Journal Entry 

 Wednesday, November 1, 2023: Frederick Douglass 

Picture of Michael Santos

Michael Santos

Subject: Frederick Douglass: A Beacon of Resilience and Influence

When I first set foot inside a prison cell, I felt a weight of uncertainty and despair. It was a world far removed from freedom, a place where dreams seemed to wither away. But a simple act of kindness from an officer changed my perspective. He handed me a book about Frederick Douglass, and as I delved into its pages, I discovered a story of resilience, determination, and the transformative power of education.

The Power of Language:

Frederick Douglass was born into the shackles of slavery, but he never let those chains define him. He realized early on that knowledge was his ticket to freedom. Learning to read and write wasn’t just about literacy; it was about empowerment. Through words, Douglass found his voice, and with it, he challenged the oppressive system of slavery.

His journey resonated deeply with me. Like Douglass, I was in a place where freedom seemed elusive. But his story inspired me to use my time in prison productively. I dedicated myself to learning, to reading, to writing, and most importantly, to influencing people with language. Over 26 years, across federal prisons of every security level, I honed these skills, drawing strength from Douglass’s legacy.

Facing the Opposition:

Frederick Douglass faced immense criticism throughout his life. Many questioned his decision to engage in dialogue with those who supported slavery. But Douglass had a profound response. He believed that to bring about change, he didn’t need to convince those who already recognized the evils of slavery. Instead, he needed to reach out to the opposition, to those whose minds needed changing.

A decade has passed since my release, and as I reflect on my journey, I often think of Douglass’s wisdom. In my efforts to bring about reform and positive change, I’ve faced my share of critics. Some question my methods, while others try to hinder my work. But like Douglass, I understand the importance of engaging with the opposition. It’s easy to preach to the choir, but real change comes when we challenge and influence those who think differently.

A Legacy of Resilience:

Frederick Douglass’s legacy is a testament to the indomitable human spirit. His life serves as a reminder that no matter the circumstances, with determination and a thirst for knowledge, we can overcome any obstacle. As I continue my work, advocating for reforms and better outcomes for those in the criminal justice system, I carry Douglass’s teachings with me. He reminds me that facing criticism is a part of the journey, and true change requires engaging with all, not just those who agree with us.

Your Challenge:

I challenge each one of you to reflect on the teachings of Frederick Douglass and apply them to your own life. Whether you’re inside a prison or out in the free world, ask yourself: How can I use my voice, my knowledge, and my influence to bring about positive change? How can I engage with those who think differently and work towards a common goal?

Join us at Prison Professors Talent. Let’s work together to document your preparations for success and show the world that change is possible. Send an invite to [email protected] and become a part of our growing community.

In conclusion, Frederick Douglass once said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” As we strive for a better future, let us embrace the struggles, draw inspiration from trailblazers like Douglass, and remain steadfast in our mission.

Michael Santos, 

founder of Prison Professors Talent

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