Friday, August 19, 2011

Some Responses to Frederick Douglass

During the course of our Frederick Douglass activity, the participants offered a range of observations about the benefits of reading Douglass’s narrative. They also identified some of the challenges.

For example, several of the students mentioned that the vocabulary and style of writing in Douglass’s narrative made the material difficult at times. Justin pointed out that “It was hard trying to understand the lingo.” Sandra also mentioned “the large vocabulary.” Olivia wrote, “I struggled with some of the vocabulary, but it is nothing that I cannot look up in the dictionary.” Cool.

I admit, though, that some of Douglass’s writing style differs in many ways from what we read on a regular basis today. I imagine that's one additional reason that the reading was sometimes tough for folks.

I was impressed with the varied and insightful responses the students offered about what they were gaining while reading. Breanna, along with a few other students, noted how reading Douglass’s narrative made it possible for us to identify differences between Douglass’s era and ours and to appreciate our current conditions a little more. Kendall observed that “understanding the abolitionist movement will help in a person's knowledge of Frederick Douglass," and Kyle, pointed out that “What I’ve read inspires me to strive and work harder just because I have the freedom that they [my ancestors] didn’t.”

Kaylnn provided powerful explanations of what she was gaining when she wrote that
While reading, I found myself to be an actual character alongside Douglass or shadowing him. His narrative definitely appeals to the emotions of its readers, which is key in writing. I found myself comparing his narrative to today's world, and I realized that although color is less determinant of slavery, we as a people still face our own less distinct, underlying bonds as well as simply being discriminated against through gender, color, stature etc. As African Americans, we will always face some type of struggle.

I'm looking forward to talking with the group next week about more responses to the book as well as what they thought about the responses provided by their classmates.

Related content:
The Frederick Douglass Summer Reading Program

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