The Role Of Community In Narrative Of The Life Of An African-American Slave

Decent Essays
In Narrative of the Life of an American Slave by Frederick Douglass, the African-American community is discriminated against by elite white males. Douglass’s experiences recorded within the text display the actions held out by the slaves owners and the results they had on the slaves. The African-American community in Narrative of the Life of an American Slave were abused physically, psychologically, and emotionally.
One of the ways the African-American community in Narrative of the Life of an American Slave were abused was physically. Female slaves took a high physical toll as they were objectified as breeders and sex slaves. Often, slave owners would breed these women in order to sell the offspring or gain an extra pair of hands in the fields.
…show more content…
Slave owners were able to psychologically abuse the slaves by denying them an education. This was done in an attempt to prevent the African-American community from becoming informed and educated. Douglass states in his book, “to make a contented slave it is necessary to make a thoughtless one.” (Douglass 1223). Lack of knowledge prevented the slaves from being able to perform jobs outside of manual labor. Slave owners feared that informed slaves would result in revolt. Douglass was fortunate to have his master’s wife, Mrs. Auld, help teach him how to read and write. However, Mr. Auld did not approve of teachings slaves. He proclaims, "learning would spoil the best nigger in the world” (Douglass 1196). Ellis while analyzing Douglass’s My Bondage and My Freedom claimed, “modern readers are likely to recognize this deadpan reference to slavery’s “human crop” as a bit of free indirect discourse—a wry impersonation of Colonel Lloyd’s casual disregard for the humanity of his “human stock.” (Ellis 275). Ellis’s analyzation rightfully depicts the mindset that Mr. Auld had, of which slaves were more of a resource than a human being. Mr. Auld’s philosophy was that upon learning the basic principles of schooling, a slave would no longer accept his role as a slave, and would pursue something greater. One can see that this is true through Douglass as he would not settle for anything short of freedom. Douglass denounced the title of a slave as he stated, “however long I might remain a slave in form, the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact. I did not hesitate to let it be known of me, that the white man who expected to succeed in whipping, must also succeed in killing me.” (Douglass 1215). Despite the punishment for teaching slaves being quite severe, Douglass taught his companions while enslaved by Mr. Freeland. With such a strong desire to inform

Related Documents

  • Decent Essays

    Slave ownership can turn a kind person into an evil and self-consumed person because absolute power corrupts people. When a kind person buys a slave, they treat them nice in the beginning, but over time they begin to abuse the slave either because they develop a craving for absolute power or people around them convince them that a slave will revolt if not treated in a strict manner. Fredrick Douglass tells his readers that Mrs. Auld treated him kindly, and even began to teach him to read, which would later prove to be a mistake, but after her husband warned her of the dangers of a literate slave she became cold-hearted. This is an example of someone that was convinced by others to treat slaves like property, not as a human. Mr. Auld turned out to be right when he warned Mrs. Auld of the danger of a literate slave because Douglass then began to pursue literacy with a passion, which eventually leads to Douglass deciding to flee to the North.…

    • 920 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Eventually Douglass was bought by a new set of masters, Mr. and Mrs. Auld, where Mrs. Auld taught and introduced him to literacy. It was “unlawful” to teach any slave, Douglass discusses Mr. Auld’s reaction about him learning, such as Mr. Auld says “Learning would SPOIL the best nigger in the world … it would forever unfit him to be a slave. He would at once become unmanageable, and of no value to his master” (Douglass, 29). Mr. Auld like other slave owners are aware of the value of education but it gradually becomes valuable to more slaves. This meant that slaves were going against their masters’ word, Douglass says “learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing” (Douglass, 35), and slaves found themselves in brutal situations.…

    • 1892 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Mr. Hugh warned his wife about teaching a slave to read. He saw it as the first step in a slave realizing the magnitude and how horrible slavery really was. He claims that learning will spoil the best slave. A slave that is able to read and write will try to stand up to slavery, while a slave who cannot read and write does not have the ability to learn and see how horrible slavery really was. In the next document Douglass described how slavery was terrible and his only role in slavery was a slave and nothing else.…

    • 765 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Thus, ‘free negroes’ were particularly prone to the skin lesions not as commonly seen in slaves. The slaves who were prone to mischief did not do so intentionally, rather they were victims of this disease. Ruffian believed that the mental inferiority of slaves "prevented high grades of intellect” even in the North where they had access to schools and colleges. Fitzhugh justified the institution of slavery with his idea that the slaves were overgrown children in need of constant supervision and care from the plantation owners. He believed that their inability to take care of themselves required the White plantation owners to help the Blacks through the institution of slavery.…

    • 1567 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Moreover, they understand that someone that is educated will not stand to live a life in captivity. Thus, they can control slaves since the slaveholder’s knowledge far exceeds the slaves. If a slave is not educated about the world, then he probably does not realize that what is being done to them is unreasonable and socially unjust. Granted, if they do become educated than they would most likely seek for a way to become free. The slaves will become useless in the eye of the slave owner since they will no longer stand for the cruelty being inflicted upon them.…

    • 1131 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Slave owner wants to keep slaves under their thumb. There was a complete ignorance of the presence of slaves feeling. They were not getting paid for their work and so all these parts relates to violent. “Slave owners in the United States sought to completely subjugate their slaves physically, mentally and spiritually through brutality and demeaning acts” (Sullivan…

    • 760 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    He explained different strategies adopted by the white to keep black community under their control. In this connection, he elaborated that white community keeps the black slaves ignorant of their paternity. Thus, black slaves do not have any knowledge about their individual identity. As black slaves enter in matured age, slaveholders do not permit them to get an education. Also, as education may make them self-insufficient, therefore, slaveholders make them illiterate.…

    • 1011 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Education is lighting a fire of free thinking and bringing awareness to the individual. In order to be free, slaves first needed to be educated. An uneducated slave is forced to blindly accept the commands of their owner because they do not know that slavery is unnatural and that they should not be oppressed. Douglass argues in his memoir that education, the ability to think freely for one’s self, is a necessary condition for freedom to exist. Douglass further argues that white slave owners realized the importance of literacy by prohibiting slave education.…

    • 1334 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    America is punishing innocent people with “endless, hopeless slavery.” They have done nothing to deserve this treatment, but America is forcing them to work their entire life for someone else and to endure countless painful experiences when they don’t perform their job as well their masters wish them to. George Tucker also comments on the fact that slaves should be freed. Some people believe that blacks are advancing in their knowledge at a “pace equal to our own,” but “they are likely to advance much faster.” They realize that they are equals to white people and deserve their rights, but they are being oppressed. They are smart enough to realize that when war occurs and someone offers them their freedom, then they will take it. The Constitution needs to be changed so blacks are free and have land of their own if…

    • 932 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Another example of Douglass’ criticism of American politics is the law stating that slaves cannot be taught how to read or write. This law was put into place to ensure the lower place and ignorance of the slave people. Slave illiteracy gave the slave owners more “manageable” and “safe” slaves, as well as another sense of authority over their slaves. The conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Auld sparks Frederick Douglass’ future plans to escape his chains of slavery. He realized that learning how to read and write would be the first big step to freedom.…

    • 465 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Decent Essays