Access Equals Democracy

Nothing has changed. For centuries, history repeats itself again and again. Though there are different characters, scenarios, and environments, the plot, the outcome, and the effects are still the same. In reading “Learning to Read and Growing in Knowledge”, “The Readers’ Strike”, and  “Frankie Mae,  I realized that these people all experienced the same story, but with different circumstances and environments. At on point in all of our lives, events  happens that can alters how we approach different situations. For example, growing up with parents verbally or physically abusing a child, that child can grow up to resent anyone who tries to harm them. It changes their perspective on love, relationship, and friendship causing them to receive communication in pessimistic way. In different cases, those children can grow up to be better than their parents were and develop a tenderhearted character. And yet again in other cases, children can grow up to be anti-social and avoid anymore hurt. In each of these articles, we see each character reflect at least one of these oppressed children.

Fredrick Douglas is a rare find. Born into slavery, and living most of his life as a slave, Douglas chose the path of stepping out over his contenders and oppressors and proving himself as an educated human being. His turning point began when his Master, Hugh Auld, “proceeded to unfold to his wife the true philosophy of the slave system, and the peculiar rules necessary in the nature of the case to be observed in the management of human chattels”. “If you give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell” continues, Mr. Hugh Auld. These words, “stirred up within [Douglas] a rebellion not soon to be allayed”. I believe from this point forward, Douglas used this encounter as fuel for his life long campaign of advocating for slaves. He would forever be proof that “knowledge is the pathway from slavery to freedom”.

José Yglesias, a cigar maker of Ybor City, the barrio of the city of Tampa, was one who decided to live with what they were used to. José and the rest of the cigar makers decided to go on strike for 3 months because they believed they we’re being oppressed by their superiors. This was more than just owners feeling as if

it was not right that these men…

should seem so to enjoy the ideas in the words of

Zola, Dickens, Cervantes, Tolstoy…so that

this very delicate labor of rolling fine cigars

might seem less tedious there in the hot sun

in the middle of a depression…

This was an attempt to censor these very absorbent minds. Minds that could come together and think together, and revolt together, and actually make change. The 3 month strike wasn’t to get paid more or to fix working conditions. It was to prove that the work has been done. The words they heard has already helped shape their minds and helped them think for themselves. However in the end, they went back to work without anyone reading to them. Their knowledge was caped out.

Frankie Mae is like those who completely shut themselves out from society after oppression. She found an outlet which was education and thinking. But one statement would forever change her drive for learning and her drive for living. “Long as you live, bitch, I’, gonna be right and you gonna be wrong. Now get your black ass outta here.” Mr. White Junior had succeeded in his version of censorship. He completely controlled her life by planting in her head nothing will change. I can just picture Frankie Mae, replaying those words day after day. Living according to what her boss had said. Her turning point turned her backwards.

The Cost of Education has created a huge gap between the wealthy class and the middle/lower class. With the increasing costs of tuition in public universities, the middle class is struggling to put their children through higher education.

This hits the middle and working classes particularly hard. Struggling families often face rough patches during which they don’t have enough cash on hand to make such payments, and so have to go to their credit cards — and pay the fees. Meanwhile, wealthy families that can afford to simply write a check upfront each month avoid both credit card fees and interest payments.

To be fair, monthly payment plans intend to help lower-income families afford college. But they have also had the unintentional consequence of creating bonuses for the wealthy and added impediments to the less well-off.

The New York Times

Who gets to go to college? The wealthy? So they can continue to produce wealthy, educated offspring? The New York Times says it the best:

Our institutions of higher learning cannot continue to offer their best deals to a privileged few. Our country needs colleges and universities to recruit and cultivate talented young people from diverse backgrounds. To do so, we must ensure that children from working families have the mechanisms not only to obtain college admission and afford to attend without compromising their studies, but also to be free to enter the economy relatively unburdened by debt.

The New York Times

The wealthy politicians and decision makers are wedging a form of censorship in front of the middle/lower class. Education is slowly becoming something that is difficult to get a hold of. Don’t we have the right to learn? Why should my future career be in jeopardy because I don’t have the funds to properly gain the knowledge necessary for that field. I am a young American. I am the future of America. One day I will decide what is necessary for the next generation. I need to be properly trained in order to make those decisions. If not, this country will rot as it is already doing. I must change was Douglas said to this, Knowledge is the pathway between today and tomorrow.


Frederick Douglass, Jose Yglesias and Frankie Mae all had one thing in common. They all had someone overlooking them whether it be a slave master, plantation owner or simply the owners of the workplace. All 3 of these overseers made them feel inferior by taking away their rights and trying to control a bit of their lives. These overseers is what made the main characters of each story come to realize that they were oppressed. At that point one has two choices in life, either to fight the oppression and come out on top or become depressed in the oppression and let it get the best of you.

Frederick Douglass talks about what he experienced as he was enslaved down south in Maryland by Mr. and Mrs. Auld. Douglass’ frequent hearing of his mistress reading the bible aloud “awakened [his] curiosity in respect to this mystery of reading and roused in [him] the desire to learn.” His mistress gladly consented to teach him how to read and soon enough Douglass was spelling words of 3 or 4 letters. So proud of Douglass as if he were her own son, she informed he husband of her accomplishment. This is where it all turned dark and gloomy. Douglass was forbidden to read and further lessons from Mrs. Auld. Mr. Auld believed “if you give a nigger an inch he will take an ell. Learning will spoil the best nigger in the world.” Douglass was already given an inch by learning the English alphabet and now he wanted the ell. Just because he was forbidden to read didn’t stop him from doing so. When he was sent on errands or when playtime was allowed he would step aside with his young white playmates and take occasional spelling lessons with his Webster’s spelling book in his pocket. Deep down he knew education would help himself out of the institution of slavery. He also knew that there had to be a reason as to why Master Auld was forbidding him to learn how to read and write. From that moment on Douglass knew the key to his freedom was educating himself. Douglass chose to fight the oppression and in the end he came out on top, becoming a free man and a successful abolitionist.

The same is not the case in Jean Wheeler Smith’s Frankie Mae. Frankie Mae was the daughter of an African American slave who worked on a plantation as timekeeper for Mr. Junior White. Mae, clever at a very early age when she handled the situation with stove money collector very smoothly, her father didn’t want her working on the plantation. Mae had a very strong desire to go to school and get educated. But that all changed when the plantation owner wanted as many hands on the field to chop the cotton. She was not able to attend school full time missing several days or even months. She was not promoted from 4th to 5th grade because she had missed so much school and couldn’t keep up with the rest of the class. One year she decided to keep a record of what they made and what they spent for her father. When her figures differed from Junior White’s she decided to speak up at the yearly end payout. White didn’t care for what she had to say and simply made her seem like a liar. “Long as you live, bitch, I’m gonna be right and you gonna be wrong. Now get your black ass outta here,” were White’s words to Frankie Mae after she tried disputing his word. From that day she lost interest in school, numbers and education. Being 15 and still in 4th grade she bore her first child. Over the next four years she had 3 more children and died giving birth to the fifth one because she bled to death and her father was short $40 to deposit at the county hospital. Frankie Mae knew from the payout day that no matter how educated she was, she was going to have no power, especially being a female and black simultaneously. That day was the death of her and her inspirations to go to school and get educated. She was oppressed and unfortunately didn’t come out on top and died in depression.

Jose Yglesias’ story is similar to Douglass’ because he stood up for what he believed. Yglesias, a cigar maker in the city of Tampa, Florida around the time of the Great Depression went on strike with his fellow workers for a one of a kind cause. They didnt go on strike beause they will “illpaid or dissatisfied with the tedium of rolling fine cigars all day in the hot sun,” but because their employers had forbidden Los Lectores from reading to the workers from the works of famous writers. They went on a 3-month strike all because no one was reading to them while they were working hard in the sun all day long. Yglesias stood up for what he believed in during very hard times. Eventually he had to go back to work because everyone was struggling to make ends meet without the Lectores reading to them.

The Digital Divide has become a topic of much interest as we emerge with new media tools everyday. The Digital Divide has one main cause: MONEY. If every country was like the United States and other countries like in Europe, there wouldn’t be a so called “Digital Divide.” But since this isn’t a golden age with prosperity throughout the world, some countries will be ahead of other countries like the developing nations and third world countries in Africa and South America. Certain countries have an advantage over others because of their specific Gross Domestic Product which is an indicator of a country’s standard of living. If every nation was rich we would all be well connected with each other. Money makes the world go round and if you don’t have money you probably cant even turn on a computer in a village in Africa. Ok maybe you might be able to turn it on but what if you in such an undeveloped area that you cant connect to the internet. So there is definitely a digital divide in the 21st century on planet Earth.

Digital Divide

– Faizan Mahmood (008)


There is not much in this life that truly belongs to us. If you get someone to see the world the way you do without them questioning your judgement that alone is a talent. In the stories of Frederick Douglas, Josey Yglesius, and Frankie Mae they were all subjected to oppression they were born into. Society set standards for minorities which made them workers who had to abide by the rules of their owners or ‘bosses’. They all blindly accepted these social norms until knowledge set in. Oppressors kept a tight hold on workers by keeping them uninformed to the world around them. In Fredrick Douglas’ story an unusual picture is painted when his masters wife nurtures him and teaches him how to read. Douglas’ master quickly reprimands his wife about her behavior and over time she too becomes disgusted by the idea of her slave being able to think for himself. Total control over someone can only be obtained when one person remains ignorant to what is going on around them. In all three readings despite the harsh work conditions, minimal to absent pay, and crude treatment these workers would have lived better lives if they were unaware of the inequalities that haunted them. Frankie Mae knew too much for her to continue living peacefully because society would not allow her to defy her boss even if she was right. Her spirit was crushed once she used her knowledge in her own defense.

Society and media seem to encourage self dependency. We look up to those who can think for themselves and convince ourselves we too are thinking on our own. With the increase of social networking and media to the public most of what we learn has been formulated by someone who may only tell us what they want us to know. People who live in apartments that don’t satisfy legal living requirements subject themselves to sickness and hardship, unaware that they are being treated unfairly. We rely on someone of higher power to educate us, feeling satisfied when information is channeled to us through pieces of paper or a computer screen. How much of it would we actually agree with if we knew the entire story? We live comfortably alongside injustice and many of us would prefer to live happily and in ignorance than enlightened and in misery.


-Alverneq Lindsay (008)

Frederick Douglass, Jose Yglesius, and Frankie Mae were three completely different people. Frederick was an African American and former slave, Jose Yglesias was a poor cigar roller, and Frankie Mae was a young African American girl and the daughter of a slave. Although they were so different they did have something in common. They all wanted to become educated and make something better of themselves but because of oppression and society it was not easy. At some points they felt like it was going to be impossible, one of them even gave up on her dreams.

Frankie Mae was a young girl who’s father forced her to work on the plantation and discouraged all of her dreams. Frankie fought to get an education and worked hard to pursue her dreams. She became discouraged when she realized even with an education people would not give even African Americans with knowledge and education a chance and gave up. She lost hope and let  society and oppression get the best of her. She was no longer interested in school or learning. Unlike Mae, Frederick and Jose did not give up on their dreams.

Frederick and Jose both seemed to be well aware of oppression. Frederick first started to learn to read from his mistress. Once his master found out it was stopped immediately but Frederick did not give up. Instead of letting his oppressor win he fought to learn to read on his own and eventually even learned to write. Jose was determined to learn and he went on strike with many other cigar makers in the factory until they were given the right to listen to lectures again. It was difficult giving up pay during their strike but they did not give in to their oppressor and society they fought with everything they had and won.

These issues can still seen all over the world today. Many people are not able to access the tools and information to help them learn due to where they live of their financial status. Their are ways to try an overcome it. Public schools are free for children and are a place for them to grow and learn. Financial aid can be given to families who have children who want to learn and go to college but can not afford it on their own. The internet is a source of education in many different ways can be accessed in a public library if people can not afford one. But there are still so many people in the world who do not have any of these resources or tools available to them and are unable to be educated because of where they live in the world. As a society we are trying to over come this and help those who do not have the resource to learn by giving them what we can to help. 

Frederick Douglass, Frankie Mae and Jose Yglesius had many struggles in their lives. Frederick Douglas was a slave, Frankie Mae was a African American that was discriminated by others and Jose Yglesius who was a hard working cigar maker. They were all hard workers for what they wanted to achieve.

In Douglas’ story he was a slave that lived in Baltimore his owner was Mr. & Mrs. Hugh. His wife had tried to teach Douglas at a young age to learn the English alphabet. Once Mr.Hugh heard as to what she was doing he was in great disappointment and rejected the idea of her teaching Douglas the slave to read and write for his own sake. Douglas realized what he can do if he can read and argued that. He kept thinking that if it was possible he would be able to get rid of his slavery life style. Even though he wasn’t allowed to read he made it possible to do so on his free time.

For Frankie Mae, she was a cheerful girl. She enjoyed going to school and learning her numbers.She even ended up proving her owner wrong with the knowledge she learned in school. But her owner still put her down and made her believe she was nothing and wrong. She had many children at a young age and still went to school until she died giving birth to her 5th child. She was still being inspired by knowledge even though she was treated the way she was as a discriminated slave.

Finally for Jose Yglesius, this happened during the Great Depression. The cigar makers were getting paid to little for the amount of work they put in to make the cigars for people. During the Great Depression many workers went on strike. The strike called ‘Huelga de los lectores’ lasted for about 3 months. The workers than went back to work because they realized that they all need the money or else everything in their lives will go even worse than it already is especially because they couldn’t change anything for the money they were getting.

So in the end as you have read every main character had realized they can achieve a goal in their lives if they learned to do something. Just like the students and citizens of New York CIty and others from all over the country that stayed out in the cold weather last year fighting for jobs and the money people need to get. People did this because they/we had realize that we needed more for what we were giving. These people were giving NYC a bad name and when the media realized they can do something more as in using the people they just did so. (As shown here) But we proved what we were trying to say to the world just like these people from the stories did even though it wasn’t as enough.

Frederick Douglass, Frankie Mae, and José Yglesias all expressed the desire to learn but were presented with obstacles which prevented them to do so. Frederick Douglass was a slave who was taught how to read by his mistress, Mrs. Sophia who was very affectionate and different from other slaveholding mistresses. However, soon, Mrs. Sophia stopped teaching Douglass because her husband’s disapproval who believed that “if you give a nigger an inch he will take ell” (69). This caused Mrs. Sophia to have changed attitudes toward Douglass but Douglass was still determined to learn how to read and write. Douglass became friends with the white boys on the street who taught Douglass how to spell, and soon he was able to read books. Similarly, Fannie Mae lived under oppression and struggled to attain education. Frankie Mae, an African American girl wished to attend school but was unable to go for so too long because Mr. White Junior, the owner of the plantation wanted as many hands to chop cotton. This caused Frankie to fall behind in school but she did have enough education to take account of the family’s expenses. Towards the end of year, when Frankie and her father went to settle their account with Mr. White Junior, Frankie presented her figures which differed from Mr. White Junior’s. Mr. White Junior was very angered by Frankie’s insistence and opposition which caused Mr. White Junior to almost pick up his pistol. From that moment, Frankie realized the oppressive and discriminatory society she was living in; thus, she lost hope and stopped going to school. Additionally, José Yglesias, a cigar maker understood the oppression he was living under when lecterns were torn down and the cigar rollers were prevented from hearing literature from the los lectores. The cigar rollers sat under the sun for the several hours earning low wages and finally decided to go on strike for three months in the midst of the Great Depression.

Douglass and Yglesias resisted the oppression they were faced with; whereas, Frankie gave up hope. For instance, cigar makers left their work because “their employees had forbidden men to read to them from the works of famous writers all bound in thick expensive volumes” (Ross 84); they stood up for what loved in a oppressive society during a difficult time to prove their point. Furthermore, Douglass motivated to learn how to read and after even after his mistress stopped teaching him—his persistence is commendable. On the other hand, Frankie was fed up with being discriminated against and oppressed that she quit going to school and got married at an early age. Though, Douglass, Yglesias, and Mae’s experiences differ, they all possessed the thirst to learn.

There are several parallels in contemporary and one of them is redlining and this act is done through the web. Credit card and insurance companies are hiring date aggregation companies to look at people’s Facebook posting and Google searches! It’s ridiculous how if “you’ve looked at guitar ads or sent an email to a divorce lawyer might cause a data aggregator to classify you as less credit-worthy” (Mazzuca 2012). For instance, an Atlanta man’s credit limit had been lowered to $3,800 from $10,800 after he had come back from his honeymoon. On the other hand, in 2010, had a system in which it presented suburban, college-educated baby boomers were presented with a policy between $2 million and $3 million and those who were recognized as working-class seniors were presented with polices wort $250,000. These market strategies are not considered illegal but do invade a person’s privacy and one cannot argue against the company once they are “weblined.”—-on-the-web?t=commercial-business

-Monika Kumar

Even though Frederick Douglass, John Ross, and Frankie Mae had different stories, they were all oppressed because they were part of the minorities. In those times, they did not have access to the same media as we do today such as computers, cell phones etc. Their form of media was the power of being educated. Frederick Douglass who was a former slave was at the beginning taught to read by his mistress but then was stopped by the master. This did not discourage Douglass to discontinue reading. He came to the realization that education was the pathway from slavery to freedom and continued learning secrecy with the help of his young white playmates. Douglass’s master believed that “education and slavery were incompatible with each other” and if he had access to this form of media (education) he would run away. Depriving Douglass of education forced Douglass to remain part of the minority and stay as a slave.

Similarly with John Ross, the workers we oppressed as well. Those who rolled expensive cigars with their hands held a strike not because they were paid poorly for their tedious job but because they were not allowed to be read works of famous writers. The workers fought for their rights to be somewhat educated through listening to famous , inspiring  and educated writers. By depriving the workers of this, it reinforces the fact that they are minorities and do not deserve the same privileges such as education that higher class-men do

Unlike Douglass and Ross,  Frankie Mae did not fight for what she wanted. Though Mae’s dream was to learn, she was discouraged by her father who made her work on the plantation and as well as from the realization that even if she were educated, she was powerless because she was black. She gave up on her dream and died at a young age. These sort of oppression still exist in today’s society with the Digital Divide. There is inequalities between groups of people who have or do not have access or knowledge to certain privileges such as the internet (media). For example, there are different economic classes that exist today which deprives them from “growing” at the same speed as those with higher economic status. As a society as a whole, we should fight this “oppression” just like Douglass and Ross tried to fight for their dream.

– Della Mizrahi