Suppose you were born into a system that limited your potential before you could crawl? Imagine being condemned because of the color of your skin.
How would you deal with growing up in a society that saw your future as that of only a slave?
You might graduate from a field slave to a house slave, but you would never progress any further. You grow up under the cruel whip and the dark despair of hopelessness. You grow up knowing very little about your mother and only hear that you have a white father without ever being sure if this is true and if so who is this man? The odds are stacked against you and the words spoken around you sound gloomy. You have excuses to just do as you are told and try to spare yourself the torture of being punished for striving to go beyond what is expected of you. If you were to be killed a judicial investigation was not even necessary.
Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in the south. He saw the bloody whippings that slaves received in his childhood. He was both a country slave and a city slave. He moved from the country of Tuckahoe, Maryland to Baltimore, Maryland. Mrs. Auld the mistress of the house began to teach Frederick Douglas how to read. When Mr. Auld found out about his wife’s reading lessons to Frederick Douglass he said, “…Now if you teach that nigger how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave…” (Douglass 9). Although she stopped teaching him it was too late Frederick was eager to learn and would make friends with the poor white children with whom he would exchange bread for reading classes. He would eventually learn how to write. He would be sent back to the south after his slave masters in Baltimore died.
In the south Frederick Douglas was beaten severely. He was whipped repeatedly and his hope of freedom began to die. It seemed like freedom was further and further away from his reach. It came back one day. He decided to fight back. He fought and won! His slave master only threatened to beat him after that fight. He would attempt to run away on two occasions. He was successful on his second attempt.
He overcame difficult odds. He could have gotten stuck in past hurts but he chose to look higher. Many times in his life he makes references to God working in his life. He gained his freedom and could have settled in a peaceful life, but instead, he became an abolitionist. He used his freedom to try to help others. Further, Frederick Douglass wrote three autobiographies, became a stunning orator, and a newspaper journalist.
What about you - how strong is your drive? Are you letting a bad past experience limit you, are you allowing statistics to block your goals? Are you letting the stereotypes define you? I encourage you to not get stuck where you were, or even where you are. Instead, I encourage you to look at where you can go, first spiritually, then academically. Finally, I encourage you to believe that you can do all things through Christ which strenghteneth you (Philippians 4:13).
Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass. New York: - Dover, 1995
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