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Frederick Douglass’s and Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiographies


The overall situation in America from a political, educational, and religious was distinguishable. Benjamin Franklin and Frederick Douglass were iconic American figures able to accomplish their life goals and express their life road through their biographies. Through the reading of the book, the similarities between the two have been noticed. This article will point out the religion and importance of education. Despite the generally held conservative ideals of many, Benjamin Franklin and Frederick Douglass expressed religious beliefs in their books that were revolutionary for their time periods. Franklin was a Deist, who believed that God does not intervene with the affairs of human life and the natural laws of the universe. While Douglass was a Christian, he disagreed with the traditional notion of Christianity at that time. By going against the grain, both men risked becoming public enemies. In parallel, the experiences that changed both Franklin and Douglas had to do with the importance of education in enabling people to better themselves.

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Both stated in their literature reasonable reasons that justified their s beliefs. Benjamin Franklin and Frederick Douglas were socially and politically ground-breaking yet still reached popularity and success due to their education and careful handling of religion.

Benjamin from his childhood closely looked narrowly at everything that was surrounding him, trying to understand the essence of any unclear phenomena. To read and write Benjamin has learned independently at the age of five, observing as the senior brothers and sisters prepare for lessons. Benjamin was defined in a school where he was taught writing and arithmetic.

Franklin wrote in his autobiography that he did not remember a time when he was not able to read. For all his life the love of reading has remained the strongest passion of Franklin and the most important source of exploring the world and expanding his knowledge. Greater knowledge of the most various aspects of the sciences acquired by Franklin was a result of self-education and first of all readings. Franklin was a genius self-educated person. Everything, that he knew, was self-education, and he studied all his life.

It can be seen that the success of Benjamin Franklin was not based on the formal idea to bring the kids to school but from a personal thirst to acquire knowledge and self-education as a system was part of the self-made concept in which he stresses the importance of education for self-improvement. Indeed, it was because of the fact that he had such great access to books through his induction into the printer’s trade that he was able to foster his love of books and learning and to begin to develop the persuasive rhetorical skills that would aid him not only in writing but also in oratory.

Without this love of books and learning being instilled in him, Franklin could have never become the great thinker, speaker, author, and statesmen that he was to become

Frederick’s way to education was more difficult, his first steps in learning as a child to read were in converting his white friends to the teacher. Switching places and periods he succeeded in learning to read, a practice he followed whenever he got the chance.

In reading, he acquired the source for information which inspired him to change his world exploration. He mentions a book called “The Columbian orator” which he admits that he used to read, and there was a master-slave dialogue in the book which he found interesting. It can be noticed that this book and this dialogue, in particular, started a wave of revolt which led him to attempts to change the reality.

We see that both changes in the lives of both men who are coming from low origins, who, against all odds, break out of their inherited social position, come out of education as a first step, they both struggled in a way or another obtaining this knowledge which helped them climb their social ladder and create new identities for themselves.

As for the religious matter, Franklin was raised as a Presbyterian and was well educated in Christianity. He had problems, however, with the parts of Christianity that he disagreed with and/or did not understand, such as reprobation. To solve these matters Franklin constructed his own set of religious beliefs and became a Deist. Franklin’s ability and confidence to create his own points of view not connected to the Christian church shows his confidence and the creative way of thinking he had. In Addition, it also shows his political creativity. Portion II of the autobiography, the part that discusses religion, was written for a very public audience. Being sure that most of the people will judge him according to his book, Franklin needed to convey that his religion that did not oppose his scientific discoveries. At the same time, he did not want to scare religious readers.

According to his Deist beliefs, Franklin contends that the “most acceptable Service of God was the doing Good to Man” (80). In saying this, Franklin emphasizes a belief in God but shows that working to progress humanity was more important than the simple submission to God.

The Christian masses could not oppose such values, and as a result, oppose Franklin. Thus, he was able to make scientific and social progress while remaining widely popular.

Similar to Franklin, Frederick Douglass held progressive religious views that had the potential to Christianity. Instead of showing kindness towards their slaves, Christian slaveholders were more brutal masters. The presentation Douglass shows the real Christianity is not what Christianity stood for at this time. After listing the positive attributes of the real Christianity that Douglass supports, such as kindness towards all, it would be nearly impossible for the average reader to condemn his religious beliefs. Douglass, like Franklin, presented his religious views in a way that would promote his goals while making it difficult for readers to oppose his beliefs.


Both Franklin and Douglass masterfully did not alienate themselves from the Christian masses despite holding radical religious viewpoints for their respective time periods. The two American heroes stood by religious viewpoints that coincided with their social and political goals. Both believed that the foundation of religion was a kindness to humanity, and that love for thy neighbor superseded religious details and semantics. In this way, both men remained connected to a core belief in Christianity while still leaving the door open to social progress. Both of them promoted education as the key to success in life. Both of the men found that the books were their first teachers and educators. And at last, we can say that Benjamin Franklin and Frederick Douglas are self-made men who left a great trace in American history and their biographies are a great tool for inspiration to success.

Works cited

Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Chapel Hill, NC: 1999.

Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography and Other Writings. New York: Penguin Classics, 2003.


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