Some (probably most) kids these days, including myself, absolutely dread about going to class everyday at 8AM in the morning and to go through 6 subjects of education consisting of english, math, science, history, language, and an elective. But what we don’t realize is that we are privileged to have education. Not to mention- Free education. According to various sources, education is essential to everything. If you want something done, you would know how to with education. That is the case with slavery. We know, or should know, that slavery in America in the 1800s was a dark time. Slaves barely managed to escape. But some who did, had the rare opportunity of gaining and education and used that knowledge to escape the wrath of slavery. With the power of knowledge, slaves were able to escape the inhumane treatment and live a life of freedom. A quote by a slaveowner retold by former slave Frederick Douglass perfectly shows this:
“Mrs. Auld to instruct me further, telling her, among other things, that it was unlawful, as well as unsafe, to teach a slave to read. To use his own words, further, he said, “If you give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell. A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master—to do as he is told to do. Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world. Now,” said he, “if you teach that nigger (speaking of myself) how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master. As to himself, it could do him no good, but a great deal of harm. It would make him discontented and unhappy.””
In this excerpt, Mr. Auld, a slaveowner, tells his wife that giving slaves an education is a harm to both the slave and the slaveowner. It harms the slaveowner because the slave could learn how to retaliate and rebel against the slaveowner. They could teach other slaves how to read and write and with that, they can start an uprising and rebel together. However, this is also a harm to the slave because he realizes that life doesn’t have to be this way. Life does not have to have constant pain and torture as a punishment. With education, they will realize that life can be so much better if they were free.
In fact, an act to prevent slaves from getting an education was passed in North Carolina in 1830:
“AN ACT TO PREVENT ALL PERSONS FROM TEACHING SLAVES TO READ OR WRITE, THE USE OF FIGURES EXCEPTED
Whereas the teaching of slaves to read and write, has a tendency to excite dis-satisfaction in their minds, and to produce insurrection and rebellion, to the manifest injury of the citizens of this State:
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina, and it is hereby enacted by the authority of the same, That any free person, who shall hereafter teach, or attempt to teach, any slave within the State to read or write, the use of figures excepted, or shall give or sell to such slave or slaves any books or pamphlets, shall be liable to indictment in any court of record in this State having jurisdiction thereof, and upon conviction, shall, at the discretion of the court, if a white man or woman, be fined not less than one hundred dollars, nor more than two hundred dollars, or imprisoned; and if a free person of color, shall be fined, imprisoned, or whipped, at the discretion of the court, not exceeding thirty nine lashes, nor less than twenty lashes.
- Be it further enacted, That if any slave shall hereafter teach, or attempt to teach, any other slave to read or write, the use of figures excepted, he or she may be carried before any justice of the peace, and on conviction thereof, shall be sentenced to receive thirty nine lashes on his or her bare back.
III. Be it further enacted, That the judges of the Superior Courts and the justices of the County Courts shall give this act in charge to the grand juries of their respective counties. “
This shows that the majority of people back then were truly worried about slaves gaining an education. They knew the power of education and what it would benefit them in. Having an education means that they could respond back to the slave owner and could possibly know more than the slaveowner him/herself.
Some might mistaken knowledge as knowing how to write and read properly, but to be honest, that’s not the case. What is important is being able to communicate and share the experiences. Take this narrative of a slave for an example:
“Abraham Lincoln freed us by the help of the Lawd, by his help. Slavery was owin to who you were with. If you were with some one who wuz good and had some feelin’s for you it did tolerable well; yea, tollerable well. We left the planatation soon as de surrender. We lef’ right off.”
Even though there were a some spelling errors here and there, we can still understand and most importantly they can understand. They understand that they were finally freed. With some basic knowledge of reading and writing, they could not only understand what is going on with the current politics at the time, but also share their account by writing it and sharing the experience and teaching others about the event.
Many would think that slavery was abolished by the Emancipation Proclamation, however, there are many cases of slavery today. Modern slavery consists of inhumane treatment, human trafficking, and other otrocious crimes. I feel that the way to solve this, is not only give slaves a proper education, but also an education to people who are able to gain one. There should be a larger awareness of slavery that is happening all around the world today. Modern slavery exists from the countryside of Cambodia to our very own backyard, America. According to Forbes:
“Global human trafficking is the second largest and fastest-growing organized crime in the world. There are an estimated 21 million people enslaved today, 4.5 million of which are in the sex industry. Estimates for revenues in all forms of exploitation and slavery total upwards of $ 32 billion a year, and profits from sex slavery amount to nearly $ 10 billion.”
Looking back to the 1800s to today, slavery is a problem and is still a problem today. In my opinion, I think the only way to solve slavery is education. With education, anyone can use that knowledge to help people in need and spread awareness. Slaves can learn so that they can have a better life and be free. We can learn more about slavery so we can prevent that from happening in the future. With the knowledge that modern slavery exists, we can spread awareness that yes, it is a real thing and we need to do everything to stop it from happening and by everything, meaning to teach others.