My Bondage, My Freedom

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Essay: My Bondage, My Freedom

First published in 1855, this book tells the story of Fredrick Douglass' life first as a slave, then as a fugitive, and finally as a free man working to free the rest of the slaves in the American South from bondage. My Bondage and My Freedom is widely considered to be one of the most historically influential documents produced in the midst of the abolitionist movement. Written by a former slave, the memoir served as a moving argument against the inhuman institution of slavery in American history. In this essay, I plan to expound upon occurrences in the book, the political climate of the era,

My Bondage, My Freedom shows Douglas was a very well educated man who could write very well, and engage his readers with his stories of his life and troubles. He shows what it is like to be a slave; how violent and unfair the masters can be. Douglas also portrays Black people as capable of anything, which many white people did not believe at the time.

Fredrick Douglass has gone down in American History as one f the greatest minds in history. Within this book, he did not resort to arguments of reason or philosophy in the work in an attempt to illustrate the immorality of slavery, as many other scholars may have done. Instead, perhaps because of his education and natural intelligence, coupled with a keen awareness of public sensibility, he refrained from attacking those responsible for using slaves, as well as those responsible for supporting the institution, itself. Instead, recognizing the limitations of his time and dominant social culture, he used the device of emotion to convey the brutality to the sympathetic part of his reader's psyches.

In My Bondage My Freedom, Douglass is separated from his mother, Harriet Bailey, soon after he is born and is raised by his grandparents. Much like that of Harriet Jacobs, the author of Life As A Slave Girl, Douglass life on the plantation is not as harsh during his early childhood. Young Fredrick grows on one of the many plantations owned by a heartless man named Colonel Lloyd. Life on any of Lloyd’s plantations, like that on many Southern plantations, is brutal. Slaves are overworked and exhausted, receive little food, few articles of clothing, and no beds. Those who break rules, and even those who do not, are beaten or whipped, and sometimes even shot by the plantation overseers, the cruelest of which are Mr. Severe and Mr. Austin Gore. At the age of seven, he is given to Captain Anthony’s son‑in‑law’s brother, Hugh Auld, who lives in Baltimore. There, Douglass enjoys a relatively freer life. In general, city slave-owners are more conscious of appearing cruel or neglectful toward their slaves in front of their non‑slaveowning neighbors. Sophia Auld, Douglass' masters wife, has never had slaves before, and she is surprisingly kind to Douglass at first. She even begins to teach Douglass to read, until her husband orders her to stop, saying that education makes slaves unmanageable. Eventually, Sophia succumbs to the mentality of slaveowning and loses her natural kindliness. Though Sophia and Hugh Auld become crueler toward him, Douglass still takes advantage of his new-found resources and is able to teach himself to read with the help of local boys. As he learns to read and write, Douglass becomes conscious of the evils of slavery and of the existence of the abolitionist movement. At the peak of his clarvoyance, Douglass' master dies and Fredrick is taken back to serve Thomas Auld, Captain Anthony’s son‑in‑law. Auld is mean spirited and heartless. Auld considers Douglass unmanageable, so Auld rents him for one year to Edward Covey, a man known for “breaking” slaves. Covey manages, in the first six months, to work and whip all the spirit out of Douglass. Douglass becomes a brutish man, no longer interested in reading or freedom, capable only of resting from his injuries and exhaustion. During a pivitol point in the book, Douglass has the fight of his...
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