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Frederick Douglass’ Arguments Against Slavery

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Frederick Douglas was born a slave in Maryland on a plantation. He later on was able to run away and find freedom. In The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, readers were able to learn about the life of one remarkable individual and the struggles he endured during his life. Douglass’s story is considered prose and a narrative, both of which are presented in a natural matter – the factual, conversational tone. He finds balance between historical accuracy, personal experience, and emotion which is evident in every sentence. This autobiography not only explained the struggles he experienced but also how he dealt with it. Frederick Douglas himself was his most powerful argument against slavery. He was proof that some slaves could become intellectual, articulate, and productive members of society. He became an activist in the abolition movement.

Douglass spoke a lot about education because he believed that was the key to freedom. In his own personal experience, Douglass taught himself to read and gained the knowledge that slavery was wrong and that God did not make black people to be slaves for white people. The more knowledge a slave had, the more that he saw the slave system was based on slaves’ ignorance and the lies of the white man’s superiority. “It was always used in such connections as to make it an interesting word to me. If a slave ran away and succeeded in getting clear, or if a slave killed his master, set fire to a barn, or did anything very wrong in the mind of a slaveholder, it was spoken of as the fruit of abolition”. For this reason, teaching a slave to read and write was illegal. Learning the meaning of this word was the key for gaining freedom that not everyone knew was possible.

The attitude Douglass expressed against the slaveholders was obvious throughout the narrative. A line that could best describe how it all started was mentioned in the seventh chapter. “I could regard them in no other light than a band of successful robbers, who had left their homes, and gone to Africa, and stolen us from our homes, and in a strange land reduced us to slavery. I loathed them as being the meanest as well as the most wicked of men”. This explains that they robbed from their country to become slaves and they were also robbed of their lives. They were unwillingly transferred in some unfamiliar place and taken away from their family.

The worst aspect of slavery was the lack of family ties. Slaves were raised not knowing their fathers, brothers, sisters and sometimes even their mothers. They get very little time spent with their mothers, and for some, no time at all. This kind of treatment is unjust and inhumane. The color of your skin should never be the basis of how someone is treated. The slave owners kept them from having an established identity. If they saw themselves as individuals with a purpose and sense of self, they would then have the desire to question authority. They kept parents and children separate due to human instinct to develop kinship ties. The slaves would form a support system and thus establish a group identity, leading to potential uprising and questioning of their positions.

Slavery did not just affect black people but also the white people. The narrative explained how mean white people could be. One minor mistake made by a slave could be a reason for bloody beatings. When Douglass moved to Master Hugh’s care, his wife showed, in what he describes it as, heavenly qualities. She breads the hungry, clothed the naked and comforted the mourner. This all changed when Master Hugh saw his wife teaching Douglas how to read. He explained that there will be no use for the slave if they learn how to read and write. Since then, she changed how she treated the slaves. “Slavery soon proved its ability to divest her of these heavenly qualities. Under its influence, the tender heart became stone, and the lamblike disposition gave way to one of tiger-like fierceness”. Unfortunately, having power over these slaves changes the inner being of white people too. Being genuinely kind can turn into one-eighty – that slavery does not just destroy the slaves but also the slave holders

Douglass is a Christian. He made sure to take extreme care to show the difference between the Christianity of the slaveholders and the pure form practiced in the north. “Assert most unhesitatingly, that the religion of the south is a mere covering for the most horrid crimes, — a justifier of the most appalling barbarity, — a sanctifier of the most hateful frauds, — and a dark shelter under, which the darkest, foulest, grossest, and most infernal deeds of slaveholders find the strongest protection.” Douglass shows the readers of the narrative how the slave holders of the south would twist the words of the bible to justify the doings, hiding behind religion for a shield. We are also shown that being a slave owner and being a Christian is hypocritical in itself, because it is not possible to own and direct slaves while remaining pure to the religion. After all the wrong doings, these so called Christians, the slave holders, “that mistress and her husband would kneel every morning, and pray that God would bless them in basket and store!”.

As seen from the essay, many lessons can be learned in reading the Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass. Every major aspect such as religion, politics and race are discussed in the autobiography. Most slaves accepted their fate – that they were slaves for life. Being away from the family, being uneducated and maltreated are reasons to lose hope and not see the light at the end of the tunnel. The struggles he endured – unjust and inhumane, though seemed impossible to escape from, made possible through education, determination and the right amount of faith. 

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Frederick Douglass’ Arguments Against Slavery. (2021, March 18). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from
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