Frederick Douglass Essay, Research Paper
Upon finishing my copy of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, I have come to realize many new ideas and topics. I have discovered details about the evils of slavery that I never knew existed. There are things that I should have realized many years ago, but never did due to ignorance. Now I understand and feel consumed by the undying question of whether or not if it is moral to own a human being. My opinion after reading this is it is absolutely wrong to own a man and take his freedom.
I have discovered many things from this narrative. I now know what it is like to be in the shoes of a slave. To hear of the horrible ties that comes with slavery. The most important issue, I feel, is not knowing details about ones own life. Douglass explained in his narrative that he was withheld many details of his life. Throughout his entire write up, he could never tell exactly how old he was, due to the fact of never knowing the date of his birthday. He also barely knew his own family. He had only seen his mother maybe four or five times in his life, and every time that he had was only for a short period of time. He didn?t even know who his father was. The most he ever knew about his dad was that he was a white man. Who was this man? He had no idea, though he heard many rumors that it was his mother?s master. He had other family, who he hardly ever got to see. His knowledge was always trying to be limited, whether it was about family, or about grammar. Because he was a slave, he was never allowed to read. This was because owners feared that if slaves learned to read and write, they would develop a unique sense of self and start to revolt. Slave holders felt that the less their property knew, the less trouble.
It?s bad enough to have certain personal privelages taken away, but to also treat a human being like an animal is barbaric. Douglass wrote of certain details about this. First of all, most of the time he was hungry. The slaves barely had anything to eat. Starvation started to set in. But what hurt him most when he was a child was the cols. The only clothing he had was a white shirt that came down to his knees. That was all. Most of the time he suffered from cold, having to sleep with no blankets, or a bed for that matter. He sometimes took a field sack to sleep in at night, but he was still cold. When he moved to Baltimore, it was the first time he owned a pair of trousers. Often times he had to eat mush with the other children. A trough would be placed on the ground when it was time to eat, and the children would have to eat with either their broken oyster shells, or their hands. The biggest kid got to eat the most. It was a fight to survive. Douglass also spoke of beatings, whether it was first hand, or whether he witnessed them. Sometimes he saw his masters taking great pleasure in whipping a slave, or beating a slave with a hickory stick. He saw people beat so bad, the blood ran for a half hour at a time, leaving large welts and scars. He also talked about the blood curdling screams he heard when people were beaten. He watched his poor aunt get a horrible beating. One of his masters, Master Andrew stomped on Fredericks little brother until blood came from his eyes and ears. Hell? other times slaves were killed. After all, killing a slave isn?t a crime, for being accused is being convicted. One time a friend of Douglass was getting whipped and then decided to jump into a creek so he wouldn?t get hit anymore. Mr. Gore gave him the count of three to get out. He didn?t, so Mr. Gore raised his gun and shot the poor man in the head. The slave who was shot didn?t even belong to Mr. Gore. He was just watching him. The situation is still that severe.
Other than the beatings, and the lack of rights, slaves still had to put up with ?mind games? that ?proved to slaves that they could never really make it if they ran away to freedom.? One thing is that slaves couldn?t trust anyone. Some masters hired spies to see what slaves thought of them, or to hear about any plans to run away. Other times slaves would just do it to get rewarded by their master. No matter how much you behaved, or how close to freedom you think you were, you were always reminded that you were a slave. Douglass? mistress started to teach him how to read and spell. After his master discovered this, he was no longer allowed this. Just as soon as he started making progress, he was forced to be stopped, even though he secretly continued to teach himself. Other times, he would think he?d be doing well, and move up in the world, soon to find out he would be divided up as property with farm animal and possessions. Sometimes is a slave did well enough, he would get paid for his work, but he was still a slave, paid or not. Even when a slave became free, he or she would still be jailed, like Fredericks grandmother. She served he whole life. She was one day moved into a small hut into the woods by herself. Where she could support herself. Support herself all alone, in the cold. No one to help her. She was just waiting to die. Even if a slave was completely free, he or she had to be careful of the Fugitive Slave Law. Once again because being accused was the same as being convicted.
It is quite obvious to see that the treatment of slaves is very horrible. Just about anyone in their right mind wouldn?t want to cause trouble with their master or even think about running away. Some people wouldn?t be broken by this. One of Douglass? masters was named Mr. Auld. Mr. Auld wanted to be called master by the slaves, but they refused and called him ?Captain Auld? instead. They would not be broken. Many other masters wouldn?t take this, but Mr. Auld lacked the firmness to do so. Some other slaves would never dare trying such things. Slaves tried to escape sometimes too. It is said that when a slave escapes, he better make it because the punishment is far worse than most people can imagine. One time Douglass? plan was foiled because a fellow slave ratted him out. Most people after escaping would name the slave who caused his punishment for planning to escape. Frederick did not do that. Other times slaves would try to fight off the beating, or refuse to have it done anymore. One time an aquaintance of Douglass was getting whipped by Mr. Gore. The man getting whipped refused to get hit anymore and jumped into a river. Mr. Gore said he?d give him the count of three to get out. When the three count was up and the slave didn?t get out, Mr. Gore raised his musket, and shot the slave in the head. The slave knew that if he didn?t come out, he would die. He wouldn?t submit. He stayed in there and faced the consequences. His death didn?t really mean anything to anyone because once again, killing a slave isn?t a crime. This is not right.
Douglass was always a strong man who would not be broken by anyone. He was once sent to a man named Mr. Covey. Mr. Covey was a slave breaker and he was going to try to break Frederick. After Douglass lasted there for about nine months, he started to get very tired and also sick. He collapsed a few times and all Covey would do was kick him to get up. Then Covey hit him hard on the head with a hickory stick. When Covey turned his back, Douglass worked up the strength to seek his master, seven miles away at St. Michaels. Upon the journey, Douglass fell many times. He would lie on the ground so he could work up more strength. Covey found him and screamed at him to come back, or he would be severly punished. Frederick headed for the woods and continued his journey. He arrived at his Master?s place and let Douglass spend the night, but he must go back in the morning. When Douglass got back, Covey ran at him with a cow skin, so Douglass decided to run to his friend, Sandy Jenkins. Jenkins told him that he knew of a root in the woods, and if Frederick carried it with him, he wouldn?t get a beating anymore. So he went with Sandy and got the root even though he was sure it wouldn?t work. When Douglass returned, he wasn?t beaten. The next day, Covey commanded him to go and do some chores at the barn. So he did so. Meanwhile, Covey came in the barn with a rope to tie up Douglass and give him a beating. Douglass fought him, kicking and choking him with all his might. Covey called for Hughes to come and help him out. Douglass kicked him in the ribs and continued to fight until Covey gave up and let him go. Covey didn?t whip him anymore after that. This fueled Fredericks mind to free himself. This was the biggest turning point in his life.