Of Pro-Slavery Justification Using The Narrative Of Fredrick Douglass

Submitted By Yash-Nalla
Words: 1985
Pages: 8

­­­Yashwanth Nalla
Lechner/ Woodmansee
14 October 2014
American Studies
The Absolute Annihilation of Pro-Slavery Justifications using The Narrative of Fredrick Douglass by Fredrick Douglass Can you imagine a black slave in the south toiling in the fields? Can you not imagine how much horror and depravity had been visited upon this damaged soul; how much degeneracy and awfulness had his ancestors for generations been inflicted. The vile practice of slavery was around for centuries, from the very beginning of European settlement of America slavery was seen as an acceptable practice. It was not till centuries later that people felt even the need to justify it, much less fight it. In the 1800s, it became one of the principle issues that defined geopolitical relations in post-revolution America. “The Narrative of Fredrick Douglass” by Fredrick Douglass offers up a window into the horrendous institution of slavery. This heinous practice was pragmatized, and eventually considered just, because of three reasons: that blacks were the inferior race; that Christianity had to be spread to the blacks and because they did not have it they deserved to be enslaved; that the South depended upon the slave trade as the basis for their plantation economy. One of the most common arguments used to defend slavery is the claim that blacks are racially inferior to whites. This argument is based on the pseudo-scientific theory of Scientific Racism; this theory uses scientific techniques and hypotheses to support a belief in racism, or racial superiority. In the South, prominent physicians such as Samuel A. Cartwright spoke about the effects of draptemania, "with proper medical advice, strictly followed, this troublesome practice that many Negroes have of running away can be almost entirely prevented," a so called mental illness that said that the causation of slaves escaping was a mental disorder and not just a rational thing to do (Cartwright). Another proponent of scientific racism was Samuel George Morton who some consider to be the father of scientific racism in the ante-bellum South, specifically the pseudo-scientific area of study referred to as Southern American ethnography. Morton used a large collection of skulls to compare the physical differences between blacks and whites and then concluded that blacks were inferior because their heads were too small to contain as large brains as whites. He states in his magnum opus Crania Americana "joyous, flexible, and indolent; while the many nations which compose this race present a singular diversity of intellectual character, of which the far extreme is the lowest grade of humanity (Morton)." Morton also was one of the advancers of the theory of polygenism, which states that upon the creation of the world multiple races were created and not just one singular race, as related in the Bible (Morton). Scientific racism was offered up as the basis for domination over blacks because its hierarchy and ranking system showed that blacks were biologically inferior to whites and thus should serve and die at their whim. However, in reality “The Narrative of Fredrick Douglass” offers up an explanation as to why scientific racism is incorrect and based upon spurious data. Draptemania, a so-called psychological disease, was no more than what anyone would want for themselves if they were enslaved. Douglass feels his first longing to escape when he was taught his first letters, “I now understood what had been to me a most perplexing difficulty—to wit, the white man's power to enslave the black man. It was a grand achievement, and I prized it highly. From that moment, I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom” (Douglass). It was not something that could have been stopped by proper medical advice; once the flames of Douglass’s mind had been fanned they could never have been put out. Another scientific theory that Morton advanced was his belief that blacks had less mental acuity than whites, based upon