Essay on Why Is Frederick Douglass a Hero

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    • As a historical source, what does Douglass’ Narrative reveal about the lives, culture, and psychological struggles of American slaves?

In Douglass’ Narrative, he describes several different moments where he was a first-hand witness to the brutal nature and acts of masters towards their slaves. He tells several stories of real people who experienced real torture and mistreatment, such as the boy who was walking down the road, approached by a man and asked “Does your owner treat you well?”, although the boy told the truth (which is what any sane person would want of someone), he was sold to the Georgia trade to teach him a lesson about authority. Douglass’ entire narrative, although from his point of view and telling his accounts of abuse, mistreatment, and unmeasurable acts of violence, uses this as an outlet to tell the stories of many people he met throughout his life. During the time of slavery, it wasn’t frequent that a slave had enough knowledge to be able to keep accounts of their mistreatment to share what had happened to them, many slave owners were told that if their slaves were to be educated and know the way of the world, know the alphabet and be able to think for themselves there was a higher chance of them leaving the plantation and creating a life for their outside. As human beings strive to be successful and to create a life for ourselves that we can prosper and grow to live, slaves weren’t given this very basic human right.

    • In what ways is Douglass’s Narrative a work of abolitionist propaganda?
    • In what ways is it a historical source on the nature and arguments of the abolition movement in antebellum America?

Frederick Douglass took diary entries during his life as a slave during antebellum America allowing for people now to hear from a slave’s point of view how aggressive and inhumane the slave trade was. This piece works as a piece of abolitionist propaganda in the way that propaganda is any piece that supports the central views of an argument and this piece of writing not only shows the true nature of slavery, proving the inhumanity, but it also allows for Douglass to inject his thoughts and ideas and answers to many questions that were being asked at that time such as ho the slave trade worked and ho other slave owners treated their slaves in comparison to those systems he may have in place. All of these key elements to the piece create a “rally” piece for those against the slave trade, it makes you feel sick and itch for change. All the stories Douglass told, especially one of the boys who never had the chance to meet his master but ran into him on the road, spoke ill of him, and then was separated from his family and sent to Georgia as a punishment- this story in specific made me feel frustrated for a few reasons, not only does this master, in particular, have so many slaves that they don’t teach know who he says a lot about the amount of time the masters gave the slaves, but it also is just so egotistical of the master.

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    • Critically discuss the following themes in Douglass’ Narrative: home, power, violence, friendship, mind, manhood. Point to specific examples in the text to support your points.

Home- home is an overall theme in the narrative since slaves never really had a sense of home. A lot of them lost family members, were separated at birth, never knew their family due to unfortunate but unknown circumstances, or were forcibly moved around by their masters from plantation to plantation leaving them to fill in the blanks themselves not only about what happened to their family members but also what their family line was like. Many slave children didn’t know the first thing about their parents or siblings, Douglass is one of these children- he writes;

“Never having enjoyed, to any considerable extent, her soothing presence, her tender, and watchful care, I received the tidings of her death with the much the same emotions I should have probably felt at the death of a stranger” How does Douglass portray slaveholders?

    • Compare and contrast each slaveholder.

Power- Power is a popular theme among the narrative as well- people who were white had a large power hold on those who were of color for many reasons outside of the slave trade, if you were a free black man you couldn’t purchase property, vote, be employed (some jobs were available but they were often dirty jobs and for low incomes). People of color had no power over their own lives in comparison to those who were born white. Slaves would often lie to protect themselves from bodily harm or the fear of being sold to a different plantation and separated from family or friends. Douglass had been separated from his mother at a young age but throughout his life saw many more children and people separated from their families and those they love.

“The frequency of this has had the effect to establish among the slaves the maxim, that a still tongue makes a wise head. They suppress the truth rather than take the consequences of telling it, and in so doing prove themselves a part of the human family.”

Violence- the theme of violence has a lot of similar characteristics to the theme of power. I feel like those who abused their power also created violence for those around them.

Friendship- friendship was also a widely used theme throughout the narrative, although slaves often lacked family relationships they created strong friendship relationships within their plantations. When slaves became free, as Douglass explained, it was really hard for them to leave their friends behind. In comparison to when Douglass (and others) had to leave their families, they didn't know as much about their blood relatives as they did about the relatives they made along the way. Their friendships are what got them through the day, the laughs memories, and support they shared were that of blood, even if it wasn’t true blood.

“It is impossible for me to describe my feelings as the time of my contemplated start drew near. I had several warmhearted friends in Baltimore,--friends that I loved almost as I did my life,--and the thought of being separated from them forever was painful beyond expression. It is my opinion that thousands would escape from slavery, who now remain, but for the strong cords of affection that bind them to their friends. The thought of leaving my friends was decidedly the most painful thought with which I had to contend.”

Mind- the theme of one’s mind was widely shared throughout this narrative in ways that were both literal and figurative. In the literal sense, Douglass and others like him were manipulated and forced into a life that was unnatural for any human. We thrive off of individualism and being able to build our own lives and wealth, that basic right was taken from African Americans to be able to serve the white man.

Manhood- Douglass was forced at a young age to become a man and serve those who were older than him in tasks that were cut out for someone much bigger than he was. He was taken from his mom and forced into slavery for as far as he can remember, he had to forget everything that he was taken from including his mother and the people growing up around him. That would be a traumatizing experience at any age, to be ripped from your home and taken where you are unfamiliar.

“The slaveholders have been known to send in spies among their slaves, to ascertain their views and feelings regarding their condition.”< proves manipulation tactics

Each of these things individually covers a different aspect and corner of a person's life showing that slavery wasn’t just about doing unpaid work or being taken somewhere you don’t know. This was a brutal, violent, malicious time in America and the worst part about it is, it’s still not over. Douglass wanted people to see the pure chaos in the slave trade and the way that people were treated and manipulated, to show people (even if the ones at the time this was going on didn’t agree) that this was wrong and something very dirty to begin a country with.

    • How does Douglass portray slaveholders? Compare and contrast each slaveholder.

“Mr. Austin Gore, a man possessing, in an eminent degree, all those traits of character indispensable to what is called a first-rate overseer.” Douglas here implies that only those with a poor sense of judgment could consider Gore a good man and those with empathy and a heart would see him otherwise. He then moves to the city of Baltimore- good and kind his 'mistress' is when he first arrives in Baltimore we see a dramatic change that takes place with her - 'her angelic face gave place to that of a demon.' slavery does not just destroy the slaves but also the slaveholders. He may want to appeal to readers that they should not just strive to end slavery for the slaves but also for themselves. When Mr. Auld instructs his wife not to teach Douglass because 'it would forever unfit him to be a slave.'' and make him 'discontented and unhappy' we see how slaveowners tried desperately to keep slaves uneducated and imprisoned. Mr. Auld does teach Douglass the most valuable lesson which is education is 'the pathway to freedom'. The most important thing that Douglass covers throughout this narrative is that even though white slave owners might be kind to their slaves, they allow slavery to continue to flourish when they continue to keep their slaves “ignorant” or uneducated. The only way for the men who were captured to break free and make a new life for themselves would be for them to learn the way of the world and learn a trade they would be able to make money in allowing them to move off the plantation and start a job on their own- and be paid for it.

    • What enduring meanings or principles in this book make it relevant today?

America as a whole is still incredibly racist. This past summer (2020), the Black Lives Matter Movement picked up a lot of wind and speed after multiple brutal killings of people of color with no legal standing or with little proof of a crime; deadly force is not often used in these situations but offers such as Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison, and Myles Cosgrove of the Louisville Metro Police Department went against their training and applied this lethal tactic. Many Americans, myself included, took several actions to draw media and public attention to this issue. People of Color in today’s society still face multiple different forms of racism and segregation, especially in the southern states. There's a huge pay gap, and problems with home buying, property-owning, and medical coverage. Women of color are 2-3 times more likely to die during childbirth than any other race. Although slavery is very very very rare, other forms of racism have surfaced over the years still allowing for several forms of racism to be present in today’s society.

    • What is the meaning of the full title of the narrative?

The reason behind the title ``The Life of Frederick Douglass”, was not only a literal meaning of his story and what happened to him, but what he is speaking of is the only life he knew. It wasn’t just a part of it or a few years of turmoil he faced. This life he had was all he could remember, it took his parents from him, removed him from his home, and forced him into dangerous labor and tiring working fields.

    • What does Douglass have to say about the consequences of slavery for Americans, black and white, North and South?

Douglass mentions that many slave owners were staunch Christians, who practiced slavery, which made them despicable hypocrites. The slave trade deeply separated the United States at the very beginning of its growth as a country, putting a forever sour taste in the mouth of the North, and the South, slavery flourished. Any persons who were forced into the slave trade were severely battered and beaten during their life as a slave, many children were taken from families, the actions of the white owners gave them a god complex, and each person who attempted to escape or save slaves were met with punishments more violent and despicable than the “crime”. This time in America was centered around violence and abuse of power, no one was educated enough or selfless enough to step back and reassess the social standards. This allowed for a tremendous amount of freedom for the whites to control any and everything.

    • Is Douglass’s book more a work of imaginative literature or history? Discuss

His book is work history. To begin with, not only is the narrative titled “The Life of Frederick Douglass by Fredrick Douglass” allowing for the reader to, assume that it is a biography or account of someone’s life but that it was a life that was of the person who wrote it. Douglass provided readers with exact accounts of his life as a slave as they were happening through journaling and keeping somewhat of a calendar but in the past, recording each slave owner, people he met, the land he was living on, the food they were given, and more. This entire narrative as a whole is a snapshot of Douglass’ life from beginning to end, at least what he knows of it.

    • Should Douglass be viewed as a hero? Explain

Frederick Douglass is a hero. In the 1800s he was a former slave who became one of the American anti-slavery leaders and a strong supporter of women’s rights. During his work for Hugh Auld in the Plantation house Fredrick, on January 1, 1836, he proclaimed that he would be free by the end of the year. Auld’s wife taught Fredrick how to read he said, “that reading was his pathway to freedom.” Once he escaped he wasn’t a free man, when he escaped he went to go work for an abolitionist named William Lloyd Garrison. A few years later after he escaped slavery he married a free black woman named Anna Murray and had four kids. In 1882 his wife Anna died and 2 years later he married a white woman named Helen Pitts. Douglass worked his whole life to be a more educated and independent person to allow for him one day to go out on his own and create his own life, and even though Douglass was given this right at some point during his life, not every slave was given this opportunity and thousands died within captivity. Douglass risked his life to keep this journal of his life and share snippets of what life was like for so many people, from the point of view of someone from the other end of the argument, opposite to what we usually hear.

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