Slavery was one the worst period in human history in America. This paper takes a critical analysis of the slave trade and slavery in America as highlighted by Narrative of the Life of Frederick DouglassbyFrederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass was born around1817 in the period when slavery was the order of the day in America.It is interesting that he could not pinpoint exactly when he was born. This is because no slave birth records were taken at this point. Douglass was separated from his mother at an early age. His mother was called Harriet Bailey. It is believed that his father was Captain Anthony who was the white master. Captain Anthony worked as a clerk for Colonel Lloyd who owned many of slaves at that point in time. Colonel Lloyd plantation was a place of terror and brutality of slaves. Littlejohn highlights that, slaves were seriously mistreated at the hands of their owners and overseers (31). They were whipped and sometime shot. In captain Anthony’s farm, Mr. Severe and Mr. Austin Gore were regarded as the cruelest people. The life ofDouglass in the plantation was full of challenges. However, he never experienced a hard labor in the field,but he served as a slave in the master’s house. This was because at this period of time he was still young. Therefore at the age of seven, he was taken to go and serve Captain Anthony’s son%u2011in%u2011law’s brother whose name was Hugh Auld. Hugh Auld who lived in Baltimore. In Baltimore Frederick Douglass enjoyed a little bit of freedom because slave owners were not cruel as in Captain Anthony’s farms. The wife of his new master, Sophia Auld was so kind to him given that she had never lived with slaves. In this regard, she even started teaching him how to read and write. However, her husband was opposed to the idea of teaching slaves. He argued that education would enlightened slaves and make them unimaginable.
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Keller explains that,Douglass liked Baltimore and he started teaching himself with the aid of local boys (81). Sophia having been oriented by her husband on how to deal with slaves, she changed her mentality of being kind to Douglass. Therefore, she started mistreating him just like her husband. The education he received through self learning made him realize that the slave trade is evil. In this regard, he embraced antislavery mind and escaped to the north. Douglass experienced several working conditions since he was rented out to many slave owners. Upon the death of Anthony, he was taken back to serve for Thomas Auld. Thomas Auld was Anthony son-in-law. Thomas Auld was very cruel and was known to mistreat slave. However, he could not accommodate Douglass so he rented him to Edward Covey who was even crueler than Thomas Auld. Edward Covey was a brutal man and he beat Douglass in many occasions. The brutality inflicted on Douglass by Edward Covey made him to be equally brutal towards his master. He left reading and could not remember the freedom he used to enjoy in Baltimore. The greatest moment came when he started fighting with Edward Covey. The fight made covey to change his mind never to touch Douglass again. When his service to Covey was over, Douglass was next rented to William Freeland. In Freeland’s place , Douglass started teaching his fellow slaves. Despite the stiff punishment which awaits anyone who was found learning, several slaves from neighboring plantations came to Douglass and work industriously to learn. The daily activities in Baltimore are challenging due to the heightened interracial interactions that affect the normal running of trade affairs. Douglass finds himself in a precarious situation, in a society where race affects activities of the workforce (Douglass, 39). The Whites are concerned about the increasing number of African American workers because they will take over their positions. Douglass is caught in the worst experience, as he is a slave attaché in the place. He is susceptible to racial intimidation from the White coworkers. He rises from an apprentice to become the highest paid worker through the trade of caulking.
The Hugh Auld gives Douglass permission to utilize his extra time in the company, and for this, Douglass gets additional wages. Douglass earns extra cash now and he saves the money as he plans to leave for New York. This remains a secret, as Douglass does not want to influence fellow slaves to take the same initiative. Once in New York, another fear sets in. He does not want to be recaptured, and as such, decides to change his name to Baileys. After settling in New York, he marries Anna Murray whom he first met in Baltimore. The couple moves northwards to Massachusetts. Douglass commits to an engagement with the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts, and becomes an orator and a writer.
Analyzing the Narrative
Rumor has it that Douglass’ master who is White could be his father. He has no idea,,but knows well that his father is White. This is a possibility as the slaveholders made female slaves pregnant. In as much as the rumors may be true, Douglass’ predicament is still like other slaves as the law states that a mixed-race child is a slave. This law ensures that the masters can rape female slaves and give birth to more slaves for their own selfish gains. According to Douglass, the experiences of mixed-race slaves are worse because the slaveholders’ wives intimidate them. They may therefore, end up being sold or face constant insults. The large number of mixed-race slaves is in not consistent with the argument that slaves of African descent are inferior.
Douglass, in spite of his identity crisis first becomes a Captain Anthony’s slave. The Captain has an overseer called Mr. Plummer. Mr. Plummer is a drunk who is perfect at intimidating the slaves by beating them with the whip he carries. Mr. Plummer’s character is a reflection of who captain really is; he is as intimidating as Mr. Plummer is. The Captain, on several occasions beat Douglass’ Aunt Hester. When Douglass first saw the whipping of Aunt Hester, he felt he also took part in the intimidation because he witnessed it. He is a witness of cruelty. This experience was significant to Douglass as it was the defining moment that welcomed him to the hard life experienced by slaves. What he witnessed against Aunt Hester is indescribable and he cannot explain how he felt.
A particular event that Douglass can recall in the several occasions when the Captain whipped Aunt Hester was quite violent. The captain was angry because he had called for Aunt Hester, only to find out that she had gone out with a fellow slave called Ned. This took place at night despite the Captain's order against such issues. It is vivid from Douglass’ view that the Captain has a sexual interest with Aunt Hester due to her beauty. She was stripped naked after the episode and whipped thoroughly until blood oozes from her body to the floor. This happens at a time when Douglass was young; he was very terrified and hid in the closet, not to be called next. In conclusion, this narrative highlights the dark days of slavery in America and how the black fought hard to come out of it. It vividly explains the need to embrace unity and harmonious life in the society.
Keller, Kriostin, Thoennes. The Slave Trade in Early America. New York, NY: Capstone, 2003. Print.
In this insightful book, Keller highlights the plight of slaves in America. The book explains how slave trade boomed in the country,but it was later abolished. According to Keller slave trade is one of the darkest period in human rights violation.
Littlejohn, Randy. A time line for slave trade in America. New York, NY: The Rosen Publishing Group, 2003. Print.
This book gives out a time line of slave trade in America and how the trade was finally abolished. It gives out an interesting account on how the slave trade was being run in the country.
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