Christianity in the Works of Phillis Wheatley & Frederick Douglass

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Although both authors use Christianity in their works to connect with their audience, Frederick Douglass and Phillis Wheatley go about this task in different ways. As seen in his narrative, Douglass accepts Christianity’s values, but he points blame to it as one of the means that keep African Americans enslaved. However, the same cannot be said about Wheatley’s view on the subject. She seems to embrace Christianity in its absolution in that she does not express even a hint of criticism towards it. Douglass’ narrative tries to show the difference between the cruel actions of the southern Christian slaveholders against those of the peaceful doctrine of Christianity. This can be seen several times in his work. In one of the passages he states: “In August 1832, my master experienced religion… and after his conversion found religious sanction and support for his slaveholding cruelty” (Douglass, pg. 380). With this, Douglass is using the actions of Captain Auld to illustrate his misuse of Christian ideals. He highlights that slaveholders who call themselves Christian use their beliefs as a “justifier of the most appalling barbarity – and a dark shelter under, which slaveholders find the strongest protection” (Douglass, pg. 398). By shedding light on the hypocrisy of Christian slaveholders, Douglass strives to change his audience’s outlook on slavery. In addition, the passage on page 380 also shows how Auld’s conversion to a religion based on forgiveness and peace only increases the inhumanity with which he treats his slaves because now, Auld believes he can and will be forgiven for all his offenses. Furthermore, southern Christian churches did nothing to stop the practice of slavery despite the fact that it goes against the principles preached by Christianity because they benefitted financially from their slave-based plantations.

Wheatley, on the other hand, tackles the issue of religion very dissimilarly. In order for her works to be...
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