The Black Church


Cornerstones | The Reader

The Reader risked his life to bring to the whole Church what should have never been prohibited.

In this short animated series, Cornerstones: Found Voices of the Black Church, we look at just a few pivotal people who brought the reality of the right to gather, read, sing, worship and share these truths that should have always been self-evident.

AIRED: February 09, 2021 | 0:02:20

- [Narrator] Once you learn to read,

you will be forever free.

When I was 12, my master's wife taught me the alphabet.

I learned quickly, and so did she.

If you give a slave an inch, he will take a mile.

Reading will only make him miserable

for freedom and unfit to be a slave.

She had never owned a slave

and didn't know we weren't supposed to be educated.

Slavery quickly turned her tender heart to stone

and I was forbidden to learn, but it was too late.

In teaching me the alphabet, she had given me the inch

and nothing could prevent me from taking the mile.

I traded bread to poor white boys

in the neighborhood for reading lessons,

but learning did exactly what my master had predicted.

Reading opened my eyes to the horrible pit

of my enslaved condition and left me no ladder to get out.

I was miserable for freedom.

I envied my fellow slaves for their ignorance,

hated my masters, and wished in my loneliness, to be dead.

But then I heard a friend say the words,

"We are all sinners, slaves, and free in the sight of God."

The words, "Repent and be reconciled to God through Christ."

The words, "Cast all your care on God."

I had escaped, still a slave, but free.

Free from the hate, free from the fear,

and free to read again.

I taught my friend how to read the Bible

and he taught me the spirit,

and then, I escaped my last slavery

to teach the free men and the slaves

what had been taught to me.

For the rest of my life as a preacher, writer, speaker,

and statesmen.

I am Frederick Douglass, the reader,

and I am a branch grafted on the tree of the church.

Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.

(wind rushes)