Essay on Setting the Record Straight in History

Essay on Setting the Record Straight in History

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To invoke a change in the viewpoints of a society all forms of communication must be used to persuade the masses; when it comes to slavery, it is supported in the literary form by The Heroic Slave by Fredrick Douglass. Douglass writes this fictional novella in such a way that our hero, Madison Washington, becomes a symbol of the trials and tribulations that slaves go through while Mr. Listwell, a white abolitionist, is a symbol of the change that is needed by white Americans. This novella is an attempt to show African Americans and whites alike that freedom must and does come from non-violent methods, through creating a sensational story that personifies the anti-slavery movement into the character, Washington. This method of storytelling along with changes in perspective, settings, and situations invokes and strengthens already growing sympathy from white Americans, while also highlighting the ignorance of slavery ideology.
At the beginning of our novella, Douglass brings up the roots of our country by highlighting that “The State of Virginia is famous in American annals for the multitudinous array of her statesmen and heroes” (1254). He is alluding to various well-known and “important” heroes such as Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry. Furthermore Douglass brings attention that we, in our history books, have forgotten one such hero who “holds now no higher place in the records of that grand old Commonwealth than is held by a horse or an ox” (1255). These statements are a precursor to the following story of Washington who, in the eyes of Douglass, is a hero in the ranks of Jefferson and the like. It is inferred that our hero, Washington, even though “he is brought to view only by a few transient incidents” is still worthy of rem...


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...acial relationships, and the power of words being spoken through the mouth of an unlikely character, the white man. While some will say that this whole novel is a sham, an attempt to convince the masses that slavery is wrong by any means necessary, it reports the undisputable fact that compassion, understanding, and tolerance subsist on the side of both races. Douglass ultimately is able to reshape history by using the historical experiences of multiple slaves and combining them into the story of one man, Washington. He takes this story, lending the minor details to fiction while maintaining the overall historical accuracy of the events to show opponents of abolition the facts of these events. This shows future generations that it was not one race that forced slavery to an end; it was the combination of both races who made a once seemingly impossible feat a reality.

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