The Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass And Harriet Jacobs Essay

The Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass And Harriet Jacobs Essay

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Religion is often something people turn to during times of difficulty. During the times of enslavement, Christianity was a double edged sword. The Angela Davis edition of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, illustrate how religion, mainly Christianity, was immensely complex and moved from one extreme to the other. When preaching Christianity to the slaves, slaveholders emphasized the Bible’s passages teaching obedience and pacifism. Thus, slaveholders used religion to justify their brutal actions and condone slavery. Douglass and Jacobs demonstrate the moral contradiction between slavery and Christianity, thereby illustrating that slaves must be able to alienate themselves from the slaveholder’s Christianity in order to be personally liberated. Douglass’ and Jacobs’ ability to read allowed them to realize their meaning of Christianity and to use their faith in a positive sense and as a powerful weapon against slavery.
Christianity during “the era of slavery is not homogenous: it is extremely complex” (Davis, p. 72). Christianity ranged from one extreme to another representing the hypocrisies and horrendous uses of religion. Douglass and Jacobs both paint a striking, and unpleasant, picture of the contradictions in the Christianity of the South. Douglass illustrates how slaveowners used Christianity as one of their main strategies in keeping slaves docile and “their minds starved” to be “shut up in mental darkness” (p. 198). The passages of the Bible that “emphasized obedience, humility, pacifism, patience, were presented to the slave as the essence of Christianity” (Davis, p. 62). The idea of exposing slaves to religion was to provide a reason for slavery, not for...


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...d submissiveness and learned only their master’s words. Throughout their narratives both Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs expose the hypocrisy and moral contradictions between the religion slaveholders preach and true Christianity. We learn that having a religious master is one of the worst things as a slave because masters feel a certain entitlement to commit these horrible crimes and that God is behind them. Separating the Christianity of the South and true or Godly Christianity became essential in realizing that religion could be used as justification for freedom. Douglass’ and Jacobs’ ability to read allowed them to make their own inferences of the Bible and learned that God did not advocate enslavement. This alienation enabled them to use faith and the Bible’s passages relaying equality as tools against their enslavement, first mentally and then physically.

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