Last Updated 22 Jun 2020

From Bondage to Freedom (Fredrick Douglass)

Category Freedom, Slavery
Words 1187 (4 pages)
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From Bondage to Freedom In the early days of slavery, Frederick Douglass published a narrative that will be forever remembered in history. “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” is a recount of the harsh life on the plantations before his escape to New York. He describes the senseless acts of cruelty on the part of the masters, as well as the degraded lives of the slaves. This narrative provides a powerful description how ignorance was used as a tool for slavery, the damaging effects on slaves and slave owners, and the knowledge to the path of freedom for African Americans.

Although the journey that Douglass suffered through was hard and extensive, he made his mark in the world and it is still appreciated today. Frederick Douglass was born in a slave cabin, in February, 1818, close to the town of Easton, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Frederick Douglass, whose full name is Frederick Augustus Washington Baily, was abandoned by his mother when he was just a baby and then was raised by his grandparents. Douglass never knew his father and according to him and nearly everyone, "…opinion was also whispered that my master was my father” his father figure was a white man ( NLOFD, 1).

When Douglass was around the age of six, his grandmother took him to the plantation of his master and left him there. He stayed there with his master for about two years then he was relocated around the age of eight where he was sent to Baltimore to live as a Page 2 houseboy with Hugh and Sophia Auld, relatives of his master. Not long after his arrival his new mistress taught him the alphabet. The lessons soon came to a cease when Hugh said “learning will spoil the best nigger in the world” (Chapter 6).

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When her husband forbade her to continue her instruction, because it was unlawful to teach slaves how to read, Frederick took it upon himself to learn. This marked the turning point when Frederick Douglass started to become a man. Frederick Douglass’ narrative was written to expose how ignorance was used as a tool for slavery. He shows how white slaveholders maintain slavery by keeping their slaves ignorant and oblivious to society. At the time Douglass was writing, many people believed that slavery was a natural state of being.

They believed that blacks were incapable of participating in civil society and thus should be kept as workers for whites. Mr. Auld, Douglass’ master, makes this evident by stating” A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master-to do as he is told to do. ” Slave owners would keep slaves unaware of simple things such as birth names and birth dates. Douglass shares his grief of not knowing his age by stating “A want of information concerning my own was a source of unhappiness to me even during childhood. The white children could tell their ages.

I could not tell why I ought to be deprived of the same privilege. I was not allowed to make any inquiries of my master concerning it. ”(Chapter 1) The master withheld this information because things like birthdays give a person self-identity. Self-identity leads to self-worth, and this was not a desirable quality to have in a slave if you're a slaveholder. They also controlled the language of the slaves by annihilating the mother tongue. This limited the Page 3 communication between slaves and controlled interaction also kept uprising and revolt to a minimum.

Literacy and formal education of slaves was not allowed . The more a slave knew about the language of another country the more he is able to move through all levels of that society. Slave owners believed that their captives would learn their secrets, and would be slaves no more. Slave owners could not fool a slave that knew their language, and being a fool is one of the basic ingredients to the conservation of the slavery system. Douglass reveals the damaging effects on slaves through various angles. He describes Aunt Hester’s brutal beating by Mr.

Plummer most vividly stating “He then said to her, "Now, you d——d b—-h, I'll learn you how to disobey my orders! " and after rolling up his sleeves, he commenced to lay on the heavy cow skin, and soon the warm, red blood came dripping to the floor. ” The treatment of slaves as property is another subject the author focuses on. He highlights that slave owners believed that their captives were not human and were not treated as such. He also describes how slaves were often passed between owners, and how family separation severed bonds. Douglass’ describes his own pain by expressing “I eceived the tidings of [my mother’s] death with much the same emotions I should have probably felt at the death of a stranger” (Chapter 1). Slaveholding was destructive not only to slaves but to slave owners as well since the corrupt power that the slave owner enjoyed over their slaves had a harmful effect on the slave owners moral health. Before slavery corrupts Sophia Auld’s good nature, she is a kind, affectionate person. She is corrupted by slaveholding when her husband said to her "if you teach Page 4 that nigger how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave.

He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master” (Chapter 6). This treatment of slave led the slave masters down a path to destructive moral health that would not be accepted in today’s society. Just as slave owners deny slaves of knowledge and education, slaves must seek education and knowledge in order to chase freedom. Douglass gains this knowledge by reading a book called The Columbian Orator, which contains a philosophical discussion between a master and a slave. In the dialogue, the master lays out the argument for slavery, and the slave disproves each point, eventually convincing the master to free him.

After Frederick Douglass reads The Colombian Orator, he realizes the truth about ignorance, freedom, and knowledge. Douglass writes, “It was this everlasting thinking of my condition that tormented me. There was no getting rid of it. […] The silver trump of freedom had roused my soul to eternal wakefulness” (Chapter 7). Douglass also describes his path to freedom. He clarifies, however, that this section of the book does not describe the exact means of his escape. He does not want to give slave owners any information that would help them prevent other slaves from fleeing to the North.

Though he does not give a physical description of how to escape from slavery, he does inspire slaves to gain the knowledge to one day seek the path to freedom. The “Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass” shows how white slaveholders perpetuate slavery by keeping their slaves ignorant, the damaging effect of slaves, and also how slaves must seek knowledge and education in order to pursue freedom. The novel lets the readers Page 5 feel the cruelty and hardship of Douglass’ life. Douglass’ writing reminds people of the harsh reality of slavery, and what it takes to overcome the circumstances.

From Bondage to Freedom (Fredrick Douglass) essay

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