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Frederick Douglass: The Story of Slaves by a Slave

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Frederick Douglass: The Story of Slaves by a Slave

After the American Revolution, slavery became a more significant component in the American economy. As a result of many slave owners being materialistic, slaves were overworked and treated callously. One such slave was Frederick Douglass. Through most of his life, Douglass was trapped in a typical slave environment. However, Douglass taught himself to read and eventually escaped the desolate life of a slave. After his freedom, Douglass wrote his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, which chronicled his life story. In his book, Douglass details his slave upbringing and how it affected him. His autobiography was incredibly comprehensive which is one reason why it was accepted to be accurate. In addition, Douglass's life story furthered the abolitionist cause. His rationale on what slavery does to white people is one example that advanced the abolitionist causes.

Most slaves were treated inhumanely and grew up with no education. In fact, it was inapt to teach a slave how to read. Consequently, when Frederick Douglass's biography was published many wondered if it was valid due to Douglass's unexpected literacy. Not only were slaves deemed unintelligent, but the stories Douglass described seemed unbelievable and exaggerated. John Blassingame noted, "Journalists fabricated many nineteenth-century accounts, and true stories has to compete with fiction parading the truth" (x).

Douglass was very aware of this fact, and he implemented several ways to establish his credibility. One way was to have his face on the cover and his signature under it. This proved that he was literate. Probably the most corroborating proof was that Douglass used r...

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...l eye, under the influence of slavery, eventually became red with rage; that voice, made all of sweet accord, changed to one of harsh and horrid discord; and that angelic face gave place to that of a demon" (31).

The stories in the Narrative were very sad and thus may have helped the abolitionist cause. Many people initially believed the stories to be bogus but that myth quickly went away. Douglass risked his life in telling the story of slavery. His accounts went a long way in sparking the abolitionist movement. John Blassingame makes a good point about Douglass by saying, "by jeopardizing his very security as a fugitive in order to rebuild the credibility of the American slave narrative, none so dramatically as Douglass integrated both the horror and the great quest of the African-American experience into this deep stream of American autobiography" (xli).
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