Frederic Douglas Slave Songs

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Essay #1 (A)

The lyrics of songs inspire people to think and do many things. Today, songs expressing the quality of being beautiful and important in society can be found. Songs encouraging love and taking chances within oneself and others are listened to. None the less, there exists songs expressing hatred, anger, sorrow, and feelings of desolation. Lyrics are limitless, they simply express that of the person's internal emotions. Songs can convey a misunderstanding or an unclear interpretation. Much like the lyrics of today, slave songs conveyed a deep and heart-wrenching message, that to many listeners, were never quite understood. Songs are simply an expression of truth. In an environment which otherwise punished truth, slave songs were a subversive way to communicate the truthfulness of both sorrow and refusal to abandon hope. In Douglas' narrative the slave songs express the hatred of slavery, dehumanization of the victims, and were often misinterpreted by Northerners.

Douglas expresses his concern that listeners interpreted the slaves as happy and singing because of delight. If only the Northerners caught a glimpse of the lives the slaves led and melted their obdurate hearts, they would freeze in agony at the pain and cries for help which are expressed in the songs.

" I have often been utterly astonished, since I came to the North, to find persons who could speak of the singing among slaves as evidence of their contentment and happiness. It is impossible to conceive of a greater mistake. Slaves sing when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart, and is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears." ( Douglass, Chapter II, p. 281).

Slaves were never allowed to come together to discuss the cruel and unjust treatment their masters gave them. They could never speak of the truths of the evil society they lived in. In engulfing in spirituals and songs they were...
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