Few, if any, writers of the American Renaissance period had as great an influence on contemporaries as did Ralph Waldo Emerson. He was insistent that America put its mark on the literary world with its own, genuine American literature, and he launched the movement with his own works (Bode 574). Frederick Douglass was a slave of the American south when Emerson was starting out and moving up in his profession. Eventually, Douglass became Emersonâs fellow writer and lecturer. Douglass was present and was asked to speak for the Womenâs Anti-Slavery Society in August 1844, in Concord, where Emerson was the keynote speaker. The two men shared common ideas, as we shall see as the literary works and lives of the two men are examined. To some extent Emerson had an influence on Douglassâs expressed views, but on the other hand, some of Douglassâs views were a product of his own natural inclination.
Emerson believed that the human spirit could be relied on to lift man up to overcome any tribulation that might be encountered (Bode 574). Douglass inadvertantly proved Emerson right when he lifted himself out of the dehumanizing bondage of slavery through his sheer will of human spirit. Douglass went on to become a hero of the slave movement after he gained his freedom.
Emerson "believed in a reality and a knowledge that transcended the everyday reality·" He also felt strongly that individuals should trust fully in the integrity of self (Bode 573). There is a correspondence between this "self-made" man of Emersonâs and Frederick Douglass. During the course of Douglassâs career, his actions and words epitomized Emersonian ideas.
The issue of abolishment of slavery d...
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...ce, exemplary character, and social inspiration" (Martin 263).
Belasco, Susan. Harriet Martineauâs Black Hero and the American Antislavery Movement. Nineteenth-Century Literature, Vol II. University of California Press, 2000. 1-23.
Bode, Carl. Emerson. McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World Biography Vol III. New York: McGraw-Hill Inc., 1973. 572-574.
Frederick Douglass 1818-1895. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Paul Lauter. Boston: Houghton, 1998. 1578-1690.
Martin, Waldo E., Jr. The Mind of Frederick Douglass. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985.
Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803-1882. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Paul Lauter. Boston: Houghton, 1998. 1578-1690.
Rowe, John Carlos. At Emersonâs Tomb: The Politics of Classic American Literature. New York: Columbia UP, 1997.
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