How Douglass Dispelled the Illusions of Slavery

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Frederick Douglass wrote his autobiography to provide a look into the world of a slave. His audience varied, from abolitionists, to whites that were on the fence about the issue, but his purpose remained: to allow non-slaves to learn about the horrors of slavery. In this autobiography, Douglass dispelled readers’ “illusions about slavery” by merely telling his true story, an everyman tale for slaves. Douglass worked on plantations in the Maryland area, and those plantations were considered to be easier than those of Georgia or Alabama, as unruly or ornery slaves were “sold to a Georgia [slave] trader” as punishment (54). Douglass may very well have been one of the better-treated slaves of his era, and in revealing the horrors of his relatively good circumstances, he underscores the overall mistreatment of slaves. Douglass destroyed the illusions of racially driven mental and physical inferiority, Biblical justification of slavery, and slave happiness that slavery supporters so often put forth by providing contradictory examples from his own life.
One of the illusions that Douglass sought to destroy was the natural mental inferiority of his race. This component of the pro-slavery argument was brought up numerous times, for example in George McDuffie’s “The Natural Slavery of the Negro.” In this work, McDuffie argued that slavery was not only merited, but necessary, as people of African heritage were “utterly unqualified” for “rational freedom” because of their “intellectual inferiority” and their need for a “condition of servile dependence” (The Natural Slavery of the Negro, McDuffie, P2). Douglass combated this argument with anecdotes of how he “finally succeeded in learning to read” without a formal education (67). His anecdotes...

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...aveholders used the existence of slavery in the Bible as a defense for their actions, instead of adhering to Christian values and renouncing the warped morals of slavery.
Slaveholders used corrupt morals and inherently false logic to defend slavery, but Douglass, by sharing the story of his life and of others’, dispelled the illusions of slavery. Douglass’ life provided the evidence necessary to counter the slaveholders’ arguments: racial inferiority, both physical and mental, slave happiness, and Biblical justification for slavery. By publishing this autobiography, Douglass furthered the opposition of slavery, as whites that had never experienced slavery could finally sympathize with members of the anti-slavery movement. In this book Douglass revealed the flaws in the pro-slavery argument, and cemented himself as one of the most important abolitionists of his era.
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