By Casey Connealy

American History

Frederick Douglas

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave
was written by Frederick Douglass himself. He was born into
slavery in Tuckahoe, Maryland in approximately 1817. He has, "
accurate knowledge of my age, never having seen any authentic
record containing it" (47). He became known as an eloquent speaker
for the cause of the abolitionists. Having himself been kept as a
slave until he escaped from Maryland in 1838, he was able to
deliver very impassioned speeches about the role of the slave
holders and the slaves. Many Northerners tried to discredit his
tales, but no one was ever able to disprove his statements.

Frederick Douglass does offer a biased review of slavery, as
he was born into it, yet even in his bias he is able to detect and
detail the differences in the slave holders cruelty and that to
which he was subjected. From being whipped and humiliated daily,

"a very severe whipping... for being awkward" (101), to being able to
find his own work and save some money, "I was able to command the
highest wages given to the most experienced calkers" (134), he is
able to give the reader a more true picture of slavery. His
poignant speeches raised the ire of many Northerners, yet many
still felt the slaves deserved their position in life. Douglass,
for his own safety, was urged to travel to England where he stayed
and spoke until 1847 when he returned to the U.S. to buy his
freedom. At that point, he began to write and distribute an anti-
slavery newspaper called "The North Star". Not only did he present
news to the slaves, but it was also highly regarded as a good
source of information for those opposed to slavery.

During the Civil war, Douglass organized two regiments of
black soldiers in Massachusetts to fight for the North. Before,
during and after the war he continued his quest to free all the
slaves. He became known as a fair and righteous man and was
appointed as the U.S. Minister of Haiti after holding several
government offices.

Frederick Douglass has woven many themes into his narrative,
all being tied with a common thread of manís inhumanity towards
man. Children were uprooted from the arms of their mothers,

"before the child has reached itís twelfth month, itís mother is
taken from it" (48) and sold to other slave holders. Brutal
whippings occurred for even the smallest imagined offense, "a mere
look, word, or motion" (118), women were treated as no better than
common concubines and the slaves were forced into living quarters,

"on one common bed... cold, damp floor" (55) worse than some of the
farm animals. The slaves were not allowed even the most meager
portion of food, "eight pounds of pork and one bushel of corn meal"
(54) to last a month. Clothes were scarce and illness was never
tolerated. It was unthinkable for the slaves to practice any type
of religion, hold any gatherings, become literate to any degree,

"unlawful... unsafe, to teach a slave to read" (78) or even make the
simple decision of when to eat and sleep.

One of the themes that the book dealt with is society and itís
handling of slavery under the guise of Christianity. Those who
professed to being the most Christian i.e., the minister who lived
next door, was actually the most cruel. Douglass stated adamantly
that religion was, "a mere covering for the most horrid of crimes,
--- justifier of... barbarity --- sanctifier of... hateful fraud, --- for the slave holder" (117). "Religious slave holders
are the worst" (117) because they thought it was their duty to"whip his slaves" (118). While being in the community of religious
leaders, Douglass was subjected to the "meanest... most cruel" (117)
of acts of one human being towards another. The slaves were kept
down, belittled and whipped into submission all under the tenets of

Christianity. The Rev. Weeden, Rev. Hopkins and Mr. Freeland felt
it was not only their right to own slaves, but also their God-given
right to take these Ďhuman beingsí and turn them into hard workers.

The imagined acts of transgression and the punishments mettled out
smacked of Puritanism of the 1600ís. If they, as religious
leaders, were the ideal citizens of society, then the slaves, who
were the chaff of the wheat, must be treated as such. If the
slaves were not whipped daily, how could they ever be saved from
all their imagined sins?

Not only are we allowed a chronological view of Frederick

Douglassí life, we are also privy to the growth of his emotional
maturity as he explores the value