys to his readers the drastic change that took place in his mistress due to the heady power of having absolute control over another person's life. She changed from a kind, warm, hard-working soul to a tyrant under slavery's tutelage (5). Douglass shows his readers just how she went from having "heavenly qualities" (6) to having the disposition of a tyrant by relating several years of his experiences. His mistress went from teaching him letters to furiously snatching a newspaper out of Douglass" hand (6), from heavenly smiles to demonic fury (1 & 6), and from tranquil voice to harsh discord (1 & 2).

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