“The silver trumpet of freedom had roused my soul to eternal wakefulness.”
So Frederick Douglass describes the impact of learning to read in his autobiography. “It had given me a view of my wretched condition, without the remedy,” he writes. “It opened my eyes to the horrible pit, but to no ladder upon which to get out. In moments of agony, I envied my fellow-slaves for their stupidity.”
My son, DJ, recently used this passage as an epigraph for his college admission essay, comparing his predicament as a nonspeaking person with autism who had been taught to read and to type on a computer to that of a famous, mid-19th century American slave. What use is knowledge, DJ asks, if it can’t be developed and mobilized to improve one’s life?