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Being a Slave in the United States During the 19th Century: Life of Frederick Douglass

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Being a slave in the United States was not uncommon in the 19th century. There were many brutalities of being a slave including physical and spiritual abuse. Slaves were considered property and not as human beings. They were mistreated and kept illiterate. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave was a bibliography written by Frederick Douglass himself that told of his experiences of being a slave in the United States. He expresses the brutality the slave owners and how he struggled with running away to become a free human being. The themes of his story include: the ignorance of slaves, the treatment of slaves as property, religion used as justification, and the abuse of female slaves. In the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Frederick explains the slave owners want to keep their slaves as ignorant and illiterate as possible because the more knowledgeable a slave becomes the more “unmanageable” he will become. He will start to develop ideas on his own and question the authority of his masters. For example, Douglass explains that most slaves do not even know the date of their birth, “By far the larger part of the slaves know as little of their ages as horses know of theirs, and it is the wish of most masters within my knowledge to keep their slaves thus ignorant” (Douglass 47). Not knowing their age or birth date is a way for slave owners to show authority over their slaves and to try to keep them as ignorant as possible. They are treated as if their age does not matter, as if they are animals. They were also deprived of the knowledge who their father was. This deprived slaves from their individual identity. In the narrative, Douglass explains that he is going to live with his new slave owner... ... middle of paper ... ...te a passage of the scripture: “He that knoweth his master’s will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes” (99). This shows that he uses the Bible to justify his pain and suffering onto the slave who does not obey her master. Douglass states, “I assert most unhesitatingly, that the religion of the south is a mere covering for the most horrid crimes, --- a justifier of the most appalling barbarity,--- a sanctifier of the most hateful frauds--- and a dark shelter under, which the darkest , foulest, grossest, and most infernal deeds of slaveholders find the strongest protection” (117). For completing these horrid crimes, slaveholders don’t feel bad for their sinful deeds because they feel like scriptures in the Bible support their abuse. In the narrative, Douglass explains how female slaves were victimized because of they were weaker and easier to abuse.
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