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How did Frederick Douglass learn to read?

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What was the title of Frederick Douglass’s biography?

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Why were slaves more likely to run away if they could read and write?

Who is  Frederick Douglass?

In 1818, Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in the state of Maryland. Because Douglass’s mother was enslaved, he was born a slave.


Frederick and his mother did not live on the same plantation. He did not know a lot about his mother, but he knew she loved him and he knew that she could read and write. Slaves were not allowed to read and write because they were considered dangerous.


When Frederick was 10 or 11 years old, his owner sent him to the city of Baltimore to live work for Hugh and Sophia Auld. Mrs. Auld like to read the bible, so Frederick asked her teach him how to read. Soon he began to learn small words. But, Mr. Auld found out and said “No more reading!”


Frederick wanted to learn to read and write like his mother. So, he would steal food from the kitchen and trade it to boys on the street. The boys would take the food and teach Frederick how to read. Soon he knew how to read.


Frederick copied letters on old pieces of paper he found in the trash. Soon he know how to write. 

As a teenager, he was sent to a plantation where he was beaten. He and his girlfriend Anna came up with an escape plan. This picture is not Frederick Douglass, but it is an example of a slave that has scars from repeated beatings.


Douglass was able to escape and began a new life as a free man. Here you see a famous painting of a slave escaping to freedom.


Afterward, he moved to New York and started making speeches against slavery to people all over the country. Many people in the North were shocked that any former slave could speak so well — or even read. This was surprising because in some states it was illegal to teach slaves how to read.


In 1845, he published an autobiography titled “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.” This book was very  important to the abolitionist movement. The publication of his book made Frederick Douglass one of the most famous orators of his time. An orator is someone who is good at making speeches.


He also started to write and publish a newspaper called “The North Star.”


Douglass became so famous he was invited to meet with President Abraham Lincoln. Douglass went to the White House in 1863 to meet with the president. The two had a long conversation about race and slavery. Even though they did not see eye to eye about many issues, they shocked many people by becoming friends.

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