Narrative Life Of Frederick Douglass Essay, Research Paper
In learning about the history of America from the colonization to the reconstruction I decides to read The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass. Frederick was one of the very few literate slaves. He was an incredibly important character in American and African-American history. Though he was blessed with intelligence most slaves were not, he still lived the same kind of life of the typical slave.
Fredrick Douglas was born in Maryland; he does not know the date of his birth, as did most slaves. He never really had a chance to know his mother, only having seen her four or five times. Fredrick taught himself how to read and write despite it being against his slave-owners wishes. He could not let knowledge be known to anyone except for other slaves. Fredrick saw his knowledge of words both as a blessing and a curse. White men were given supreme power over their black slaves and it corrupted their character.
Most African Americans of the early to mid-nineteenth century experienced slavery on plantations similar to the experiences described by Frederick Douglass; the majority of slaves lived on units owned by planters who had twenty or more slaves. The planters and the white masters of these agrarian communities sought to ensure their personal safety and the profitability of their enterprises by using all the tactics-physical and psychological-at their command to make slaves obedient. Even Christianity was manipulated in a way that masters communicated to their slaves that God had commanded them to obey their masters. People like Frederick Douglass who preached abolition of slavery, only had to nurture the already existing spirit within slaves to strive for freedom.
Only a tiny fraction of all slaves ever took part in organized acts of violent resistance against white power. Most realized as Frederick Douglass did that the odds against a successful revolt were very high, and bitter experience had shown them that the usual outcome was death to the rebels. Consequently, they devised safer ways to resist white dominance. For Frederick Douglass, it was clear that his way of fighting the power was to become educated so that he may better understand his situation. However, he described that knowing that: “wit?[was] the pathway from slavery to freedom.” (Pg. 20) “?Reading? enabled me to utter my thoughts, and to meet the arguments brought forward to sustain slavery; but while [it] relieved me of one difficulty, [it] brought on another even more painful than the one of which I was relieved. The more I read the more I was led to abhor and detest my enslavers.” (Pg. 24) The knowledge, which Frederick Douglass gained, did not free him from his horrible situation, but rather compounded his discontentment as a slave. It is hard to determine how other slaves were able to maintain a sense of individuality and worth, despite not having the opportunity or possess the resourcefulness to obtain the knowledge of Frederick Douglass.
Miraculously, they broke away from the teachings that their white masters had bestowed upon them, which taught them that blacks were commanded by God to obey their superior white masters. This is what Douglas refers to as the ?slaveholders religion? (page 45). Douglas perceives a big difference between Christianity and the slaveholders? religion, ?to receive Christianity as good, pure and holy, is of necessity to reject the slaveholders religion as bad, corrupt and wicked.? (Page 46). Religion came to rely upon the slaveholders for financially support; ?The dealer gives his bloodstained gold to support the pulpit.? (Page 48) Douglas describes this companionship by stating, ?Here we have religion and robbery allies of each other.? (Page 48) The goodness of God was interpreted in such a way by these churches as to give the slaveholders a sense that slaveholding is right. Religion was the essence of the newly emerging African American subculture. Borrowed from the fiery revivalism of white participants of the first Great Awakening and their own African religions, slaves created their own version of Christianity. Their new religion stressed fellowship, brotherly love, equality, and salvation from slavery. The true religion was practiced at night, often secretly, and was led by black preachers. The underground slave religion was a highly emotional affair that consisted of singing, shouting, and dancing. For Frederick Douglass and all other slaves, the singing of songs and religion were more of an affirmation of the joy in life rather than a rejection of worldly pleasures and temptations. They spoke out against the perils of bondage and asserted their right to be free.
Thomas Auld, the master of Frederick Douglass in Baltimore, said “A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master-to do as he is told to do.” (Pg. 57) He was referring to the wrongfulness of his wife’s attempt to educate Frederick Douglass. This was the view held by most whites toward African Americans. Consequently, other adjectives such as: lazy, irresponsible, childlike, and simple-minded were used by whites to describe the African American character. This portrayal stole the African American sense of independence and created the false image of black childlike dependence on their white masters. That combined with the fact that most African Americans were born into slavery disallowed them any experience of freedom or of Africa by which they may make comparisons to their situation of total bondage.
The slave owners struggle to control the slave brought out an evil in them that cannot be brought out by any things. The slaves? struggle for freedom and the suppression by their masters broke their spirit, which is a large part of human character. America would not have grown to be so great in such a short time without slavery, because of the economic value of it. But, it would not have been such a violent society then or such a violent society now if slavery had never existed.