The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave
The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave was written by Frederick Douglass himself. He was born into slavery in Tuckahoe, Maryland in approximately 1817. He has, "…no accurate knowledge of my age, never having seen any authentic record containing it" (47). He became known as an eloquent speaker for the cause of the abolitionists. Having himself been kept as a slave until he escaped from Maryland in 1838, he was able to deliver very impassioned speeches about the role of the slave holders and the slaves. Many Northerners tried to discredit his tales, but no one was ever able to disprove his ...view middle of the document...
He became known as a fair and righteous man and was appointed as the U.S. Minister of Haiti after holding several government offices.
Frederick Douglass has woven many themes into his narrative, all being tied with a common thread of man’s inhumanity towards man. Children were uprooted from the arms of their mothers, "before the child has reached it’s twelfth month, it’s mother is taken from it" (48) and sold to other slave holders. Brutal whippings occurred for even the smallest imagined offense, "a mere look, word, or motion" (118), women were treated as no better than common concubines and the slaves were forced into living quarters, "on one common bed… cold, damp floor" (55) worse than some of the farm animals. The slaves were not allowed even the most meager portion of food, "eight pounds of pork and one bushel of corn meal" (54) to last a month. Clothes were scarce and illness was never tolerated. It was unthinkable for the slaves to practice any type of religion, hold any gatherings, become literate to any degree, "unlawful… unsafe, to teach a slave to read" (78) or even make the simple decision of when to eat and sleep.
One of the themes that the book dealt with is society and it’s handling of slavery under the guise of Christianity. Those who professed to being the most Christian i.e., the minister who lived next door, was actually the most cruel. Douglass stated adamantly that religion was, "a mere covering for the most horrid of crimes, --- justifier of… barbarity --- sanctifier of… hateful fraud, --- …protection for the slave holder" (117). "Religious slave holders are the worst" (117) because they thought it was their duty to "whip his slaves" (118). While being in the community of religious leaders, Douglass was subjected to the "meanest… most cruel" (117) of acts of one human being towards another. The slaves were kept down, belittled and whipped into submission all under the tenets of Christianity. The Rev. Weeden, Rev.
Hopkins and Mr. Freeland felt it was not only their right to own slaves, but also their God-given right to take these ‘human beings’ and turn them into hard workers. The imagined acts of transgression and the punishments mettled out smacked of Puritanism of the 1600’s. If they, as religious leaders, were the ideal citizens of society, then the slaves, who were the chaff of the wheat, must be treated as such. If the slaves
were not whipped daily, how could they ever be saved from all their imagined sins?
Not only are we allowed a chronological view of Frederick Douglass’ life, we are also privy to the growth of his emotional maturity as he explores the value of...