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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

This research will focus on one pivotal historic work of literature, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, written by Douglass himself. Frederick Douglass has secured a place in American history as a tireless advocate for the abolition of slavery. Having been born into slavery himself had a huge impact on Douglass’ mindset and political beliefs and brought a unique insight to his mission and writings.

Upon his release from slavery, Douglass devoted himself to seeing slavery in the United States destroyed once and for all. Using Douglass’ book as the main source of information, complemented by others, several different viewpoints will be combined here to not only present a comprehensive book report, but also to provide a greater understanding of the common themes of the book which represent key pieces of the history of the nation that Douglass fought to improve for everyone. The Experiences of Frederick Douglass

As the research was introduced, it was noted that Frederick Douglass had a unique perspective on the institution of slavery, having experienced it first hand as a former slave himself. These experiences, as related by Douglass in his book, are key to understanding both the book and the man who wrote it. The first several chapters of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass are both biographical in nature and a running commentary on the horrors that Douglass experienced first hand as a slave.

Within these chapters, perhaps the most horrific and telling passage is the following: “I speak advisedly when I say this, — that killing a slave, or any colored person, in Talbot county, Maryland (Douglass’ home county), is not treated as a crime, either by the courts or the community. Mr. Thomas Lanman, of St. Michael’s, killed two slaves, one of whom he killed with a hatchet, by knocking his brains out. He used to boast of the commission of the awful and bloody deed.

I have heard him do so laughingly, saying, among other things, that he was the only benefactor of his country in the company” With human life being treated as such a trivial commodity, it is not surprising that an impressionable child would grow into a man who wanted to see a sweeping change in what was billed as a free society for all, but in reality, one that meted out freedom and liberty not based upon the contributions of an individual to society or his/her willingness to obey the law and be a good citizen, but merely on the basis of the color of one’s skin.

Frederick Douglass knew in his heart that beneath the superficial appearance of race, he and his fellow African-Americans not only had a great deal to contribute to America as free citizens, but were entitled to that freedom and would fight for it by whatever means were necessary to see freedom achieved for what amounted to an entire race of people. Another factor which made it possible for Frederick Douglass to become a key player in the abolitionist movement, aside from his attained status as a freed slave, was undoubtedly his gender.

In the times that Douglass lived, no woman, of any gender or status of freedom would be granted a voice in the political process to any measurable extent . Therefore, Frederick Douglass, as a free male, had an advantage in being able to overcome yet another prejudice in 19th century America. Common Themes of the Work Closer examination of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass reveals some common themes that make the work not only an interesting account of the life of a key figure in American history, but also a detailed social commentary of the times in which the author lived.

On the most basic level, violence and accommodation are the two major themes of the narrative. Of course, it almost goes without saying that the violence that Douglass witnessed during his days as a slave was a key influential factor in his hatred for the institution of slavery, and developed in him a spirit to fight back against the oppressors of African-Americans.

Also, however, Douglass realized that in order for ultimate peace and liberty to exist, he would in fact have to oppose the violence of slavery by the use of violence in response, albeit in a more constructive and organized manner than slave advocates employed. Douglass was an early supporter of the American Civil War, and in fact was one of the organizers of the first African-American regiments of US soldiers who took up arms in support of their nation and in the hopes of attaining ultimate freedom through defeat of the Confederate States of America.

Accommodation, or more exactly his distaste for it, also played a part in Douglass’ narrative and rhetoric. Unlike those such as Booker T. Washington who spoke openly on the importance of the accommodation of slavery as a means of ultimately eroding the institution into obscurity little by little, Douglass by all indications was more of the fiery type of abolitionist that his friend John Brown ultimately turned out to be.

In retrospect, Douglass’ response of violence to quell slavery as it existed in his lifetime has proven to be justified, for without the armed response to the secession of the Confederate states, slavery would have been able to thrive in a major portion of North America, and it is very likely that the CSA would have in time attempted to overthrow the government of the USA, thereby all but guaranteeing that slavery would thrive and survive. Conclusion

This research has not only discussed an important historic record, but also the life, philosophy and achievements of a champion of liberty and justice for all. In conclusion, perhaps the most valuable idea to take away from this research is this- freedom with exceptions is equal to no freedom at all, and sometimes, might is needed to restore the right. Works Cited Brewton, Vince. “”Bold Defiance Took Its Place”-“Respect” and Self-Making in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.

” The Mississippi Quarterly 58. 3-4 (2005): 703+. Chesebrough, David B. Frederick Douglass: Oratory from Slavery. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998. Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. New York: Dover Publications, 1995. Lampe, Gregory P. Frederick Douglass: Freedom’s Voice, 1818-1845. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 1998. Martin, Waldo E. The Mind of Frederick Douglass. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1984.

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