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Fredrick Douglass

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Frederick Douglass, an abolitionist who altered America's views of slavery through his writings and actions. Frederick's life as a slave had the greatest impact on his writings. Through his experience as a slave, he developed emotion and experience for him to become a successful abolitionist writer. He experienced harsh treatment and his hate for slavery and desire to be free caused him to write Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. In his Narrative, he wrote the story of his miserable life as a slave and his fight to be free. His motivation behind the character (himself) was to make it through another day so that maybe one day he might be free. By speaking out, fighting as an abolitionist and finally becoming an author, Douglass's transformation from a slave into a man.

In a preface of Douglass' autobiography, William Lloyd Garrison writes, "I am confident that it is essentially true in all its statements; that nothing has been set down in malice, nothing exaggerated, nothing drawn from the imagination; that it comes short of the reality, rather than overstates a single fact in regard to SLAVERY AS IT IS."(Garrison, 34). The significance of this statement validates and promises that Douglass' words are nothing but the truth. This made the narrative more marketable to the white audience and people were listening. Douglass realized that he did not need assurance from white people to be respected. That's why he addressed his master for all the wrong things done to him. Slaves are looked as not human. Douglass completes his journey from slave to man when he creates his own identity. He speaks out, fighting as an abolitionist and finally becoming an author. Douglass tells his story not simply as a search for freedom, but also a search for himself.

Douglass demonstrates how slaveholding is damaging not only to the slaves themselves, but to slave owners as well. The power that they have over their slaves has a damaging effect on their moral health because they are careless. Douglass describes adultery and rape as typical behavior patterns of slaveholders which damage their families. Sophia Auld is Douglass's main illustration of the corruption of slave owners. The power of slaveholding changes Sophia from a nice woman to a demon. She went from a kind, caring and loving person into a typical mean slave master. She was no longer able to teach Douglass how to read because her husband disapproved it. Slaveholders gain and keep power over blacks from their birth onward by keeping them ignorant of basic facts about themselves. For example slaves didn't know their birth date or who their parents were. They didn't want slaves to have a natural sense of identity. Slave children were not allowed to learn to read or write because this would lead slaves to question their rights.

Douglass uses family relationships, starting with his own birth, to gain the compassion of his target audience. He never knew the identity of his father, but it was "whispered" (Douglass, Narrative, 43) that it was his master. Douglass shocked his Northern white readers when he informed them that slaveholders regularly split slave families for no reason. This upset Northerners because their family units were the foundation of their communities. People couldn't believe that slave children were taken away from their mothers without reason. Douglass and his mother were separated when he was an infant with no explanation because this situation was usual on plantations. When Douglass's grandmother was too old they found her useless they alienated her in the woods alone. This shows that the slave owners had no respect or gratitude toward slaves that had faithfully served their masters all their lives.

When Douglass started to learn to read it was from a slave-owners wife. This woman first introduced Douglas to the alphabet. Mrs. Auld "commenced to teach him A, B, C...and assisted him in learning to spell words" (Douglass, Narrative, 63). After a few lessons, Mr. Auld discovered what his wife was doing and put a stop to it, expressing that if she taught Douglass "how to read, there would be no keeping him...that it would forever unfit him to be a slave" (Douglass Narrative, 63). This experience made Douglass realize that another tool of slavery, was keeping the slaves ignorant. By the white men keeping the slaves from being able to read and write they were oppressing the African American population. This was to prevent the slave from thinking that equality could ever take place. Although difficult, Douglass made a plan to learn to read and write. The plan which he adopted "was that of making friends of all the little white boys whom I met in the streets"...then converting them into teachers" (Douglass, Narrative 66). Douglass became



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