Frederick Douglass

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Frederick Douglass

The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass gives a first person perspective on the life of a slave in the rural south and the city. Frederick Douglass was able to read and think about the evils of slavery and the reasons for its abolishment. Throughout his autobiography Frederick Douglass talks of the many ways a slave and master would be corrupted by the labor system. The master justified his actions through a self-serving religion and a conscience belief that slaves were meant to be in their place. Frederick Douglass noticed that in order to maintain the slaves belief in this system the master had to resort to trickery of a slaves body and mind.

According to Douglass, the treatment of a slave was worse than an animal. Not only was he valued as an animal but also a slave was reduced to an animal when he was as much a man as his keeper. The mental faculty a slave had was diminished through the forbidden nature of reading and learning, as well as the constant drunkenness imposed on the slaves during holidays.

Frederick Douglass had moved into a new mistresses home who had never known of slavery. While she had initially taught him to read, fed him well, and looked upon him like an equal human being, she eventually forbade him from reading and whipped him at her husband’s request. The kind woman he had known became inhumane and degrading because that was required to maintain the unwarranted power over slaves.

As time progressed Henry also thought of the injustice in working and paying the wages he had earned to a master who had no entitlement to them whatsoever. In slavery he had been unable to question anything of his masters doing. He was unable to have rage, sadness, or even sickness, for he would be b...

... middle of paper ... was very much an educated man by the time he wrote the Narrative, it is as hard for him to describe his emotions and thoughts when he was completely devoid of knowledge as it is for a blind and deaf man to describe what he thought and felt before he learned to communicate with the outside world. Culture, society, and common beliefs are our bridge to communication with one another. Douglass, then, could never really explain all of what and how he felt about himself in his earlier slave days in such a way that those who read his autobiography would ever understand completely.


Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave; Written by Himself. Boston: Anti-Slavery Office, 1845.

CHASE, HAROLD W. Dictionary of American History. New York: Charles Scribner & Sons, 1976.

Collins, Jim. Good To Great. New York: HarperCollins, 2001.

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