The Impact Of Slavery In The Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass

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Frederick Douglass wrote his Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass in 1845. At this time, slavery was still very much a part of the South’s culture and economy; many relied on it for labor and a source of profit. Douglass’ story was published at a key time for the abolitionist movement; presenting the truth about slavery in a way that northerners could relate to likely garnered sympathy.
The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass conveys not only Douglass’ own experiences, but also the cruelty of slavery in general. The stories convey the deeper emotional and physical stress that enslavement creates in victims of slavery, and how antebellum America was affected by slavery at the time the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
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Southern society was deeply shaped by slaves and slaveholders. Slaves experienced huge limitations, and their culture adapted to those boundaries. Slaveholders, though, took on new social norms due to slavery, too. Perhaps some of the most interesting social dynamics are those that bind the slaves and slaveholders together. The cruelty shown to individual slaves in individual moments contributes greatly to the fear with which slaves view their masters. That same fear, though, also contributes to the absolute deference most slaves had towards their masters. Douglass describes the so-called “honor” associated with being a slave that is chosen to go to the Great House Farm. Being selected means that a slave is out of the fields, and away from the punishing abuse of his overseer. Douglass compares the slave’s desire for recognition to that of a white man in politics, writing, “[t]he competitors for this office sought as diligently to please their overseers, as the office-seekers in the political parties seek to please and deceive the people.” That is to say that just as lower classes of white men will do whatever it takes to climb the ranks to a better status, a slave will gladly exchange pride for the safety that comes with an overseer’s
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