The Challenge against Slavery

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In the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Douglass, a former slave, expressed his hate towards slavery by the use of vivid imagery and horrific stories of his time as a slave. Douglass made it his goal to shut down all false assumptions that one may have about the life of a slave and gives us an insight into what these individuals had to go through because of the white man. Furthermore, Douglass states his opinion on things such as religion within the states, the assumption of blacks being happy because of the songs theyd sing, and the overall wellbeing of the slaves living conditions. His statement on these topics help such down the false assumptions that individuals. An example of these false assumptions can be seen in George Fitzhugh's The Blessing of Slavery, as Fitzhugh and many others believe that the slaves in the south are the happiest (Fitzhugh) and their rights of holding slaves is justified (Douglass, p.86) through their religious beliefs. They also believe that slaves have become moral (Fitzhugh) and intelligent (Fitzhugh) while in captivity and are protected by whites as if they were to be a laborer in any other part of the world their living conditions would be worse. Below will be the reasoning as to why these assumptions are false, and how Douglass will go to disprove such ideals by many of the whites during this time.

To say that the life of a slave was enjoyable and easy is far from the truth. Douglassr's early experiences as a slave during his childhood help support such a statement. When people hear allowance (Douglass, p.26), they often associate the word with an award of some sort for an individualr's hard work. Slaves were given an allowance and because of this many of the whites believed that the slaves were well taken care of and rewarded for the work they may have done. Frederick Douglassr's explanation of the allowance shows these slaves were given the bare minimum if not less. For example, Douglass states that children would receive clothing yearly. Since they were unable to work (Douglass, p.26) they were only given two linen shirts (Douglass, p.26), and when the shirts worn out the children were left to fend for themselves until the next allowance period. The lack of clothes forced these children to often run around naked despite weather conditions or time of the year. Such suffering and lack of assistant from the slave holders help depict such their sadistic ways and have had an early impact on Douglassr's opinion towards them early on.

Douglass can also be seen challenging the idea that slaves were happy because they would often sing. Those of such judgement assumed that the slaves were singing because they were content with what they were doing, but Douglass states that every tone was a testimony against slavery (Douglass, p.30). This statement alone goes to show that these slaves did sing, but the meaning behind what may seem to be a joyous is far from it. Douglass stated that slaves sing most when they are unhappy (Douglass, p.30). These tones would often depress the spirit (Douglass, p.30) of slaves as Douglass explains, and it is described that the songs would go to depict the dehumanizing character of slavery (Douglass, p.30), a character that would go on to haunt him forever and deepen his hatred towards slavery (Douglass, p.30).

In addition to the statements above, slave owners would often think high of themselves due to the flawed assumptions of slaves and their contentment with the position they were in. Slave owners believed that their slaves were happy with their master because they would often say so when as by other whites. Although they would often say yes, the reasoning behind this surprising answer is because a wrong answer may lead to cruel punishment and sometimes even death as explained by Douglass. Douglassr's gives an example of an unfortunate slave who once gave the wrong answer and received harsh punishment because of it. The example also depicts the connection that the owners lacked with their slaves, as many of them have never seen them (Douglass, p.34), but only know them by name.

This was often seen on larger plantations, but the punishments were just as severe if it were to be on a smaller one. Fredericks discontentment regarding the wellbeing of slaves is expressed through many of the gruesome punishments that he would witness from slave owners and overseerr's such as Mr. Gore, a more who lived up to his name and often took pride of his barbaric treatment of the slaves. Douglass noted that Austin Gore often found a dark pleasure in punishing the slaves and would sometimes do it for little to no reason at all, as it was easy to justify his actions when asked for reasoning by Colonel Lloyd. A horrific example is stated by Douglass when a slave who went by the name of Demby. After being punished and severely whipped, Demby ran to the middle of a lake (Douglass, p.39) and stood their refusing to come out (Douglass, p.39) despite Mr. Gores command. Frustrated and lacking patience, Mr. Gore went to go grab a musket, and aimed it directly at Dembyr's head, blowing his brains out (Douglass, p.39) without any hesitation. When asked by Colonel Lloyd why such action was taken, Mr. Gore simply stated that Demby was unmanageable (Douglass, p.39) and set a bad example to all slaves (Douglass, p.39). Colonel Lloyd approved of Mr. Gores actions and Mr. Gore was never punished nor testified for the murder of the slave. This was not the only case where the savagery of a slave holder was displayed. Two slaves were killed with a hatched, having their brains knocked out (Douglass, p.40) by Mr. Lanman of St. Michaels, who would go on to boast (Douglass, p.40) about their deaths. Such a scene would make any one sick to the stomach, as it did Douglassr's. How can anyone support those who kill his own kind without any mercy? Douglass did not.

Religion within the white community as compared to Douglassr's religious belief are beyond different. Slave owners often turned towards religion to justify their actions. In other words, this was the only thing making them no feel as guilty when carrying out harsh punishments and taking the lives of many slaves. He even goes onto to stating that religion in the south is a mere covering for the most horrid crimes (Douglass, p.86), support such ideals shown above, and deems it the greatest protection (Douglass, p.86) according to the slave holders. Douglass goes on to question god and his righteousness (Douglass, p.75), as can be seen when Douglass states Is there any God? Why am I a slave? (Douglass, p.75), depicting a loss of faith because of the cruel experience and livelihood that god has given in, and the power that has been left in the hand of inhumane individuals such as slave holders. Overall slave holders who were religious were the ones who were often seen as meaner (Douglass, p.87) and the most cruel (Douglass, p.87) as compared to others and they would often feel at ease after a dirty days worth of work through the power of their divine Christ. Douglass revolts against such standards and made it his goal to not fall under the religious beliefs of those who have control of him.

Finally, the assumption that slaves were moral (Fitzhugh) and intelligent (Fitzhugh) under captivity is not true at all. Douglass goes to disprove such a statement by telling his personal experiences when it came to learn and developing connections with others. Slaves holders would try their best to hinder the development of a childr's affection (Douglass, p.20). How can one be moral if they are not able to show affection or feel connected to those around them? This played a major role in Douglassr's life as he never felt connected to those related to him and lacked emotion. He stated that once his mother died, he had the same emotions as if she were just another stranger (Douglass, p.21).

Furthermore, this idea of slaves being intelligent (Fitzhugh) when kept under the power of slave owners is almost nonexistent. Douglass was prohibited from learning and the whites thought that once a slave would learn how to read, write, etc. there would be no stopping him. Douglass experienced such neglect when he went to Mr. and Mrs. Auldr's. Mrs.Auld would begin to teach Frederick Douglass the alphabet, but once her husband found out he would but this teaching to an end, and state that A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master (Douglass, p.48). Such an ideal help depict the true ignorance that the slaveowners would hold towards slaves and their opportunity to grow as individuals. Little did he know that a statement such as that only made Douglass want to learn even more, and he would go to great measures in order to do so. Douglass believed that all slaves should learn how to read, as it would impower them.

Overall, Douglass's hate towards slavery is made obvious throughout his narrative. How can one who is consistently tormented and put down by such ignorance love the life they have been given, nor the rules that come with it? Douglass did not. Douglass was an abolitionist. An individual who has lived through and experienced the true horrors of slavery. An individual whor's mission it was to overcome such gruesome control. It was his mission not only to become a freeman himself, but for his brothers and sisters to be given the same opportunities that he once had. He took great sacrifices to fight against the power of the white man. Whether it was fighting back physically or verbally, Frederick Douglass would not let slavery hold him back from reaching what he desired most, liberty, freedom, and the overall wellbeing of blacks.

Works Cited

  • Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. 1945th ed., Millennium Publications, 2014.
    Fitzhugh, George. The Blessings of Slavery, 1857
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The Challenge Against Slavery. (2019, May 26). Retrieved February 23, 2024 , from

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