The Most Influential African-American Writer of the Nineteenth-Century Author RUID: XX-XXX-8426 4/22/2009
This 5-page essay intends to show the reasons why Frederick Douglass’s recognition should not only be as one of the most famous, and prominent African-American writers of the nineteenth-century; but also as one of the most influential political, and social leaders in American History.
"If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and Page | 1 physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." - Frederick Douglass (1857) A timeless statement made by a man considered a literary genius, a literary savant, even someone guided by divine intervention. Someone whose critics called a liar, and doubted he could ever write in such eloquent, and intelligent way; only because at one point in his life he had been a slave. Someone whose literary influence reached so deep into the minds of its readers, that it helped, and still helps shape the course of American history. This is why Frederick Douglass’ recognition should go beyond being only a great writer; it should also include being the most influential African-American writer and socio-political figure of his time. It is possible that someone’s journey through life, beginning as a child who rose from the subjugations of slavery and its innocent benightedness, to a free man shaping the socio-political landscape of a nation under the resplendent shroud of knowledge may seem to some quotidian enough, and facile to accomplish. Anyone can write a book invoking the ethos, and pathos of its readers to change history. Surely!, sounds easy!, not exactly. Therefore, it is important to realize that Mr. Douglass in his own right was indeed a genius, and perhaps even guided by divine intervention. His life as a slave begins even before he is born, condemned to be separated from his mother before his twelve months of age – a practice used in the part of Maryland where he was born to guarantee that no family bonds were developed between mother and child. He writes...“ For what this separation is done, I do not know, unless it is to hinder the development of the child’s affection for the mother, and to blunt and destroy the natural affection of the mother for the child. This is the inevitable result.” (NOTLOFD, 859), it is not long after being separated from his mother that he is exposed to the harsh realities of his conditions. He writes about first hand eyewitness accounts of horrible beatings, and whippings that all of the slaves including him are subject to sometimes on a weekly, but never less than in a monthly basis. In addition to the constant physical torture and bondage he endures, he is able to grow up like all other slave children “He wears nothing but a shirt-not the trousers that should symbolize his Rutgers University – Newark NJ
maleness, not shoes to protect his feet, nothing to differentiate him from others of his kind. Like the other children he eats cornmeal from a trough on the floor, thus as he notes treated like a pig, and reduced to animality”(857). Even against this horrible background, Douglass is able to maintain his faith in God; and Page | 2 as he writes numerous times through divine-intervention, the prayers and curses of his fellowslaves become reality. Such as the time when “Severe” one of the most vicious overseers dies – at an early age - and his death is seen by his victims as an intervention by the hand of God; for at last they would no longer have to endure his “fiendish thirst for blood”. (863). Besides manifestations like this throughout his narrative, the...