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So many of us are taught at an early age about literacy and how it is so important to get that knowledge so it can better our future. Having the ability to read and right may not seem like a big deal to some but then think about not having the opportunity at all. What would you do? How would you resolve your daily ordeals? These authors Sherman Alexie, Frederick Douglass, and Malcolm X all have experienced similar discrimination which impacted their literacy; however, they were influenced by individuals and learned the importance of literacy, What these three men went through to get the knowledge they wanted to be free and not looked upon as just random statistically viewed color of skin people that couldn’t possibly be smart enough.
Literacy is a necessity to have and an essential part of life.
Malcolm X obtained his literacy skills while being incarcerated, though hearing him speak, you would assume he spent many years in school.
Which for Malcolm X picking up books and not knowing how to read was a foreign language. Still he continued until he got ahold of a dictionary. With this he would improve his penmanship, Malcolm X illustrates, “It was sad. I couldn’t even write in a straight line”(258). Knowing this Malcolm X began copy from the book but was astonished to see that so many words existed. His vocabulary had broadened and was able to understand what the book was about. Malcolm states, ” If I was not reading in the library, I was reading on my bunk.
You couldn’t have gotten me outta books with a wedge”(269).
Malcolm X is telling us that even though he is incarcerated he claims “I never have been so truly free in my life”(259). This is what literacy has done for Malcolm X even though he was in prison it did not matter the amount of time he had because to him he was free books gave him that freedom. Having learned how to read and write has given Malcolm X the ability to resolve his conflicts and not be left in the dark wondering what life has instore for him. Malcolm X recalls,”How is the black man going to get “civil rights” before first he wins his human rights?”(265). Believe in yourself do not settle for less everyone knows exactly what one is capable of doing and how far one will go to achieve it.
Frederick Douglass lived with the Hughs family for seven years there he was taught by his mistress how to read and write, until her husband forbid her to teach. However, this did not stop Douglass from continuing his skills to read and write. He knew he capabilities and how far he would go to succeed. He made friends with all the little white boys he met along the way and he finally learned how to read. Douglass always found time to get in his lesson of reading for the day. Until one day Douglass stated, ” You will be free as soon as you are twenty-one, but I am a slave for life”(103). This did make the little white boys feel sad but they consoled him by telling him one day he would be free.
Douglass did not want to be a slave forever. Douglass literacy skills gave him awareness of his surrounding within his status of slavery. This awakening made him feel animosity, on the other hand it gave him the desire to learn and fight for freedom. At this time of thoughts he came across a book called “The Columbian Orator” This was a dialogue about a master and his slave. The slave was speaking impressive replies to his master, so impressive that the master emancipated his slave.To exemplify Douglass recites ” I often found myself regretting my own existence, wishing myself dead; and but for the hope of being free·. While in this state of mind, I was eager to hear anyone speak of slavery. I was a ready listener. Every little while, I could hear something about abolitionists”(103). Douglass’s mindset changed from regretting his own existence to the desire and motivation to make a change in society’s human rights. His eagerness to hear about slavery made it possible to gain knowledge to conquer slavery.
Having all this knowledge of how life should be and what his rights are as a human being, why would these people just come and steal them and force them into slavery like they had no other choice? From then on the word abolitionist stuck with him but not quite yet knowing the true full meaning of it but knew enough no one wanted him to know very much about. Douglass was encouraged to run away however he chose to stay and in the meantime he would learn how to write so that he write his own pass. One day he would escape and when the time was right he would do so and know that just because people expect certain things from people of color like being a slave or not knowing how to read or write does not mean you can not learn again this is why it is so important to read and write. Never let anyone tell you how your future will be just because the color of your skin or your ethnicity.
Sherman Alexie, the indian, grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation, and most accepted the fact that they were not good enough to go to school and get an education as long as they were accepted by the other indians. Alexie also illustrates, “I remember picking up my father’s books before I could read. The words themselves were mostly foreign, but I still remember the exact moment when I first understood, with a sudden clarity, the purpose of the paragraph(12).” Even though Alexie did not know how to read it did not stop him from telling his own story of how Superman is kicking down the door, “Superman is breaking down the door(13).
This is Alexie breaking down his doors and ready to start building new ones with a good strong foundation of literacy.He was not going to let people think he was dumb when in fact he knew he was very smart. Just because he was indian does not mean he is stupid, though they were expected to be stupid and accepted by other indians after failing in the class. Alexie says, ” I refused to fail. I was smart. I was arrogant. I was lucky. I read books late into the night, until I could barely keep my eyes open(13).” Alexie knows how smart he is and does not just want to be an indian who has failed but has been accepted by the other indians, he wanted more than that and the only way to get that is to work hard at achieving this goal. Now he is a famous writer and is helping others like him become more successful in every way that he can. He has also helped others who were like him and has has shown them that they can and are smart enough to be somebody that can make a difference in others lives.
So having the ability to read and write is an essential part of life and not having these simple qualities would leave us not knowing how to resolve conflicts in our daily lives for all these struggles to go through to get what you want out of life shows great determination and the ability to prosper from having the advantage of being taught how to read and write. This is the importance of literacy and it does not matter who you are it only matters that you have obtained these skills and have done a great deal to help themselves as well as others in numerous and countless ways. I could never imagine just a tiny glimpse of what these men went through and how til this day they still have a big impact on how history can change and that it is true that one person can be that voice for many and show us what many do not see or understand.
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