The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

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Joseph Wooten
Ets101
Tuesday, Thursday 11:00 to 12:20

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, was the first of the three autobiographies that Frederick Douglass wrote himself. It’s a story about slavery and the meaning of freedom of the antebellum America. According to The Free Dictionary, Slavery is defined as the state or condition of being a slave; a civil relationship whereby one person has absolute power over another and controls his life, liberty, and fortune (freedictionary.com). Frederick Douglass’s book is about a bondage he obtained since birth; a slave for life. He was separated from his mother, Harriet Bailey, at birth and knew his father was white male. He lived on the “Great House Farm” plantation for his younger years; this is where he saw his first violent act towards a slave. Douglass went through many ups and downs. At the age of seven, he was moved to another house where he first learned reading and writing. However, He was beaten brutally so he can be “broken” into a good disciplined slave. Douglass describes many elements in his narrative; Douglass explains how slaveholders were able to sustain themselves with their actions. Frederick describes the ways the slaves stayed where they were and did not attempt to escape. He also addresses a number of myths created by slaves and slaveholders that he wishes to prove wrong. In the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Frederick Douglass describes the ways a slaveholder sustain their actions, ways a slave was kept from escaping and proves the myths of slaves and slaveholders wrong. Slaveholders had a number of ways to justify themselves for their actions according to Douglass. One way they justify themselves for their actions was that slaves were lower than animals. Douglass elaborates the treatment of the slaves as animals through the sleeping conditions. On Colonel Lloyd’s farm, they receive their monthly food and clothing. Along with these, they get their ‘bed’; a coarse blankets that only the men and women were able to obtain. By the end of the day, slaves were too tired to worry about not having a real bed; slaves “old and young, male and female, married or single, dropped down side by side, on one common bed, the cold damp floor, --- each covering himself or herself with their miserable blankets (17).” Another way they were treated like animals were how they were fed. Their food was given to the kids like pigs; a large wooden tray and it was devoured without spoons but with their hands. Their food was also similar to animal food; “coarse corn meal” (16). All in all, slave holders treated slaves below humans and even worse like animals. The second way they justify themselves was by brutally beating them. Slaveholders had men to look over the plantation as overseers. The overseers were brutal; they beat all their slaves for reasons or even worse for no reason. Douglass had seen his own aunt whipped for just for being too loud from her whipping. “The louder she screamed, the harder he whipped; and where the blood ran fastest, there he whipped longest. He would whip her to make her scream, and whip her to make her hush; (13).” Masters and overseers whipped them because it was their duty as a master to do so; they wanted to remind the slave of his master’s power. They were whipped for small accounts to prevent larger ones. On Colonel Lloyd, whipping by the overseers were at their finest here; “if a slave was convicted of any high misdemeanor, became unmanageable, or evinced a determination to run away, he was brought immediately here (16).” In summary, they brutally beat and whipped slaves to make sure the slaves who knew were in charge. The third way they justify themselves was by using Christianity. Slaveholders found a strong protection for their ways through religion. As mentioned above, masters would beat their slaves; they defended themselves with a bible verse. When Douglass was living at...
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