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Review of the Life of Frederick Duglass

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November 18, 2014

Ms. Hancock

American heritage

Narrative of the life of Fredrick Douglass

        The book that I have chosen for my review essay is Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by none other than Frederick Douglass himself. Douglass was born Frederick Bailey and through hard work and unbeatable will secures his own freedom and devotes his like to securing change in the nation. Frederic Douglass tells us his true story about slavery in early America.

Published by Frederick Douglass in 1845 at the age of 27, the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave is one of the most influential works by an American author in history. His narrative was an autobiography that recounted his life from his earliest days as a slave in Maryland to his escape to the North in 1838. The story ends with Douglass entering the abolitionist crusade as one of its most prominent and respected lecturers and reformers in history. Douglass was encouraged by his fellow abolitionists to publish his story, which had gained support from his multiple speeches on the subject. He was hesitant at first, stating that "a person undertaking to write a book without learning will appear rather novel, but such as it was I gave it to the public." His intention in writing the autobiography was primarily to legitimize his speeches and his own voice. He explained in May 1846 that "my manner was such as to create a suspicion that I was not a runaway slave, but some educated free negro, whom the abolitionists had set forth to attract attention to what was called there a faltering became necessary to set myself right before the United States, and to reveal the whole facts about my case." (Osborne, Kristen. McKeever, Christine ed. "About Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass | Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Study Guide". GradeSaver, 5 September 2012 Web. 18 November 2014.)

Narrative begins with Douglass providing the audience with the few facts he knows about his birth. His father is believed to be his white master Captain Anthony and his mother is a slave named Harriet Bailey, Baily being Frederick’s original last name. Throughout the autobiography, Douglass presents the common happening of white slave owners raping slave women in both the interest of sexual desires and increasing their own slave population. Douglass also makes strong note of the hypocrisy of “Christian” slave owners who misused religious teachings to justify their in humane treatment of slaves.

Throughout the text He witnesses brutal beatings and the murder of a slave, which goes un-noticed by the law or the community at large. At the age of eight, Douglass is sent to Baltimore to live with the Auld family and care for their son, Thomas. Mrs. Auld is first presented as kind to Douglass reading lessons until her husband intervenes; Douglass continues his lessons by trading bread for lessons with poor neighborhood  boys and by using Thomas' books. Soon, Douglass discovers abolitionist movements in the North.

Several years later his original owner, Captain Anthony dies and Douglass finds himself being lent to a poor farmer with a reputation for "breaking" slaves. Douglass spends a year with a man names Covey, who cruelly and brutally whips the slave until Douglass finally fights back. This fight continues all night until covey finally backs off. From that day on, Covey never touches Douglass again.

Douglass lives for a time with William Freeland, who he calls “a kind master. In his time there Douglass becomes a Sunday school teacher to other slaves and enjoys the position. Although Douglass attempts to escape by canoeing up the Chesapeake Bay he is eventually caught and ends up working for Hugh Auld in Baltimore again. Douglass soon makes an arrangement with Auld to hire himself out for work and give Auld a set amount of wages each week and being allowed to pocket the rest, thus saving up enough for his escape to New York.

After his escape, Douglass moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, and he settles there with his new wife, Anna Murray. Although he still fears being caught and returned to the South, Douglass attends an anti-slavery convention, where he is encouraged to speak. This forms the beginning of his life in the public eye, speaking and writing in favor of the abolition of slavery.

This novel presents us, the readers with a brave man’s own person experience with the atrocity of slavery. Frederick Douglass provided us with his story of suffering and trials throughout which he becomes a stronger and better man. Frederick Douglass’  hopes in publishing this novel was to inform the readers of the hardships that many black men and women faced during this time period. He hoped to sway people’s hearts into kindness and equality for one another and arguably succeeded during his days as a speaker and abolitionist. In this novel Fredrick Douglass reveals the many accounts of brutality and in humane acts against slaves at the time, as studied in our lectures about the slave trade. As stated earlier he bore witness to the beating and death of a slave at a young age and this event was impactful on not only his life but the readers and society on the time as before the novel was published nobody cared that a slave had been beaten to death because it was “socially acceptable”



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