The Impact of Frederick Douglas
The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave was written by Frederick Douglass himself, a runaway slave who had learned to read and wrote against his masters’ wishes. Within this narrative, Douglass speaks of many aspects of slavery that he has either seen or experienced for himself throughout his life before freedom; for example, he describes how many hours the slaves worked, general violence towards slaves, and the relationship between master and slave. Many other writers from different perspectives have evaluated these aspects of slavery in a different light. For example Thomas Dew, who contradicts the claims that Frederick Douglas makes in his autobiography. Many readers believe that the purpose of Douglas’ story is for conveying abolitionist ideas and supporting the removal of slavery. Because of the possibility of Douglass’ bias account, the accuracy of his evidence and individual stories are called into question; a comparison between Douglass’ discussion of the aspects of the slaves’ lives and other sources written, including Dew and textbooks with facts about this time period assist in assessing the accuracy of Douglass’ interpretation of slavery. Regarding the number of hours that Douglass claims the slaves worked, he is not pleased with the amount of hours they work in the fields. He says “We were often in the field from the first approach of day till its last lingering ray had left us; and at saving-fodder time, midnight often caught us in the field binding blades” (Page 44). Douglass’ claim here is that the slaves had worked from when the sun had rose, until the sun was completely gone from view. The textbook Out of Many: A History of the American People, quotes slaves as describing their work hours as “can see to can’t see”(Out of Many, 319). This implies they worked from sunrise to sunset, or about eighteen hours during the summer and ten hours during the winter. This agrees and for the most...
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