I read both Learning to Read and A Double Standard by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. These poems spoke of the prejudice from two points of views, from a black’s point of view and a woman’s, and what I noticed off the bat was how important reading and writing was for Frances Ellen Watkins Harper.
In Learning to Read a sixty-year old black man is trying to learn how to read. While the others around him tell him to give up and that reading is not important to someone of his age he still proceeds to learn to read. At that point I asked myself why. Why would a sixty-year old man want to learn how to read? And I figure the answer is simple, he wanted to learn how to read because he did not want to be ignorant anymore. One of the methods slave owners used to keep blacks under their control was to keep them ignorant. I believe that what the old man thought was, if he learned how to read and lost the ignorance that once plagued his mind, he would never be enslaved ever again. Not in mind or body. The old man says in the poem, “So I got a pair of glasses, and straight to work I went, and never stopped till I could read the hymns and Testament. Then I got a little cabin – a place to call my own – and I felt as independent as the queen upon her throne” (Harper 162).
In A Double Standard Harper showed the importance of the written word. In that time period a woman did not have the same worth as a man. The words they spoke were meaningless. But these words in this poem are powerful. Written words, especially in this time period were the most powerful words. They lasted throughout the ages. For example, the most meaningful symbol that we have in America, are not the monuments or the great cities, but one single paper, the Constitution; past down through the ages more powerful than the spoken word. Harper knew this and showed the importance of words in this poem, hoping that men would see this double standard they made and just give women a chance to be heard.The poems by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper show the importance of reading and the written word. In that time period reading and writing was very important. Reading allowed you to be independent and writing allowed your words to be heard.
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