Frederick Douglass’ Sucesses, Failures, and Consequences

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This book summarizes the life of Frederick Douglass who is an American slave. In this book, he tells the story and the meaning of slavery and freedom in America. He was born into slavery sometime in 1817 or 1818. His exact date of birth is uncertain just like many other slaves born during that period. Soon after his birth, Douglass was separated from his mother, Harriet Bailey. It is said that his father is most likely their white master, Captain Anthony. Douglass describes his brothers as part of the master’s family because growing up he did not receive the same treatments as them.

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Captain Anthony was the clerk of a rich man named Colonel Lloyd who owned hundreds of slaves. One of his central plantations was known as the “Great House Farm.” Slaves living on any of Lloyd’s plantations received similar harsh treatments. In those plantations, slaves were accustomed to working overtime and receiving very little food, few articles of clothing, no shoes, and no beds. There were strict rules on how to treat those who break rules; usually slaves were severely beaten, but under different circumstances, some slaves were even shot by the plantation overseers. Douglass was selected among many other slaves to go live in Baltimore and his departure from Colonel Llyod’s plantation is what laid a foundation for his freedom and subsequent prosperity.

Frederick Douglass is considered among the most important African American leaders in the nineteenth century. For twenty years he lived as a slave; from 1840 to his death in 1895, he was able to attain international fame as a reformer and author of three autobiographies that represent classics of the slave narrative tradition. His goals were to see emancipation, to work actively for women’s suffrage long before it was achieved and to realize the civil rights triumphs. Moreover, he aimed to see the failure of reconstruction and to witness America’s economic and international expansion in the late Gilded Age. The most important contribution of Douglass to the American history was the repeated telling of his personal life because it portrays the journey of a young African American before and after slavery; providing a remarkable perception of the social and political problem back in the nineteenth century.

Major concepts are included in the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. To name a few: The statement of personhood, family separation, validation, the struggle of freedom, slave punishments, contribution to abolition cause, slave wardrobe, barriers to literacy, and the alternation between parody and condemnation. This book highlights the life of a slave but also explains the circumstances of his escape and how he emerged as a skillful abolitionist lecturer back in the 1840s. Douglass revealed the irrationality of racism and how people of all colors are born with equal rights in the eyes of God, the creator; and how those rights should be protected under human laws. Douglass’s twenty years in slavery were marked by a contrast between the brutality and good fortune, between the life of a favored young slave and that of a field hand on an Eastern Shore farm.

The years that Douglass spent in slavery encompasses the power of literacy and the despair born of its suppression. Although he had never went to school formally, he was able to acquire some knowledge on freedom, liberty, tyranny, and the rights of man by reading books found in the Knight’s bookstore; that is how he was able to educate himself on those topics. He later became literate, able to recite passages, perform to imaginary audiences, and invent his own uses of the words he cherished. One of the most powerful books that impacted Frederick’s intellectual and spiritual growth is called “The Columbian Orator”. Douglass describes how that particular book served him as a powerful denunciation of oppression against human cruelty.

Douglass’s kind-hearted mistress played a significant critical role in teaching him how to read and write. However, as the influence of slavery continued to increase, his mistress started to practice her husband’s precepts on treating slaves relentlessly. Her attitudes and behaviors towards Douglass suddenly started to change and became vicious. As a result, Douglass became most narrowly watched because they believed that it was a mistake to educate a slave. Luckily for him, he already knew the alphabet by that time, so they could not take that powerful tool away from him. His language and reading literacy allowed him to envision the thought of attaining freedom one day. The more he became knowledgeable of the voluntary emancipation of slaves described in the books he read, the more he hated his enslavers. His hope for freedom later became like a torment condition that motivated him to fight for the rights of his people.

Hearing about abolition was a mere word to him because he could not fully understand the meaning behind it. When he finally grasped its true meaning, the course of his life changed. Before taking into account the advices received from good white men on how to escape, Douglass made the decision to wait until he could better improve his writing skills. In the meantime, the sudden death of his old master implied the reevaluation of his belongings, including slaves and it led to the division of slaves. After spending six months in a new location, there were tumultuous conflict between Mr. Covey and Douglass. The battle was a turning-point in Douglass’s in discovering his manhood. Little by little, Douglass instilled his fellow-slaves with the thoughts of freedom to finally escape under fateful conditions.

Frederick Douglas experienced some issues as a slave, but they are still prevalent today. For instance, racism, living in a political system shaped by the struggles of power and oppression between people of different backgrounds, ethnicity and race. The influences of slavery transformed the tenderness of human hearts to stones and led to dehumanization of people of color. Douglass’s faith in God played a critical role in sustaining him through the tough times of his life. Much of the values and mores of the twenty first-century started with the Enlightment’s faith in human reason and its assertion of individual rights.

Slave trade was prominent within the boundaries of African continent and Americas. Africans were known to sell other Africans of different descent. In Africa, the practice of slavery allowed Kings to hold the majority of the wealth, leaving the working class in poverty, but America’s slave trade was the backbone of the economy. In America, slaves living in the city were almost considered as freeman, compared with the slaves in the plantations; as they were able to enjoy some privileges. Most colonial economies in the Americas were dependent on enslaved African labor for survival. Also, the plantation of products like sugar, coffee, and cotton were not native to the New World, but were imported because slaves already knew how to cultivate these products. The greatest lesson I have learned from this book is that slavery can also retrains the quest of change because slaves lacked the motivation to come up with innovative solutions to their problems.

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Frederick Douglass' Sucesses, Failures, and Consequences. (2022, Feb 09). Retrieved from