Frederick Douglass was born into slavery, but his

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery, but his life as a slave wasn’t ordinary. He never accepted his fate as a slave for life, and through his discovery of the outside world he was able to escape his bondage and become the influential abolitionist he’s known as today.  In his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Douglass discusses the importance of knowledge in the struggle for slave owners to retain power over their slaves, and how his access to information of the world outside of slavery freed him. Douglass’s experiences as a slave, combined with his own personal struggle for knowledge, opened his eyes to the horrors of the power of the institution of slavery of blacks in America. Douglass first realizes the importance of information in the power dynamic between a slave and their master when he began working for Mr. and Mrs. Auld in Baltimore. Before this change, Douglass had experienced some of the physical horrors of slavery, and in his early life he understood the power the masters had over their slaves, however it was unclear how they retained their status. When moved to Auld’s home, he was leaving the plantation of Colonel Lloyd, who fed his slaves “mush” (Douglass 72) out of a trough, and whose slaves often went cold because they lacked clothes. Douglass understood this as a power move. Colonel Lloyd treated his slaves like animals, so when he was moved to Baltimore to work for the Aulds, he was surprised at Mrs. Auld’s display of humanity. A first time slave owner, Mrs. Auld was the first to treat him like a person, “she did not deem it impudent or unmannerly for a slave to look her in the face. The meanest slave was put at ease by her presence,” (Douglass 77). This was surprising to Douglass for he had before been treated like an animal, and Mrs. Auld was to him unlike any other white woman. This extended to her beginning to educate him, teaching him the alphabet, and how to read and write short words. When Mr. Auld, a more experienced slaveholder found out about this he immediately shut it down. In a conversation that Douglass overheard, he explained to her that teaching a slave to read would “ruin” the slave making them useless to the master. Mrs. Auld, now with the understanding of the power of information, and compassion in the controlling of a slave began to mistreat Douglass. Once a tender hearted woman, she had been corrupted by the peculiar institution. This was when Mrs. Auld had her true formal introduction to the institution of slavery. She was introduced to the system in which whites were able to hold onto their power-controlling the slaves minds by manipulating what they know and how they know it.  Here, Douglass realized how slaves were controlled, he began to fight back. He used his little knowledge to educate himself, dedicating himself to learning. He eventually learned the true misdeeds of slavery, and of the existence of movement of abolitionism. As a result of Mrs. Aulds unknowingness of they ways of slavery. he was educated, leading to Douglass’s desire to be freed.The importance of reading for Frederick Douglass cannot be understated. He began to understand that masters kept control of their slaves by keeping them uneducated. Control of access to information, like the fact that there even was a movement against slavery, is what kept slaves at bay. At one time while living with the Aulds, Douglass discovered the book The Columbian Orator, which included the dialog between an intelligent slave and his master. The slave had just been captured and returned after his third attempted escape, and he sat down with his master and discussed the institution of slavery. The master argued in defense of slavery and the slave rebutted all of the claims, and the slave was emancipated in the end. The Columbian Orator helped Douglass to articulate his views on slavery and human rights. The more he read, “the more I was led to abhor and detest my enslavers,” (Douglass 84). Douglass was able to grasp the idea of the power of information. This understanding is what pushed Douglass to what he eventually became. From the moment he learned from Mr. Auld the power of intelligence, he saw how everything a slave owner did was just an exercise of their power. He saw how to institution of slavery corrupted the sweet innocent Mrs. Auld, and his perspective on the actions of whites was never the same. Frederick Douglass, with his new understanding and hatred for the peculiar institution of slavery was now on his way to escaping its grasp. His awareness of his position as an educated slave freed him well before he truly escaped; however his awareness did not come with only positives for Douglass. On several occasions he considered killing himself  as a result of depression. He felt free from the restraints of knowledge, yet hopelessly trapped as a slave. He later when on to recognize that he lost his will to learn when he was given to Mr. Covey – an extremely harsh man who was given independent slaves to break their spirits. His repeated punishments and overworking of Douglass made him lose his spirit and hope for quite a while. When he began to gain back his spirit, he fought back. He regained his sense of hope that he gained from reading The Columbian Orator and all his other knowledge that he worked so hard to gain. He stood up to Mr. Covey, and he was never touched by him again. After his time at Covey’s, he had regained his self worth as an intelligent slave, however he was still trapped and subject to the terrors of slavery. His self education and experience helped him to escape some of the traps and power moves that the slave owners set to help subdue any desire to escape in their slaves. One way that Douglass discusses is the Christmas tradition of slave owners getting their slaves drunk, and using that event to manipulate them. The masters would use whatever tactics they wanted to, from having fun to forcing their slaves to get drunk. This boosted slave moral as they had a fun time while they were drinking, however they would get hungover and feel awful. The slave owners would use this feeling to shape what their ideas of freedom were, to the point where “we felt…that  we had almost been slaves to man as to rum,” and the transition from the partying back to work “from what out master had deceived us into a belief was freedom,” (Douglass 116). Douglass saw this as a tool to exploit the slaves, and he was correct. The slaves now thought of freedom as just a waste of time, for they only knew freedom as what their masters let them think of freedom. Douglass knew this to be untrue, and was determined to leave this awful arrangement. To help himself escape in his mind the horrors of slavery, he began to educate some of his fellow slaves on Mr. Freeland’s land where he now worked. With a group of the same fellow slaves, inspired by the reading of his past they planned an escape. This initial attempt failed, but was a testament to his intelligence and eagerness to escape. He ended up afterwards again with the Aulds, where he was eventually able to escape. In his time in Baltimore he worked on the docks, and was paid. This was yet another glimpse into the world of freedom. His will to become free, and his self confidence are what ultimately led Frederick Douglass to freedom. If Mrs. Auld hadn’t taught him what little she did before she was corrupted by the institution, Douglass never would have been able to educate himself to the point where he could see the way slave owners manipulated their slaves minds keeping them subdued. His mindset as a confident man stuck in the cycle of slavery helped him to learn of its horrors, as well as the idea that those outside of the institution were against slavery. He mentally detached from slavery long before he was free, and that’s how Frederick Douglass was able to escape. He was never really a slave like the others. He understood how knowledge was power in the game of slavery, and he used it to free himself.   Frederick Douglass had always known he wasn’t born to be a slave for life, and with his understanding of the institution of slavery as a result of his intelligence inherited from Mrs. Auld he was able to escape its bonds. In his autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Frederick Douglass develops his ideas that intellect and knowledge is the driving force in the power dynamic in the institution of slavery that corrupts white slave owners, how it muted the slaves and how it freed him.