The Criticism of Slavery

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There is a period of time in American history where slavery was not only allowed,

but part of the original Constitution. However, for as many who were for slavery there was

always a number against it. Slaves themselves, like Frederick Douglass in his

autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, have criticized slavery as well as

American writers, like Henry David Thoreau in his speech "Slavery in Massachusetts".

Despite these two abolitionists being separated by class and education, they share the same

disquiets on enslavement. They both believe slavery to be innately wrong and a crime

against humanity. Because of their differences in life, they had different perspectives on the

atrocity of slavery; nevertheless, they often reached the same conclusion.

Frederick Douglass was born a slave, raised with the idea he was to be a slave for

life. He experienced a revelation learning to read, where "the thought of being a slave for

life began to bear heavily on my heart" (Douglass 39). He was denied knowledge of most

things: his age, his father, and an education. He claims his "want of information concerning

my own was a source of unhappiness" (Douglass 9). He questioned this treatment, fighting

fiercely to attain the ability to read and write. One of his masters, Hugh Auld, opposed

Douglass' learning aggressively. Douglass then realized the power of an education: "I now

understood what had been to me a most perplexing difficulty–to wit, the white man's

power to enslave the black man... I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom"

(Douglass 34). While Douglass struggled with his placement in life, others abused theirs.

Henry Thoreau makes notice of the lax and lethargic behavior of t...

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...t "on the errands of humanity" (Thoreau 2052); thus, these are the men who passed the

Fugitive Slave Act, these are the men who own men as chattel; and these are the men who

have succumbed to the barbarity of slavery. But Douglass and Thoreau are the men who

fought slavery with all of their being.

Douglass and Thoreau share the same principle that a man should not be the

property to another man, that it is an injustice. Douglass suffered firsthand the brutality of

what slavery can undertake while Thoreau saw the inhumane treatment of his fellow men.

Douglass was a self-taught worker who tried his best to overcome his birth life. Thoreau

was a Harvard graduate who tried his best to overcome to law that prevented an ignorant

people from achieving their potential. Class separated these two men, Douglass and

Thoreau, yet they were united in probity.
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