American Dream in Song of Solomon, Narrative Frederick Douglass, Life of a Slave Girl, and Push

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American Dream in Song of Solomon, Narrative of Frederick Douglass, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, and Push

In an era where "knowledge is power," the emphasis on literacy in African American texts is undeniable. Beginning with the first African American literary works, the slave narratives, through the canon's more recent successes such as Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon and Sapphire's Push, the topic of literacy is almost inextricably connected to freedom and power. A closer investigation, however, leads the reader to another, less direct, message indicating that perhaps this belief in literacy as a pathway to the "American Dream" of freedom and social and financial success is contradictory or, at least, insufficient in
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This assimilation is most apparent when Douglass leaves Baltimore:

It was to those little Baltimore boys that I felt the strongest attachment. I had received many good lessons from them, and was still receiving them. (285)

Nowhere else in his narrative does Douglass speak as emotionally about leaving family or other slaves even though the slave song perhaps offered the greatest lessons:

This they would sing, as a chorus, to words which to many would seem unmeaning a jargon, but which, nevertheless, were full of meaning to themselves. I have sometimes thought that the mere hearing of those songs would do more to impress some minds with the horrible character of slavery, than the reading of whole volumes of philosophy on the subject could do. (262)

Where his literacy awakened him to the monstrosities of slavery and the hope in the abolitionist movement, Douglass' "arduous journey to freedom and his simultaneous journey from orality to literacy" (Gates xiv), actually separates him from his African American heritage and falls short of offering the social and economic independence promised by the "American Dream". In fact, if it were not for the altruism of white community members Mr. Ruggles and Mr. Johnson, who helped Douglass choose his name, his work, and a place in their
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