Slaves and Education

I also like this quote from Wilson’s diary: “Training is everything. The peach was once a bitter almond; cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education.” With this quote I think Twain is trying to portray how important one’s schooling and education are in the formation of their character. The slaves did not have the opportunity to be educated; therefore they were more susceptible to being ignorant. Their intellect was suppressed by the inability to read and learn facts about the world. I think the same might apply to their confidence. If one hears people talking in a more eloquent and educated manner than he/she does, and he/she is constantly forced to believe that because of his/her race he/she can never achieve that level of expressing himself/herself, then I assume one would feel inferior.

 The quote above is taken from my Common Place Book entry on Puddin ‘head Wilson. In the article I read by Erickson and Ralph it is stated that whites withheld education from the slaves in order to make them feel powerless. In the quote from my entry, I say that ignorance, the result of not being educated, possibly had a detrimental impact on the slave’s concept of themselves. If a slave felt inferior to his/her white masters, then it would have been rather impossible for him/her to fight for his/her rights. By taking away the blacks’ right to education, a most powerful tool to obtain liberty, the whites weakened the blacks’ motives and to claim their freedom.

George and Douglass are both educated slaves, despite white society’s attempts to keep them ignorant to the truth; this is shown when George declares that he “know[s] more about business than [his master] does” and that he can read and write better than his white master, all without having had the resources that his white ‘superiors’ had access to. In a sense, this all resonates with Emerson and his philosophy of the individual—one doesn’t need academia and books to attain true wisdom, only their individual spirit. It is because George and Douglass educate themselves and raise their awareness of the corrupted system with which they were helplessly dumped in that they find it almost unbearable to remain a part of the extortion; after experiencing tremendous misery, both mental and physical, they make it their life aspiration to escape this exceedingly oppressive system.

This is a quote from Nik’s Common Place Book entry. In this quote Nik mentions that Frederick Douglass and George (the character from Uncle Tom’s Cabin) were able to claim their rights and fight the unjust society because they were educated. Both the aforementioned characters take great pride in being able to read and write. Moreover, they attribute the confidence in themselves to the fact that they are not illiterate, which proves that education is powerful; it can fortify one’s self esteem, and it can also enable someone to stand up to an oppressive institution. It is admirable that both Frederick Douglass and George managed to educate themselves besides the burdens society put before them. In both cases we see that after obtaining education the aforementioned men were eager and determined to also obtain freedom.

For further reading visit: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/slavery/experience/education/history2.html

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