Motivation and Willpower of Frederick Douglass, Sherman Alexie, and Malcolm X

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People often face educational problems, whether it’s a social problem or a learning disability. Something is always on our way of getting the knowledge and education. It could be our friends, family, the environment around us, or finances. Some people give up trying to educate because they lose their motivation, willpower, or maybe self-esteem. Others like Frederick Douglass, Sherman Alexie, and Malcolm X face the problem and deal with it until the goal is reached. Sherman Alexie was an Indian student. Native Americans had a stereotype of being stupid because nobody was inspired to go against everyone and stand out to be different than others and draw attention! Alexie fought a stereotype against Native Americans who were claimed as students who failed in most aspects of education.

Frederick Douglass was a slave. Teaching blacks back then was constituted an offense. Frederick would listen to people talking and find out new words to educate himself. Watching ship carpenters write single letters on lumber is how he learns to form several letters. He would practice his letters on fences, walls, and the ground around the city. Malcolm X was a dropout who ended up in prison. He educated himself by copying down a dictionary even with the limited light source. Eventually, his vocabulary got better, and he was reading books from the prison library and getting better knowledge. All three authors were educated against the odds by having their motivation, being open-minded, and having willpower.

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Motivation as a Driving Force:

Without motivation, there would be no way of advancing in life. Motivation is something that the three authors had in common. It kept them going as humans toward a better future. If they did not have motivation, they would be distracted by many of the challenges they face in life, and it would keep them occupied and scared from learning. Alexie was motivated to go against the odds to prove to everyone that the stereotype of Native Americans was a lie. He was motivated to educate himself to get out of the reservation and to become a writer. Malcolm X could say something, but he could not write it down.

At prison, he met Bimbi, a guy who shocked him with his knowledge. After that power of knowledge, he started to think that he could educate himself in prison since he had a lot of free time. It was a big motivation to be knowledgeable. Once started to write down all the words from the dictionary with meanings. He realized that there are so many words that exist. Frederick Douglass was motivated to read by hearing his master expressing himself about the education of slaves. His master told him that an education would benefit him and unfit him as a slave. He believed that if a slave can read and write, then the slave is unmanageable. Douglass discovered that the white man’s power against a slave was in his literacy and education. That motivated Douglass to educate himself against the odds of slavery and to set himself free.

The Role of Open-Mindedness:

Open-mindedness is what allows us to educate ourselves. If one doesn’t have an open mind, then that person can’t learn simply because there may be a point that contradicts and challenges our beliefs. If we are not open to listening, then we can not pursue proper education. Sherman Alexie was open-minded by choosing another way out. He explored the options of being different and saving her life. Alexie showed us that other option and proved that it is possible for people to succeed even when they are told otherwise. Frederick Douglass defeated ignorance and opened his mind up to great treasures of knowledge that could set him free. While Malcolm X was in prison, he opened his mind to the horror of people who have bigger struggles to educate themselves. People with disabilities who are blind or deaf or, back then, people who were slaves. He opened his mind, and he saw the treasure that a lot of people wish to have is the opportunity for education.

The Power of Willpower:

Willpower is the determination that drives us to do what we want. Without willpower, one can not learn to get an education because it will not be in a person’s field of interest. All three authors had the willpower to educate themselves against the odds, fighting slavery and stereotypes and understanding a benefit they have. If none of them had at least some willpower, then none of them would have made it where they are now. It helped them survive; it helped them fight, and it gave them a future.

Inspiring Others Through Triumph:

Frederick Douglass, Sherman Alexie, and Malcolm X are amazing people. They had motivation, they were open-minded, and they had willpower. All these qualities gave them a future and gave us an opportunity to be inspired by them. They fought the odds of education not only for themselves but also for us. Douglass showed us that you can set yourself free by using education. Alexie told us that you can beat a stereotype. Malcolm X showed us the beauty and treasure of education and knowledge. All three authors are trying to motivate us for the future, open our minds to options and opportunities, but also show us the will that others suffer for.


  1. Douglass, F. (1845). Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Retrieved from Project Gutenberg:
  2. X, M., & Haley, A. (1965). The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Grove Press.
  3. Alexie, S. (2007). The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

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Motivation and Willpower of Frederick Douglass, Sherman Alexie, and Malcolm X. (2023, Aug 30). Retrieved from

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