Slavery and The Narrative of Frederick Douglass

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Slavery and The Narrative of Frederick Douglass

In 1845, Frederick Douglass told his compelling story of life as slave and as a free man. Through the words of somebody who endured slavery, we can only get a taste of what it was like, for we will never truly know the feeling of the severe physical punishment and the cruelty the slaves endured. Whippings, beatings and lynchings were all too common during the era of slavery. However, not only were their bodies treated so harshly, but their minds and souls were as well. These slaves went through a tremendous amount of mental and physical abuse. The slaves were deprived of what the common man takes for granted. They were forbidden to educate themselves. They were separated from their families. They were not allowed to reason for themselves. They were in fact not treated as human beings, but as objects with no feelings. Using Frederick Douglass's narrative I will discuss the oppression and survival of slave life and show how the analysis of America's History supported Dougalss' interpretation of slave society.

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, is a first hand account of what slavery was like. It depicts actual events in history based on one mans experience. That man is Frederick Douglass. He was born into slavery and was a slave for much of his life. His accounts of what happened to him show that slavery in the old south was an evil institution that turned humans into animals and an institution that dehumanized people to keep them ignorant.

African Americans suffered tremendously during the appalling years of slavery. They were beaten, overworked, and mistreated by their oppressors. In many cases, slaves would rather have died than to have been used in such...

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... They enjoyed whipping people for two main reasons. The first reason was to punish a slave, and the second reason was to use the slave being whipped as an example to the other slaves. Whipping them and making other slaves watch was one way that slave owners attempted to control their slaves. They would set examples with these whippings. It was important to keep the slaves fearful of their masters or they would rebel. That is exactly what they did. "To resist the innovations of gang labor and forced separations... by plotting mass uprisings and murders" (America's History p. 298).


Douglass, Frederick, Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass. New York: W.W Norton & Company, 1997.

Henretta, James A., Brody, David, Ware, Susan, Johnson, Marilyn S., America's History Volume 1: To 1877. Boston: Bedford St. Martin's, 2000
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