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Frederick Douglass: Liberation From Bondage

Douglass’s illustration of the slavery horrors in his book impresses with the hardships slaves had to face and either overcome or accept as a given. The described events are barbaric, and it is hard to believe they could take place not long ago. The author masterfully conveys to his readers the thought that the dehumanization of slavery affects both slaves and slaveholders. Slaves were deprived of all their thoughts, feelings, fundamental rights, self-expression, and development. In turn, slaveholders in their desire for dominance and power lost their human likeness and undertook the right to dictate to slaves the outcomes of their lives in all their forms. For example, slaveholders deprived slaves of the right to education, as they realized that knowledge poses a threat to them.

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Douglass describes his long and thorny way of self-education without anyone to help in overcoming his lack of knowledge. This emphasis on education is not accidental, as it was education that finally led Douglass to his long-awaited freedom. Hence, Douglass claims that knowledge and education open the veil of ignorance over injustice, irrationality, baselessness, and cruelty of the slave system and become a powerful weapon against social injustice and oppression.

The Examples and Evaluation of Dehumanization and Douglass’s Fight for His Rights

As stated above, one of the most vivid examples of the dehumanization of slavery is the deprivation of the right to be educated. Slaves were stripped of this right and, therefore, were bound in their mental freedom. Slaveholders aimed to hide the unjustified conditions the slaves had to live in. Douglass describes the situation in Baltimore, which occurred while he was working for Mr. Auld. Initially, Mrs. Auld treated Douglass kindly and started teaching him basic spelling and reading. Mr. Auld’s reaction to that situation was revealing: he immediately ended those lessons. Mr. Auld speaks en clair that education is unacceptable when it comes to slaves, as that is a direct threat to their master. He declares that nothing would keep a slave if he was able to read.

Moreover, he declares that sooner or later such a slave would become uncontrollable, lose the value to the master, and, therefore, will be unfit for further serving. It is noteworthy that Mr. Auld deeply believes that such slaves would be unhappy and discontented, so education is harmful to them (Douglass, 2006). In turn, Douglass realizes that knowledge is probably the only tool for him and other enslaved people to be against their master. He understands that education is the right path to freedom and from that moment becomes passionate about obtaining it at any cost. Douglass is ready to deny himself food, giving his bread for literacy lessons from local white boys (Douglass, 2006). He used all available opportunities to learn, grow and develop, breaking out of the circle of the psychologically broken, frightened, unfortunate, and destitute people. His master’s forecasts came true: once Douglass gains mental freedom due to education and realized slavery’s repercussions, obtaining physical freedom becomes his primary sense of life.

In terms of slaves dehumanization, it is evident that they were treated as a disenfranchised commodity. They were not considered human beings – they were the objects of trade and exploitation Hence, slaveholders did not even think about the fact that they might have some other needs besides basic and intuitive ones. Moreover, the slaveholders realized that an educated slave is a dangerous one, as he or she will be able to accomplish all the ins and outs of the current ruthless social system (Douglass, 2006). This could lead to the slaves fight for their independence, freedom, and rights, which they were deprived of. Such a state of affairs not only turned them into limp and disenfranchised personalities but also dehumanized the slaveholders. By permissiveness, the last did not neglect bullying and humiliation with slaves, having lost a sense of pity and justice.

Ultimately, many slaveholders lost their human appearance concerning the enslaved people. The most exemplary family man, a loving husband and a good father in dealing with slaves could in a second turn into a ruthless tormentor and monster. It is believed that power changes people, showing their essence in full. Today, any power is in a particular context limited by law protecting human rights in the first place regardless of skin color, race, social status, and other factors. Translating such laws into practice sometimes has nuances, but they let people be confident that, at least, no society all over the world will be ever back to slavery again. In turn, during those times, it was the law that protected the injustice, social inequality, and all the atrocities against slaves with no right and chance to seek protection. In such conditions, it is not just inappropriate to talk about humanity – it is shameful and absurd.

The Impact on Readership

Frederick Douglass’s book was published in 1845, and over 30,000 copies were sold in America, England, and Ireland till 1850. It especially hit the UK audience free of slavery, especially its part which believed that slaves were treated well and felt happy with their lives being ignorant of freedom. Douglass wished to deliver his abolitionist message to different audiences. Initially, the audience was the abolitionists and the slaves remaining in bondage. The author used a straightforward slave narrative to reach them, addressing the changes in his agendas. His main aim was to gain overall support for his abolitionist ideas. Later, he also approached the northern population stating himself as a man who obtained his freedom in the North escaping slavery. His goal was to address the broadest possible audience, make it aware of the real state of affairs in the slavery system, evoke sympathy, and inspire the fight against slavery. People were shocked to realize the slave’s humanity due to his perceptions and memories. It was surprising for the white readership that African Americans revealed to have minds, feelings, and souls as well as whites.

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Being a self-made educated person, Douglass was opposed by a number of his readers. They refused to believe that a former slave could be educated enough to write a book. Moreover, part of his audience was skeptical of the stories told by Douglass during his oratories. Nevertheless, the book’s publication swayed the public and its perception of slavery. It is noteworthy that most of Douglass’s reviewers were the representatives of abolitionists, whereas the non-abolitionist press kept silent. Therefore, it was difficult to determine the reaction the of non-abolitionist audience and the way his book impacted them. Even the northern periodicals preferred to refuse to review the slaves narratives with an antislavery-oriented context. There were many negative reviews in the southern publications, but they only proved that the readership for Douglass’s antislavery book was very extensive, although the Southerners did not want to admit it. His slavery-oriented readership was hit by the understanding that slaves might be encouraged by the Narrative and seek education. The consequences for the slaveholders were obvious: Douglass’s example (2006) showed that freedom of mind makes enslaved people seek and find physical freedom.

Conclusion

In conclusion, “The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave” by Frederick Douglass provides many examples of the consequences of one man’s unlimited power over others. His reader is impressed to the maximum that it is a true story of a real man narrated by himself, but not jt fiction. The personal experience of Douglass was single and almost impossible to repeat by the standards of those times, and precisely that is why it was so inspiring and gigaveaith and hope to other slaves. Douglass proved that even in the most hopeless situation, there is still a place for faith and action if a person is strongly determined in his willingness and decisions. Douglass obtained freedom, and, therefore, education could help other slaves to be the next. His experience was described thoroughly honestly with an evident vivid intention to help other people realize all the horrors of being enslaved during those times.

History is often referred to as cyclical, and in this context, it would be good if this statement was fundamentally false, or, at least, that very slavery cycle was over forever with no chance of rebirth. The books, like those written by Frederick Douglass, must be included in the compulsory educational program. Hence, each next generation in all the corners of the planet will be refreshing its memory regarding glaring historical injustice and all infringements through which slaves had a chance to go.

References

Douglass, F. (2006). Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass: An American slSlave[eBook edition]. Gutenberg.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Frederick Douglass: Liberation From Bondage'. 13 January.

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