She could scarcely imagine that her son's life would continue to be a source of interest and inspiration nearly years after his birth. Indeed, it would be hard to find anyone who more closely embodies this year's Black History Month theme, "From Slavery to Freedom: Africans in the Americas. His fiery oratory and extraordinary achievements produced a legacy that stretches his influence across the centuries, making Frederick Douglass a role model for the twenty-first century.
One reason Douglass's story continues to resonate is that his life embodies the American dream of overcoming obstacles and reaching one's goals. Young Frederick Bailey spent his first twenty years in slavery, first on a Talbot County, Maryland plantation, then in the ship-building city of Baltimore. In the first of three autobiographies, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass , published in , he recounts the adversity of his early life.
He rarely saw his mother who worked as a field hand, had barely enough clothes to cover his body, and had to eat from a trough like a farmyard animal. As he grew old enough to work he passed through a series of masters, some kind and some cruel.
Despite his situation, Frederick managed to learn to read and write, sometimes by bribing white boys into teaching him in exchange for bits of bread. At the age of about twelve, he acquired a copy of the Columbian Orator , a book of famous speeches that formed the basis for his later skills as an outstanding public lecturer. After he gained basic literacy, Frederick began to reach out to others, assisting his fellow slaves to read and operating a forbidden Sunday school.
As he gained more knowledge of the world at large, he could no longer passively submit to a life of slavery. In September , he borrowed the identification papers of a free black sailor and boarded a train for the North. Although it was a momentous achievement, attaining freedom was merely a starting-point for Frederick Douglass. Within a few years he was a world-famous abolitionist, author, and orator. He published his narrative detailing his time as a slave, edited his own newspaper, and traveled throughout the United States and Britain lecturing on important civil rights and social justice topics.
He was the single male delegate at the Seneca Falls Convention on women's rights to support the call for woman's suffrage. Following the war, hoping that equality would be achieved with the end of slavery, he moved his family to Washington, D.
In President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed him federal marshal for the District of Columbia, and in that capacity he stood beside James Garfield as he took the presidential oath of office in By Frederick Douglass was the U.
Ending his life at Cedar Hill, his twenty-one room District of Columbia home, in February , Frederick Douglass had come about as far as humanly possible from his beginnings in a Maryland slave cabin. The social distance Douglass traveled during his lifetime continues to inspire modern Americans to take a lesson from his life. If he could achieve so much after his most humble of beginnings, perhaps our own dreams and goals are within reach.
Indeed, the words, images and heritage of Douglass abound in history and popular culture. Auld's transformation from a kindly woman with no previous experience as a slave-owner to a harsh mistress under her husband's tutelage, Douglass learned of the institution's effects on even well-intentioned whites. One of the most prominent themes in the Narrative involves the association of literacy with freedom.
The acquisition of the one precipitated the desire for the other, which was, for Douglass, a two-edged sword. He had occasional regrets about the knowledge that literacy afforded him because without the ability to change his status as slave, he was more miserable than ever. Nonetheless, Douglass's ability to tell his story in his own words firmly refuted the commonly held belief at the time that slaves were incapable of communicating through the standard conventions of American literature.
Douglass not only displayed his facility with the dominant literary modes of his time, but he also incorporated folkloric elements from both black and white cultures into his text. O'Meally points out that Douglass drew on the tradition of the African-American sermon, itself grounded in folklore, and that the Narrative was meant to be preached as well as read.
Douglass's ambivalent relationship to Christianity is another important theme of his story. The Narrative exposed the hypocrisy of individual Christians whose treatment of slaves was cruel and inhumane, and of organized Christianity as a whole which, with few exceptions, supported the institution of slavery and even claimed that it was sanctioned by God. Of the many slave narratives produced in the nineteenth century, Douglass's has received the most critical attention and is widely regarded as the best.
In the years since Franklin's essay, however, the text has received increasing scrutiny from a wide variety of perspectives. Scholars have focused on Douglass's participation in various discourses, both black and white, including those associated with folklore and with Christianity.
Kelly Rothenberg discusses Douglass's use of elements from black folklore that warn against the dangers of resistance to slavery, although he himself rejected the advice those tales offered and tried to escape despite the risks. James Wohlpart explores Douglass's double challenge: Douglass, claims Wohlpart, operated within the discourse of white Christianity at the same time that he subverted it. According to Morgan, what distinguishes Douglass's story from Jacobs's and indeed from most other slave narratives, is the author's emphasis on his existence as an individual who achieved both literacy and freedom almost entirely on his own.
Bergner examines Douglass's description of the whipping of his Aunt Hester whereby he became painfully aware of slavery as an institution. Prior to the Black urban rebellions of , what the academic establishment defined as American literature included about as many Afro-American achievements as major-league baseball did before The strident, moral voice of the former slave recounting, exposing, appealing, apostrophizing, and above all, remembering his ordeal in bondage is the single most impressive feature of a slave narrative.
Typically, scholars and teachers dealing with Frederick Douglass's Narrative of the Life of an American Slave are concerned with the crucial issue of religion, because the tensions and ironies generated by the sustained Modern Language Association of America, The Conversion of Frederick Douglass.
The Narrative of Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass claimed that he began to become free when he learned to write. Part of what he meant was that in writing he found the means to see himself as himself rather than as his masters saw him. Cambridge University Press, Strange order of things! Oh, Nature, where art thou. Are not these blacks thy children as well as we? Frederick Douglass and Postmodernity. In the Narrative of the Life of an American Slave, Frederick Douglass recounts his rise from a black slave to an abolitionist leader.
Douglass's eloquent book gives testimony to the cruelty that he and other slaves suffered. Not only is Douglass's writing Reading the Narrative of Frederick Douglass. Autobiographical Literary Criticism, edited by Diane P. Duke University Press, On numerous occasions his words have lifted my Bedford Books of St. Memory was given to man for some wise purpose. The past is … the mirror in which we may discern the dim outlines of the future and by which we may make them more symmetrical.
Since the late s, ante-bellum slave narratives have experienced a renaissance as dozens of the thousands still extant have been reprinted and as scholars have published major works on the sources, art, and development of the narratives; the people who produced them; Much has been written on Frederick Douglass and his triumphant escape from slavery.
Almost every article written about Douglass deals with the written text as Douglass presents it,
- An American slave by Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Introduction The Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass can be referred to as a memoir and writing about the abolitionist movement of the life of a former slave, Fredrick Douglass.
The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass details the oppression Fredrick Douglass went through before his escape to freedom. In his narratives, Douglass offers the readers with fast hand information of the pain, brutality, and humiliation of the slaves.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Essay. BACK; NEXT ; Writer’s block can be painful, but we’ll help get you over the hump and build a great outline for your paper. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave: Written by Himself study guide contains a biography of Frederick Douglass, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself Frederick Douglass The following entry presents criticism of Douglass's autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself (). See also Frederick Douglass Criticism. Sep 05, · How does Douglass describe New Bedford, Massachusetts? How does this description undermine economic arguments in favor of slavery? 4. Think about Douglass’s private speech to the ships in Chapter X. Why does Douglass recreate this speech in his Narrative? What do the ships represent? Why is this moment important within the Narrative? 5.