Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without thunder and lightning”. This quote summarizes Frederick Douglass’s trials and tribulations throughout his life. Frederick Douglass impacted American Literature tremendously throughout his life with powerful writings and speeches. He’d change many views of slavery throughout America about slavery in the 1800s. Abolitionist Frederick Douglass’s life didn’t start like many other popular authors. His most popular work, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, describes in great detail the hurdle’s the famous author overcame to get into his current position. He was born without knowing of his own age, and never saw an authentic record containing it. Frederick was separated from his mother after birth like many slaves and wouldn’t really develop a great relationship with her as a result. He states that he only saw her four or five times in his life. His father is presumed to be a white man, although never being confirmed. You slowly begin to realize how dark and horrific his life was on a relatable level as a child through the author’s simplistically blunt way of writing as it goes on. A great example of this is when he tries to understand the slave owners’ mindset of separating families, “I do not know unless it is to hinder the development of the child’s affection towards its mother and to blunt and destroy the natural affection of the mother for the child.”
He states himself that their relationship was as if they were strangers. Another thing to note from his traumatic childhood is his Aunt Hester. After committing an offense she was stripped naked, tied her hands on a rope, and whipped as she screamed (Douglass narrative) Douglass himself watched this situation with his own eyes. Douglass learns how to read from Sophia Auld, the wife of his current master, Hugh Auld. She teaches him the alphabet until she is told to stop. Afterward, he learns how to read and write from his neighborhood. Expectantly he learns how wrong slavery is and wants to escape from it. However, we see Douglass himself lose his spirit after being whipped to a certain extent by a man named Edward Cover. This visualizes how easy it is for a person in this predicament to lose themselves. He fights Edward for two hours and regains his drive. Returning to the starting quote of, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress” it summarizes his early life in this narrative. He attempts to educate blacks and form an escape. That plan gets exposed and they are arrested. Afterward, he’s sent to learn caulking with Hugh Auld. Since he was just a slave and an apprentice, Douglass would be forced to deal with angry white people as he worked with them until he switched shipyards. After this apprenticeship, he prepares to escape from his bondage by saving money. Douglass escapes to New York and gets to free soil. This did not mean he was safe, packs of slave catchers roamed the streets of New York searching for fugitives. An anti-slavery activist keeps him safe from this until he can marry a free black woman named Anna Murray. Crowds didn’t originally treat Douglass with the respect he gets later in his life. Douglass would be forced to leave Massachusetts for a set time to avoid recapture and spoke in Ireland and Britain on slavery. Even though he could have easily broken his ties with America, he returns a free man After Douglass finally settles in Massachusetts, he becomes an abolitionist.
One of his speeches now called The Hypocrisy of American Slavery when he was invited to speak on the Fourth of July is not just a huge mood change from the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass but proves how educated of a man he truly was. He was fully self-aware that asking a former slave to speak on a day all about independence is a joke in itself. He discusses how freedom isn’t really a thing when slavery is happening in America. A quote filled with irony paints this picture, “I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us”. Douglass was well known for being a supporter of the abolition of slavery, but he also supported women’s rights as well. Frederick Douglass would be one of the few men to attend the first woman’s rights convention. He would have disagreements with them though, mostly due to suffrage discrimination. Later in his life, he meets Abraham Lincoln before the Civil war broke out after the Emancipation Proclamation took effect. Even though it claimed to “free” slaves, Douglass still wouldn’t support him due to his lack of enforcing African-American rights to vote.