Frederick Douglass and SlaveryAbolitionist Frederick Douglass was the most distinguished andinfluential black leaders of the nineteenth century. Douglass focused hiswritings on the harshness and brutality of slavery. He describes in many of hisbooks accounts of his own experiences as a slave. A reader is able to perceive aclear image of slavery through Douglass’ words.
His writings explain the effectsof slavery and the struggle to overthrow it, as well as the condition of freeblacks both before and after the Emancipation, the politics of the Civil War,and the failed promise of Reconstruction the followed.As a child, Douglass was taught how to read by Sophia Auid. She wasdrawn to the questioning mind of Douglass. Her husband however, put a stop tothis stating the teaching of Douglass to read would, “Spoil the best nigger inthe world… forever unfitting him for the duties of a slave.
“As a slave child some experiences were hard to describe. Douglasswitnessed, as a child, what he called a “horrible exhibition.” He lived with hisAunt in one of the master’s corridors.
The master was an inhumane slave holder.He would sometimes take great pleasure in whipping a slave. Douglass was oftentimes awakened by the screams of his Aunt. She would be tied and whipped on herback.
The master would whip her till he was literally covered in blood. “Nowords, no tears, no prayers, from his gory victim, seemed to move his iron heartfrom its bloody purpose.” The louder she screamed, the harder the master seemedto whip her. Douglass witnessed this first as a child. As he grew older, manymore of these incidents would occur. “It struck me with awful force. It was theblood stained gate, the entrance to the hell of slavery, though which I wasabout to pass.”An old slave master of Douglass was Captain Anthony.
Captain Anthony was,at times, a kind and gentle man. However, slavery made him treat slaves asinferiors. “Under the whole heavens there could be no relation more unfavorableto the development of honorable character than that sustained by the slaveholder to the slave.
“From the beginning of a slave’s childhood, masters teach their slavesabout God. Slaves were told that God made whites to be masters and blacks to beslaves. Young children were told that slavery was for their own protection. Thisdid not make sense to Douglass. He desired to know how his master knew what Godthought. Such unsupported lies to Douglass would not be accepted withoutquestion.
Still, others chose not to run away from their masters.Douglass had escaped from slavery. As Douglass grew older he started tocompel other people to seek their independence. A person could not considerhimself free as long as his brother is a slave.
Douglass explained, “We are onepeople – one in general complexion, one in a common degradation, one in popularestimation.” As one rises, all must rise. As one falls, all must fall.Douglass had an idea to help the North win the Civil War.
He proposedthat the slaves be freed as a war measure and let the people join the Union Army.He urged this policy without compromise. The Negroes would help benefit theUnion. A proclamation of freedom to the slaves would, “Smite the rebellion inthe very seat of its life, depriving it of the labor which kept the rebel armysupplied with food, clothing, and the sinews of war.” Abolition of the slaveswould immediately unite the world in favor of the government of America.Douglass wrote an autobiography to show everyone the inhumane side ofslavery. Most people did not know of slavery’s brutality until Douglass wroteabout it.
Douglass wrote about the Civil War to get more people to help save andfree the slaves. The writings of Douglass were a significant record of thestruggles of African-Americans in the nineteenth-century United States.