Racism and the Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

Racism and the Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

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Examining Prevalent Attitudes on Racism and the Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave


When we look at the issue of racism from a politically correct, nineties perspective, evidence of the oppression of black people may be obscured by the ways in which our society deals with the inequalities that still exist. There are no apparent laws that prohibit or limit opportunities for blacks in our society today, yet there is a sense that all things are not fair and equal. How can we acknowledge or just simply note how past ideologies are still perpetuated in our society today? We can examine conditions of the present day in consideration of events in the past, and draw correlations between old and modern modes of thinking. Attitudes of racism within the institutions of education, employment and government are less blatant now than in the day of Frederick Douglass, none the less, these attitudes prevail.

Once Frederick Douglass had developed a reputation as a brilliant speaker he was urged to write his Narrative by one of his mentors, John A. Collins, in order to "dispel growing public doubts about his experiences as a slave."(Miller 1753) As Douglass recounts his personal circumstance the reader is informed of the main issues surrounding slavery. When we look at attitudes held by political figures around this time we get the impression it was never the ambition of the white man to integrate black slaves into society. As Supreme Court Chief Justice Taney explains in the Dred Scott Case of 1846, "{Africans slaves} were not intended to be included under the word "citizens" in the constitution and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument allows"(Roots of Resistance). In th...


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...f inequality prevails in our country to this day. This is not to say that the entire white race carries the same bias of their predecessors. However, it's important to consider the ways in which current popular attitudes carry a vestige of attitudes held in the days of slavery.


Works Cited

Davis, Kenneth C. Don't know much about history. New York: Crown Publishing Inc. 1990

Douglass, Frederick "Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave" The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Paul Lauter. Boston: Houghton Mifflin 1998

Miller, James A. "Frederick Douglass 1818-1895" The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Paul Lauter. Boston: Houghton Mifflin 1998
Roots of Resistance. The American Experience Series. PBS, 1989

Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States. New York:Harper Perennial 1995

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