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Narrative Life Of Frederick Douglass History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

Despite Douglass was a son of a white slave-owner he was born as a slave because his mother was a slave. This practice was common for the time described. Slave owners had sexual relations with slave women in order to satisfy their sexual desires and in order to increase the number of children born as slaves. Douglass early saw all horrors and atrocities of slavery but he directed his polemics not only against bad attitude to slaves but also against the institution of slavery in general. In his Narrations he wanted to give his readers true information about the institution of slavery. As he states in his book: “The slave narratives emerged from obscurity and became a major tool by which historians were able to open the world the slaves made-their folk life, religious expression, modes of resistance, and psychological survival” (Douglass, 13). It is evident that the author does not want to give only a description of his life. He uses his personal story as a tool to fight slavery. He uses an example of his life in order to show that such practice as slavery can not exist in normal society.

During the time when the book was written there existed several myths about slavery which justified this inhuman practice. Both, Northerners and Southerners uses different arguments in order to justify the practice of slavery. Douglass uses an example of his life in order to prove that slavery can not be justified by any means. His contemporaries who were proponents of slavery used different kinds of arguments in order to prove that slaver was an acceptable practice. The first argument was a religious one. Proponents of slavery stated that this practice was described in the Bible when the author talked about the descendants of Ham. Douglass and other abolitionists proved that slavery broke the fundamental laws of the Bible. Economical reasons were among the main arguments of those who supported slavery. They stated that slavery was necessary to provide economic development of the country. Slave labor was the easiest mean to earn good many and many Southern slave owners made fortunes with the help of the slaves. Douglass easily destroyed economical argument when gave examples of more wealthy Northerners in comparison to the Southerners who used slave labor. Douglass also gave examples of other countries, such as Great Britain who had already abolished slavery. These countries did not become poorer despite they did not use slave labor. Other pro-slavery arguments were based on the belief that black people had bad mental abilities. Slave owners stated that black people did not possess such intellect as white people and slavery was a form of taking care about black people. Proponents of slavery stated that white slave owners helped their black slaves to become more civilized. Douglass breaks myths about poor mental abilities of black people. He also vividly illustrates that slavery could not be regarded as a form of care and protection of black people. Douglass gives good answer to all arguments about slavery. His writing was very valuable because it gave his contemporary necessary information about the slavery. Many people did not make any attempts to fight the slavery not because they were cruel but because they did not realize all the truth about the institution of slavery. Douglass made his best to destroy myths about slavery as an acceptable social institution. He wants all the people to be responsible for the existence of slavery.

Douglass developed a strong anti-slavery position. He dedicated much time and effort to slavery abolishment movement. He did not want other black people to stand constant humiliation and violence. The argumentation of Douglass became a valuable contribution to anti-slavery movement. His writing became so valuable because the author wrote about his own experience of being a slave. He could give readers a very personal information about this experience. The style of narration makes the readers emotionally involved into the story. Douglass speaks about things he had experienced in his life and the readers feel more confidence in events he describes. Despite the author speaks about terrible things and inhuman attitude to slave he does not describe something extraordinary. He speaks about things which were a usual practice in his time. Multiple details and true stories from life help the readers to get an idea about the impact of slavery on the life of separate individuals and the entire society.

Sometimes the author reveals shocking facts about his life and the readers can see all the truth about the institution of slavery. Most slaves were treated like animals. They did not have any rights and they could not read and write. Many slaves, same like the author, did not even know the simplest things, as the author states the slaves “know as little of their ages as horses know of theirs” (Douglass 47). Slave holders had a lot of cruel strategies and devices which helped them to make slaves week and obedient. Illiteracy was definitely one of them. Lack of knowledge helped slaveholders to control their slaves. Separation was anther technique they used. They separated families in order to weaken ties between people. “The valuation over, then came the division and apportionment. Our destiny was to be fixed for life, and we had no more voice in the decision of the question than the oxen and cows that stood chewing at the hay-mow. One word of the appraisers, against all preferences and prayers, could sunder all the ties of friendship and affection, even to separating husbands and wives, parents and children. We were all appalled before that power which, to human seeming, could, in a moment, bless or blast us” (Douglass 118). Slave owners destroyed families and separated children from their parents. In many cases parents had no chance to see their children again. Douglass himself was separated from his mother when he was little: “for what this separation is done, I do not know, unless it be to hinder development of the child’s affection towards its mother and to blunt and destroy the natural affection of the mother for the child” (Douglass 34). The author speaks about all pain and despair of being a slave. During the time he describes humiliation and inhuman attitude to slave were considered a norm in the society. Slaveholders used tortures and could leave old or ill slave to die in the forest. Douglass very vividly illustrates that the institution of slavery had nothing to do with taking care about the slaves. Slavery was only the mean to earn money with the help of slaves. Douglass also shows in his narration that slave women were in even worse position than men. Women were not only humiliated and tortured same as men, but in addition they were raped. In addition to physical pain women experienced great moral humiliation. In the most cases children were separated from their mother and they never saw each other. This became another source of pain and suffering for women. Both, men and women were deprived of the most precious thing – human dignity.

Douglass wants his readers to understand the truth about the institution of slavery. He destroys arguments of his opponents with his simple and sincere narration. He describes his own experience and it becomes evident that slavery has nothing to do with the protection of slave and taking care of them. All arguments of pro-slavery movement become destroyed by the facts described by Douglass. Slaves did not get any kind of medical care, experienced constant beating and tortures. They did not have enough food and closes and spent their lives working hard for their masters. They did not get money for their hard labor and did not have any property. Salve did not possess even the most necessary things, such as spoons and clothes. Douglass tells in his book how slaves ate with the help of tree bark. Slaves did not possess neither physical nor mental freedom. They could not take any decisions about their lives and any disobedience was severely punished.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave became a mighty tool of anti-slavery movement. This narration had broken idealistic picture of slavery. Douglass proved that slavery could not be accepted in any form. His multiple examples and sincere narration demonstrated how slave holders demonstrated inhuman attitude to their slaves. He proved that slavery was ugly and unnatural phenomenon and could not have been tolerated in normal society. His narrative became and eye-opener for those who did not realize all the truth about the institution of slavery before. In his book Douglas breaks an image of happy slaves who have happy and troubles life. He shows all shameful and terrifying facts about the slavery. His narration became a mighty tool which helped to promote the abolitionist’s argument. Douglass possesses both – the power of word and convincing facts which help to persuade the proponents of slavery in their wrong position. His narration became a great contribution to anti-slavery movement and helped many people to discover the truth about the institution of slavery. Douglass does not use persuasive arguments and loud words. He only describes facts and events from his own past and from the past of other slaves but his method becomes an effective method to make people change their opinion about the slavery.


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