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Literacy is the ability to learn to read and write Slaves were forbidden to learn to read and write and slave owners were forbidden to teach slaves to read and write Slaveholders had such restrictions on teaching a slave to read and write because felt had to suppress the education of slaves to keep them under their power Illiteracy made it possible for slaveholders to keep the slaves ignorant and under their control without a fight If a slave learned to become literate then could also learn how to escape The biggest advantage a white man had over the slaves was the ability to read and write From a political standpoint if the slaves were literate then they would understand they are just as human as the white man Once a slave begins to understand his or her rights as a human being he or she will also understand that they should not be enduring slavery Even if a slave knows of their rights that exist it can be more dangerous to know than to not Just because you know your rights it does not mean you are given them With that being said a literate slave is useless to its slave master because that slave understands too much Furthermore being a literate slave means that you understand you could very well be a slave for life and that is your unveiling fate I would at times feel that learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing It had given me a view of my wretched condition without the remedy It opened my eyes to the horrible pit but offered me no ladder upon which to get out Douglas 2003 p 45 This quote explains how Douglass felt knowing of his conditions now that he was learning to read and write He began to understand that slavery was not close
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