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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

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on 14 November 2013

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Transcript of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Rogelio Paredes, Savannah Branz Hr.7

Essential Question 2:
Essential Question 3:
Essential Question 4:
Essential Question 5:
Essential Question 6:
Esential Question 1:
How does Frederick Douglass use rhetoric throughout his narrative to promote the ideals of freedom?
Frederick uses an example of figurative language juxtaposition to promote his ideals of freedom, he says, “Every thing looked clean, new, and beautiful. I
saw few or no dilapidated houses, with poverty-
stricken inmates; no half-naked children and bare-
footed women, such as I had been accustomed to see
in Hillsborough, Easton, St. Michael's, and Balti-
more. The people looked more able, stronger, health-
ier, and happier, than those of Maryland. I was for
once made glad by a view of extreme wealth, without
being saddened by seeing extreme poverty” (Douglass 111-112). He contrasts the worst of slavery to the best of freedom to make it more appealing to the audience. Another rhetoric example Douglass uses is appealing to the normal life of a southerner, he does this by saying, “I will venture to assert,
that my friend Mr. Nathan Johnson…lived in a
neater house; dined at a better table; took, paid
for, and read, more newspapers; better understood
the moral, religious, and political character of the
nation, -- than nine tenths of the slaveholders in Tal-
bot county Maryland. Yet Mr. Johnson was a work-
ing man” (Douglass 112). He compares the life of a free black man in the north to the life of a rich slave-owner in the south boasting how his way of life is superior. Another rhetoric example that Douglass uses is metaphors in figurative language. He says, “Sunday was my only leisure time. I spent this in
a sort of beast-like stupor, between sleep and wake,
under some large tree. At times I would rise up, a
flash of energetic freedom would dart through my
soul, accompanied with a faint beam of hope, that
flickered for a moment, and then vanished. I sank
down again, mourning over my wretched condition” (Douglass 66). He compares freedom to a beam of light which in people’s thoughts, light represents enlightenment and life. By putting slavery in a negative light, and freedom in a positive light rhetorically, Douglass promotes his ideals of freedom.

How does Frederick Douglass use rhetoric throughout his narrative to illustrate the evils of slavery? According to Douglass, what were some of the effects of slavery upon the enslaved? Upon the slaveholder?
Frederick Douglass uses rhetoric to illustrate the evils of slavery by portraying slavery as something that strikes fear in pain unto others. He appeals to the audience’s worst fear of torture and violation of human rights in a detailed manner. Douglass says, “After crossing
her hands, he tied them with a strong rope, and led
her to a stool under a large hook in the joist, put
in for the purpose. He made her get upon the stool,
and tied her hands to the hook. She now stood fair
for his infernal purpose. Her arms were stretched
up at their full length, so that she stood upon the
ends of her toes. 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 com-
menced to lay on the heavy cowskin, and soon the
warm, red blood (amid heart-rending shrieks from
her, and horrid oaths from him) came dripping to
the floor. I was so terrified and horror-stricken at the
sight, that I hid myself in a closet” (Douglass 6). By using appeals and diction, Frederick Douglass illustrates the evils of slavery. Some of the effects of slavery upon the enslaved were sorrow hearts and hopelessness. Douglass says, “Slaves sing most when they are
most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the
sorrows of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only
as an aching heart is relieved by its tears. At least,
such is my experience. I have often sung to drown
my sorrow, but seldom to express my happiness.
Crying for joy, and singing for joy, were alike un-
common to me while in the jaws of slavery. The
singing of a man cast away upon a desolate island
might be as appropriately considered as evidence of
contentment and happiness, as the singing of a
slave” (Douglass 15). Some of the effects upon the slaveholder are darkened hearts with no feelings and no remorse for harming other human beings. He says, “But, alas! this kind heart had but a short time to
remain such. The fatal poison of irresponsible power
was already in her hands, and soon commenced its
infernal work. That cheerful eye, under the influ-
ence of slavery, soon became red with rage; that
voice, made all of sweet accord, changed to one of
harsh and horrid discord; and that angelic face gave
place to that of a demon” (Douglass 35-36).

To what extent was Frederick Douglass able to change the national set of values through his individual actions?
Frederick Douglass changed the national set of values through his actions by criticizing the underground railroad and suggests there are other ways to freedom which are more enlightening, Douglass says, “I honor
those good men and women for their noble daring,
and applaud them for willingly subjecting them-
selves to bloody persecution, by openly avowing their
participation in the escape of slaves. I, however, can
see very little good resulting from such a course,
either to themselves or the slaves escaping; while,
upon the other hand, I see and feel assured that
those open declarations are a positive evil to the
slaves remaining, who are seeking to escape. They
do nothing towards enlightening the slave, whilst
they do much towards enlightening the master” (Douglass 100). By showing African-American that there are better ways to escape, Douglass was looked at as an abolitionist hero. Douglass was also able to make a difference in the abolitionist movement and inspire northerners to fight against slavery and made them think it was morally wrong. Because of this, slavery was eventually abolished. He says, “But, while attending an anti-slavery convention at
Nantucket, on the 11th of August, 1841, I felt
strongly moved to speak, and was at the same time
much urged to do so by Mr. William C. Coffin, a
gentleman who had heard me speak in the colored
people's meeting at New Bedford” (Douglass 114). Another that Frederick Douglass greatly changed the national values is by simply writing his narrative and evoking the people’s sympathies to support the abolitionist cause, he was inspired to write the narrative by “The Liberator”. Douglass says, “I had not long been a reader of the "Liberator,"
before I got a pretty correct idea of the principles,
measures and spirit of the anti-slavery reform. I took
right hold of the cause. I could do but little; but
what I could, I did with a joyful heart, and never felt
happier than when in an anti-slavery meeting” (Douglass 114).

In the novel Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, how is education related to human freedom?
In the Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, education is related to human freedom because education enables a human to understand the concept of reality and once a slave is able to know that he is bound, he has a hope of becoming free. Douglass says, “These words sank deep into my heart,
stirred up sentiments within that lay slumbering,
and called into existence an entirely new train of
thought. It was a new and special revelation, ex-
plaining dark and mysterious things, with which my
youthful understanding had struggled, but struggled
in vain. I now understood what had been to me a
most perplexing difficulty -- to wit, the white man's
power to enslave the black man. It was a grand
achievement, and I prized it highly. From that mo-
ment, I understood the pathway from slavery to free-
dom” (Douglass 36). Education is also related to freedom because the knowledge of being enslaved comes with the price of feeling the emotions of loss and agony because you become aware of your predicament. As an example Douglass says, “In moments of agony, I envied my fellow-slaves for
their stupidity. I have often wished myself a beast.
I preferred the condition of the meanest reptile to
my own. Any thing, no matter what, to get rid of
thinking! It was this everlasting thinking of my con-
dition that tormented me. There was no getting rid
of it. It was pressed upon me by every object within
sight or hearing, animate or inanimate. The silver
trump of freedom had roused my soul to eternal
wakefulness. Freedom now appeared, to disappear
no more forever. It was heard in every sound, and
seen in every thing. It was ever present to torment
me with a sense of my wretched condition. I saw
nothing without seeing it, I heard nothing without
hearing it, and felt nothing without feeling it” (Douglass 43). Douglass also says that bettering the condition of people includes teaching them because they can be smarter and have more opportunity. He says, “They had been shut up in mental darkness.
I taught them, because it was the delight of my
soul to be doing something that looked like better-
ing the condition of my race” (Douglass 83).
Why is universal education necesary for a free society?
Universal education is necessary for a free society because as Douglass says, knowledge is the key to power and knowing things is half the battle. When a slave knows what is going on, he acquires the power to do something about it and attempt to free his own self. This applies to all of society because everyone needs an equal opportunity to know something. Douglass states, “ I devoted three eve-
nings in the week, during the winter, to teaching the
slaves at home. And I have the happiness to know,
that several of those who came to Sabbath school
learned how to read; and that one, at least, is now
free through my agency” (Douglass 83). As other sources state, “Slave masters feared the education of blacks because it threatened to undermine the submissiveness of the "good slave," who was far less likely to fight for his or her freedom without the basic education needed to function in mainstream society” so enlightenment is the key to a free society. Another source also says, “Thousands ignore all considerations of the usefulness of what is to be learned, and go or are sent to college because it is the proper thing, a fashion of society, and has its social benefits; and many undoubtedly go because they hare been made to believe that the old education is the perfection of human wisdom for mental discipline, and is, after all, the best thing even for practical life” Society today has taken education for grnated that it is now an integral part of our daily lives and that is why we are so advanced and free. Another source says, “It is accordingly an encouragement to those believing in a better order to undertake the promotion of a vocational education which does not subject youth to the demands and standards of the present system, but which utilizes its scientific and social factors to develop a courageous intelligence, and to make intelligence practical and executive”. This means that education has a practical place in society.

Why was Douglass' narrative considered "radical" when published? Is it still?
Even Frederick Douglass himself stated that his narrative was going to be radical. He says, “Secondly, such a statement would
most undoubtedly induce greater vigilance on the
part of slaveholders than has existed heretofore
among them; which would, of course, be the means
of guarding a door whereby some dear brother bond-
man might escape his galling chains” (Douglass 99). By “radical” he means that it would stir up controversy with the slave owners because it basically undermined the institution of slavery to the free institution of the north, and exploited the evils of slavery and portrayed it in a negative sense. If slavery were presented as how it was in this book to the rest of the world, many more attempts in abolishing it would be made and that would ruin the southern economy. An outside source says, “The Congregationalist, reported that a company was driven out of Mobile, Alabama, "by the law and the public wrath," for selling copies of A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, considered an "inflammatory publication.” So back then it was still radical. The same source says, “Many scholars consider it the most successful version of Douglass's autobiography in literary terms because of the simplicity of its style, in contrast to later versions in which the author adopted the more embellished style typical of his era. In his 1939 study, J. Saunders Redding observed that, "in utter contrast to the tortured style of most of the slave biographies, Douglass's style is calm and modest….” Which states that today it’s considered more of a literary masterpiece than “radical” because today’s ideas are different. Another source says, “The Narrative established him as a reliable and serious source for presenting any of the issues of his day requiring instruction and correction, most of them related to slavery”. This means that instead of his writing being discriminated today, it is used as a prime example for portraying slavery in the 1800s and this implies how successful it was.

Essential Question 7:
How did the South justify slavery?
The main reason that the south justified slavery is by using the Biblical allusion to the Tribes of Ham and how it was the destiny of a black person to be a slave. Douglass says, “I therefore hate the cor-
rupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plunder-
ing, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land.
Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful
one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity.
I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the
boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels.
Never was there a clearer case of "stealing the livery
of the court of heaven to serve the devil in." I am
filled with unutterable loathing when I contem-
plate the religious pomp and show, together with the
horrible inconsistencies, which every where surround
me” (Douglass 117). He talks about Christianity because Douglass believed it was the slave-owners’ main justification for their evils since Christianity usually has the connotation of being nice and a force of goodwill. Also Christian values were deeply entrenched in the United States at this time, so back then a Biblical justification would’ve been enough to allow slavery to happen. One source says, “Many theologians in the South as well as in the North believed that the Bible provided divine sanction for the institution of American slavery. In their view, the curse of Ham (or Canaan) condemned Africans and their descendants to slavery” Which basically uses the reasoning that is Christianity is morally right, then so is slavery. Another reason the south justified slavery is economically as it boosted national exports and the economy. Another source says, “Moreover, slavery was valuable economically. Slaves produced southern cotton, the United States' leading export. Even divested of their biblical cudgels, proslavery writers could still argue that slavery benefited the slave, the South as a region, and the nation as a whole”. This states that even slavery could benefit the slaves economically so a strong point in Southern justification could be made. The same source says that, “For slaves, bondage offered protection. Masters cared for their chattel, even during old age and infirmity, Fitzhugh argued. Bondage thus provided a social welfare network for the slaves that no northern white wage worker similarly enjoyed. Lacking the same protections as southern slaves, white laborers in the North toiled long hours, horribly exploited during their most productive years by the factory system and a callous market economy, only to be cast into the streets and left to their own devices when their productivity decreased” This was used by the Southerners to prove that slavery was actually safer than capitalism in the North and this made slavery more appealing in contrast to manual paid labor.

Works Cited:
“A Brief History of Education under Slavery and Segregation.” Issues & Controversies in American History. Infobase Publishing, 3 Jan. 2007. Web. 12 Nov. 2013. <http://icah.infobaselearning.com/icahspotlight.aspx?ID=111629>.

“Popular Science Monthly Editorial Opposes Coeducation in Higher Education.” Issues & Controversies in American History. Infobase Publishing, Web. 12 Nov. 2013. <http://icah.infobaselearning.com/pdocument.aspx?ID=109231>.

"Democracy and Education." American Decades Primary Sources. Ed. Cynthia Rose. Vol. 2: 1910-1919. Detroit: Gale, 2004. 169-171. U.S. History in Context. Web. 13 Nov. 2013.

Lesinski, Jeanne M. "A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave." Gale Library of Daily Life: Slavery in America. Ed. Orville Vernon Burton. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale, 2008. 199-200. U.S. History in Context. Web. 13 Nov. 2013.

McFeely, William. 1991. Frederick Douglass. New York: Norton.
Quarles, Benjamin. [1948] 1968. Frederick Douglass. New York: Atheneum.
C. James Trotman

Forret, Jeff. “Slavery and Religion.” Issues & Controversies in American History. Infobase Publishing, 15 June 2012. Web. 13 Nov. 2013. <http://icah.infobaselearning.com/icahfullarticle.aspx?ID=130203>.
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