Essay on Douglass: Slavery in the United States and Slave Frederick Douglass

Submitted By Stakec
Words: 1429
Pages: 6

The Narrative of Frederick Douglass, American Slave Frederick Douglass was born in February 1818 in Talbot County, Maryland. His exact date of birth is not known as he states “By far the larger part of the slaves know as little of their ages as horses know of theirs.(946)” He was well known as a great antislavery writer. After he escaped from slavery he became a well known abolitionist who fought hard to make slave masters believe that African Americans were smart enough, if taught properly, to function as independent American citizens. During his life he wrote many autobiographies describing his experiences in slavery and later times of his life. He also wrote newspaper articles. He was one of the first people who believed in the equality of everybody regardless of race or gender, as he was also a big supporter of women’s rights. In the following narrative Douglass describes the things he saw and went through as a young slave and makes arguments for what he felt was right or wrong. Based on what I read I can assume that the audience that Frederick Douglass is speaking to is people that have never experienced slavery first hand or was not living around those times. In the narrative he gets deep into detail about watching slaves being whipped and the looks on their faces. He describes how some slaves would try to hold their screams in to prevent the slave master from whipping them even more. He also describes seeing blood running down a slaves back and the slave master whipping the area that was bleeding the most to cause even more pain. He explains to people reading the narrative how the mother was separated from her children displaying how slave owners wanted to break up the family connection between African Americans. As he states “it is a common custom, in the part of Maryland from which I ran away, to part children from their mothers at a very early age.(946)” The separation was so cruel that he could not even be around his mother while she was sick, when she died, or when she was buried. Reading the narrative its very easy to tell that he was writing out of frustration and from his heart to illustrate the things he had to go through coming up. He explains how the slaves were only given a certain amount of clothes for the whole year. When those clothes were torn and worn out they would have to walk around naked until the next set of clothes were given out which was not uncommon. He vividly describes only having enough of clothes to cover the top of his body and having to leave his feet hanging out while he slept on the ground in the cold. Just as bad as the clothes situation was the food situation. Slaves were barely fed any food certainly not enough to keep them full. Douglass recalls times when he had seen slaves fighting for food on the ground like pigs. Whoever was the strongest got the best position to get the most food. After everything was gone whoever did not eat was just out of luck. Some slaves would fight with slaves with different masters about who’s master was the best. This just illustrates how slaves were so used to their lifestyle that they would be fighting over who was being treated better. They never even imagined what it would be like to be free. According to Douglass being a slave was bad enough but being a slave to a poor man was even worse. I think the most damaging thing that Douglass wanted the audience to know about is how the lives of slaves meant so little to their slave owners. He describes an incident when a slave had accidentally trespassed into another slave owners property. When the slave owner caught him in the water he instructed him three times to get out and then shot him with a shotgun. When he went to the slaves owner to explain the situation there was very little said. Douglass states that “it was a common saying, even among little white boys, that it was worth half-cent to kill a nigger, and a half-cent to bury one.(957)” Douglass hated the fact of knowing that he was