Expository Essay from the “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” by F. DouglEs edited by David W. Nlight

Douglass tells the readers about all the pain and humiliation, he had to experience and to witness, when he was a slave. He was very similar to other slaves, and at the same time he was different, as he had the chance to get education, which later became his path to freedom and turned into his ability to motivate other people for struggle.

The name of Frederick Douglass has entered the history of the country in association with the fight for freedom and building of equal society without racial prejudice. His personal story has become a great example of how an individual is able to withstand his environment and motivate others for stating for their moral and social interests. In his famous work “Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass” the author revealed the details of his own life, the places, where he lived and the things, which he was able to experience being a slave and a free man. The setting had serious impact upon moral development of Douglass, at the same time he managed to form his unique life position and views, which motivated him for struggle for his personal freedom and freedom of other slaves.[1]

A lot of people were negatively impacted by national divisions within America and thus the views of Frederick Douglass’s writings reflected the views of these people. Douglass was one of the abolitionists, he managed to contribute to changing of the America’s views of slavery with the help of his writings and his speeches. Douglass was born slave in Maryland and he made attempts to escape from slavery, but these attempts were not successful until 1838, when he moved to Massachusetts.[2] There he became involved in abolitionist movement activities and proved to be a great speaker. Then he was forced to leave America in order to avoid being captured in accordance with the Fugitive Slave Laws. He moved to the British Isles from America and gave lectures, devoted to the theme of slavery.  His personal life experience was of great motivation for him in his abolitionist work. He grew up as slave and was able to experience the hardships, which were experienced by all slaves in the American South, which included whippings, lack of normal food, harsh treatment of the masters. This was exactly his strong desire for freedom and hatred for slavery, which forced him to write his “Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass”. The major aim of the author was to reveal the reality of slavery to all the readers. He managed to complete this task perfectly, as his writings made many people aware of the need to fight for freedom and made them join the abolitionist movement. There were a lot of other narratives, produced by former slaves, but none of them was that realistic and profound as the narration, written by Douglass. Douglass’s life and his writings and speeches were of great importance for launching of national and international debates in political theory and science, sociology and philosophy in relation to slavery. Douglass made a great contribution into the history of American philosophy, he participated in debates regarding the nature and future of the American Republic and the needed institutions. His inspired a lot of discussions in the spheres of African American philosophy, political philosophy, moral and social philosophies with special attention to the issues, related to slavery and racial exploitation, segregation and self-respect and resistance against slavery as a social institution.

Slaves were forced to form new communities among themselves in order to withstand the pressures of the society, they belonged to. They had to find the ways to preserve their African customs and healing approaches. Slave culture was based upon the leading positions of cooperation and family relations, it was evident that great attention to development of communities and families was one of the ways to go through the hardships of slavery. Slaves were not allowed to learn reading and writing, this is the reason, they were forced to turn to oral traditions and as a result they produced a great number of laments, stories and songs, passing them to each other in oral forms. Oral tradition was the key feature of most African tribal traditions and customs. This was also the way for them to build stronger connections to their origins. Due to the fact that literacy was absent, African slaves were to preserve their history and cultural information with the help of storytelling. Herbal medicine and prayer occupied their unique places in the tribal African culture. Most of the slaves, who arrived to American plantations, were distanced from their African religions and converted to Christianity.[3] Still they did their best to preserve their dancing, shouting, enthusiastic singing as a part of their culture. A lot of slaves were busy with cultivating of the private gardens for their masters. They were known as “kitchen gardens”, in case they managed to produce surplus of products there, they sold their crops at Sunday markets and earned their own cash.[4] Some masters allowed them to do that and slaves obtained the small chance to purchase their own freedom, having worked for relatively long period of time in those gardens.

Slavery culture was important for developing of their ability to resist to racial segregation and social order, involving such institute as slavery. Those slaves, who managed to run away, formed the so-called “maroon” communities, these were autonomous groups taking care of their members and resisting recapture. Slaves helped each other, for example the runaway slaves could count upon other slaves, working in plantations, who provided food and temporary shelter to them[5].

The life and activity of Frederick Douglass could be considered as an integral part of the social reforms in the nineteenth century. At the very beginning his speeches were rather simple and mostly he retold his life in them. Later, he matured as a speaker and turned into a convincing and logical antislavery lecturer, who did not simply describe the problems of slavery and the hardships of the slaves, instead he provided his analysis of the slavery and racial prejudice in general as the ruining factors for his society. Some critics started to express doubts about the credibility of his speeches and Douglass took the decision to produce his “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” in the form of short autobiography. It was printed and reached thousands of readers in America and Europe. Douglass turned into the most influential African American in the nineteenth century and managed to agitate the consciousness of American people.[6] He struggled for various important reforms for his society, for example free public education, abolition of capital punishment, land reform, women’s rights and peace. The greatest attention was certainly devoted to the racial issues and protecting of the rights of African Americans.[7]

Overall, Frederick Douglass became the most famous and the best black speaker and the writer of his epoch. His fight against slavery was deeply personal and utterly important for him, and this is probably the reason, why he became so popular and influential in his country and in the whole world. His significant autobiography “Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass” offered his personal considerations of the challenges of slavery and the need to provide equal rights to all representatives of the society, irrespective of their face or skin color.

Bibliography

Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Dover Publications; 1 edition, 1995.

Finkenbine, Roy E. Douglass, Frederick. 2000.

Matlack, James. The Autobiographies of Frederick Douglass.  Clark Atlanta University. Phylon. Vol. 40, No. 1,1st Qtr., 1979.


[1] Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Dover Publications; 1 edition, 1995.

[2] Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Dover Publications; 1 edition, 1995.

[3] Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Dover Publications; 1 edition, 1995.

[4] Matlack, James. The Autobiographies of Frederick Douglass.  Clark Atlanta University. Phylon. Vol. 40, No. 1,1st Qtr., 1979.

[5] Finkenbine, Roy E. Douglass, Frederick. 2000.

[6] Finkenbine, Roy E. Douglass, Frederick. 2000.

[7] Matlack, James. The Autobiographies of Frederick Douglass.  Clark Atlanta University. Phylon. Vol. 40, No. 1,1st Qtr., 1979.

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