Essay on The Dehumanization Of African American Slaves By Frederick Douglass

Essay on The Dehumanization Of African American Slaves By Frederick Douglass

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Frederick Douglass’ landmark narrative describes the dehumanization of African-American slaves, while simultaneously humanizing them through his moving prose. Douglass shows the dehumanization of slaves through depictions of violence, deindividuation, and the broken justice system. However, Douglass’ pursuit of an education, moving rhetoric, and critique of his own masters demonstrates to the reader that African-Americans are just as intelligent as white people, thus proving their humanity.
Throughout the narrative, Douglas gives numerous examples of the dehumanizing violence towards slaves by their masters and overseers. This violence is explicitly described in Douglass’ depiction of Master Colonel Lloyd and his overseer, Austin Gore. Lloyd would make “a man between fifty and sixty years of age, uncover his bald head, kneel down [and receive more than thirty lashes at a time]”. Gore would “torture the slightest look, word, or gesture” of a slave. These instances depict slaves being treated nearly like farm animals, where they are punished as a means to condition them to behave in the most desirable way. Douglass’ masterful use of imagery leaves the reader with a mental picture of pain and anguish that should not be experienced by anyone, let alone a human being. Douglass further describes sexual violence, and how slave owners would have children with slaves and then “sell his own children to human flesh-mongers” to spare themselves of potential emotional pain from hurting their own children. In this way, slavery was not only dehumanizing to the slave, but to the master as well. However, the most significant evidence of violence as a means of dehumanization was experienced first-hand by Douglass, while he was spendin...


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...is interesting to note that Douglass even cared about the profane language, given that the overseer was giving out lashings to slaves without hesitation. This point serves to prove that despite Douglass’ struggles, he still was still a man of decency, not a brute.
Frederick Douglass experienced and witnessed unimaginable violence, was stripped of his individualization, and was treated as less than human in the eyes of the law. However, his efforts to educate himself, and then display this education in a book that openly critiqued his masters enabled him to regain his humanity from the dehumanizing nature of slavery. Douglass’ work is an incredible testimony to the enduring nature of the slaves, and how they were able to overcome their situation. Because of Douglass, the abolitionist movement had living and breathing proof of the humanity of African-Americans.

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