Slavery and Douglass

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1. Who was Frederick’s father? Who was his mother and did he really have a relationship with her? Pages 16-17
Frederick’s father was a white man. Interestingly, Frederick’s father was also his slave master. His father did not acknowledge him as his son. His mother was named Harriet Bailey. Harriet was the daughter of Isaac and Betsey Bailey, who were both colored. Frederick never really saw his mother. The only time he did see her was at night and only for a short period of time. She worked for Mr. Stewart, whose home was about 12 miles away. Each time she visited Frederick she had to walk the distance to reach him. Frederick even claims that very little communication ever took place between them. She died when Frederick was seven years old. He was not allowed to be present during her illness, death, or burial. Frederick compared his mother’s death to that of a stranger’s death.

The relationship between Frederick and his mother oddly can be related to relationships seen today in single-parent families. Douglass’ mother had no way of supporting her son and at the time, she was enslaved on a ranch not within short walking distance. Douglass’ was greatly inhibited by the lack a motherly figure in his life. If his father had been a different kind of man who was willing to love and appreciate his son, then he could have made a huge difference in Douglass’ life. The fact that Douglass’ father was emotionally absent from his life put all of that weight onto his mother’s shoulders. Single-parent families today suffer similar struggles. Single-parenting today unfortunately comes with financial stress, pressure, and a lack of support. Poverty and crime are statistically two common outcomes resulting from single parent families. 2. What does Frederick say about miscegenation?

Page 22
Douglass is an avid supporter of miscegenation. He is quoted saying, “The future of the Negro therefore is . . . that he will be absorbed, assimilated, and it will only appear finally . . . in the features of a blended race.” He does not see the difference in race, and assumes that eventually all races will become blended. In other words, we are all one.

This topic directly corresponds with ignorant comments regarding mixed couples today. Surprisingly, people have still not accepted interracial couples. Some people actually claim that they are not racist; they simply do not think it is right to put a black person and a white person together. This is an absurd statement, along with absurd it is in fact, very racist.

3. What did Douglass say about the singing of slaves?
Page 26
Douglass states that even as a slave himself, he has never understood the meaning of those ‘rude’ songs. He finds slave songs incredibly depressing and unbearable to witness. Douglass even claims that he has found himself almost in the midst of tears while listening to the slaves sing. I find it rather interesting that the slave songs depress Douglass; I had always assumed slave songs were performed in order to help motivate the slaves in their work and push through the long day. Douglass describes how the slaves only sing of their woes. Each song involved some sort of prayer or complaint. These songs were a plea for freedom. Every word and tone was a testimony against slavery. These songs begged for freedom and prayed for release from their everyday anguish. Instead of being encouraged by the words of each song, Douglass felt as if his spirit was depressed each and every time he heard any slave song.

One of the most powerful statements Douglass makes regarding slave songs is when he describes how he feels writing about it in his actual narrative. Douglass says, “The mere recurrence to those songs, even now, afflicts me; and while I am writing these lines, an expression of feeling has already found its way down my cheek”. This is a profound statement. Douglass, even as he is writing this very narrative, finds himself crying...
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