Fredrerick Douglass

This essay has a total of 1199 words and 4 pages.

Fredrerick Douglass


By: Vashdev Arthur
E-mail: aceoner@hotmail.com

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave was written by
Frederick Douglass himself. He was born into slavery in Tuckahoe, Maryland, in
approximately 1817. He has, "…no accurate knowledge of my age, never having seen any
authentic record containing it" (47). He became known as an eloquent speaker for the cause
of the abolitionists. Having himself been kept as a slave until he escaped from Maryland
in 1838, he was able to deliver very passionate speeches about the role of the slave
holders and the slaves. Many Northerners tried to discredit his tales, but no one was ever
able to disprove his statements. Frederick Douglass does offer a biased review of slavery,
as he was born into it, yet even in his bias he is able to detect and detail the
differences in the slave holders cruelty and that to which he was subjected. From being
whipped and humiliated daily, "a very severe whipping… for being awkward" (101), to
being able to find his own work and save some money, "I was able to command the highest
wages given to the most experienced calkers" (134), he is able to give the reader a more
true picture of slavery. His moving speeches raised the anger of many Northerners, yet
many still felt the slaves deserved their position in life. Douglass, for his own safety,
was urged to travel to England where he stayed and spoke until 1847 when he returned to
the U.S. to buy his freedom. At that point, he began to write and distribute an
anti-slavery newspaper called "The North Star". Not only did he present news to the
slaves, but it was also highly regarded as a good source of information for those opposed
to slavery. During the Civil war, Douglass organized two regiments of black soldiers in
Massachusetts to fight for the North. Before, during and after the war he continued his
quest to free all the slaves. He became known as a fair and righteous man and was
appointed as the U.S. Minister of Haiti after holding several government offices.
Frederick Douglass has woven many themes into his narrative, all being tied with a common
thread of man's inhumanity towards man. Children were uprooted from the arms of their
mothers, "before the child has reached it's twelfth month, it's mother is taken from it"
(48) and sold to other slave holders. Brutal whippings occurred for even the smallest
imagined offense, "a mere look, word, or motion" (118), women were treated as no better
than common concubines and the slaves were forced into living quarters, "on one common
bed… cold, damp floor" (55) worse than some of the farm animals. The slaves were not
allowed even the most meager portion of food, "eight pounds of pork and one bushel of corn
meal" (54) to last a month. Clothes were scarce and illness was never tolerated. It was
unthinkable for the slaves to practice any type of religion, hold any gatherings, become
literate to any degree, "unlawful… unsafe, to teach a slave to read" (78) or even make
the simple decision of when to eat and sleep. One of the themes that the book dealt with
is society and it's handling of slavery under the guise of Christianity. Those who
professed to being the most Christian i.e., the minister who lived next door, was actually
the most cruel. Douglass stated adamantly that religion was, "a mere covering for the most
horrid of crimes, - justifier of… barbarity- sanctifier of… hateful fraud,
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