Frederick Douglass taught himself to read


Frederick Douglass was just a boy when he heard his slave say that learning to read “would forever unfit him to be a slave,” and that was all the inspiration he needed.

“Carry bread or biscuits in your pocket, and trade those biscuits for reading lessons,” said Ken Morris, Douglass’ great-grandson and president of Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives. “And the young students I interact with, they always get that. They’ll say, “So, Mr. Morris, what he’s telling me is that Frederick would rather feed his mind and let his stomach be emptied.” And that’s exactly what he did.

Douglass would later escape slavery, become a fierce advocate for the rights of women and people of color, write one of the most famous anti-slavery memoirs in history, and serve as an advisor to presidents, among many other accomplishments.

To explain his improbable journey from slavery to the most powerful rooms in the country, Manufacturing host Brandon Pope leads a conversation with Morris, Douglass’ Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer David Blight and Emmy Award-winning actor Jeffrey Wright, who lent his voice to Douglass for HBO extension And Apple Books.

“He is a founding father of the American conscience.” Wright said of Douglass on Manufacturing. “That’s how I see it.”

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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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