Benjamin Franklin and Frederick Douglass were different men of different skin color. One had white privilege but wanted more than what he was born into. The other, an african American with no other choice at the time then to do what was demanded of him. These men were from two different sides of the spectrum but both looking for a more promising life for themselves. Education is one similarity they share. Reading and writing, would give them the stepping stones they needed to strive in their life.
They both started off as a young man running away or escaping the inevitable fate their family had made for them. Through it all, at the end of their time, the two are remembered as famous leaders due to their hard work and self motivation.
Franklin was the 15th of 17 children, born into a soap and candle making family. He didn’t like this trade, he didn’t want to be who they were.
Franklin wanted more for himself. He loved reading early on and became an apprentice at the age of 12 with his brother James, who was a printer. The two brothers often disagreed, and Franklin quit before his contract was up. He went to New York and then to Philadelphia to look for work. Franklin opened a printing shop with a man he trained, then later bought his share and would be in business by himself. He was not a self-indulgent man, like others he knew. He read in his spare time and didn’t go into taverns or gamble away his earnings.
Franklin analyzed a method for self-improvement, to form moral perfection. A list of thirteen virtues he wanted to master and unlearn bad habits. These included temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity, and humility. This was not easy, but he was determined to succeed. Benjamin Franklin became a man with many hats, an author, printer, politician, scientist, inventor, civic activist, and diplomat. He founded many civic organizations but because he loved reading he wanted to contribute to the spread of literacy by establishing the first public library in Philadelphia.
Literacy played an important role for Fredrick Douglas as it did for Benjamin Franklin. Douglass was the son of a slave and a slave owner. White slave owners often raped slave women, to satisfy their sexual needs and to expand slave populations. He witnessed brutal beatings and a murder of a slave. These hypocritic Christian slave owners would justify their hateful treatment of slaves to religious teachings. Douglass also draws attention to the false system of values created by slavery, in which the loyalty to slave masters are stronger than loyalty to other slaves. At an elementary age, a white masters wife, Mrs. Auld, gives Douglass reading lessons until her husband intervenes. Although he is sent elsewhere after, he has learned enough to be able to teach himself later, as well as learn to write. He’s eager to learn because he realizes that illiteracy gives white men power over slaves. Douglass continues learning by trading bread for lessons with poor neighborhood white boys and using children’s books. With his education, he teaches others to read and write. He describes the conditions in which he and other slaves live, cold and little to no wages. Some slaves he lived with suggested the notion that slaves who sing are content; instead, he likens singing to crying, a way to relieve sorrow. Douglass finds a family among the other slaves and becomes a Sunday school teacher to other slaves, a position he enjoys. Although this situation is better than any he has experienced, it was still not freedom and he escapes. As Douglas gets older, he fights back and stands up for himself. He becomes proficient in ship caulking. Douglass attended an anti-slavery convention, where he is encouraged to speak. This forms the beginning of being in the public eye, speaking and writing in favor of the abolition of slavery.
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