Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas
Frederick Douglas, a slave born in Tuckahoe Maryland, was half white and half black. His mother was a black woman and his father a white man. Though he never knew his father, there was word that it was his master. Douglas wrote this narrative and I felt that it was very compelling. It really showed me the trials and tribulations that a black man went through during times of slavery.
In his early years, Douglas lived on a farm where he watched many slaves receive harsh beatings and whippings. For example, one of his masters whipped his Aunt Hester because she was not there when he desired her presence. At the time she was in the company of another man, which was something that Colonel Lloyd, her master, told her not to do. As Douglas witnessed the whipping, he saw Lloyd take his aunt into the kitchen of the house and strip her naked. He then told her to cross her hands and as he tied them together and hung her on a hook, leaving her body totally open. Lloyd then began whipping her with a cow skin until she began to bleed.Order now
“I was so terrified and horror-stricken at the sight, that I hid myself in a closet, and dare not venture out till long after the bloody transaction was over” (p. 4). As a result of witnessing many beatings such as this, Douglas was able to put much feeling and heart into his works.
Douglas wrote about many whites that he had encountered. Only a handful of which were not cruel to him. The overseers were the ones who seemed to be the most viscous and terrifying.
For example, Mr. Plummer, Mr. Severe, Mr. Hopkins, and Mr. Austin Gore were all cruel overseers. An exception to this was Mr.
Hopkins, who was not a typical overseer. Unlike the others, he did not curse a lot, and bent the rules every now and then. “He was called by the slaves a good overseer” (p. 7). The typical overseer would have beat a slave the second he stepped out of line. For example, Mr.
Gore, who took Mr. Hopkins place was very cruel and would not take any sort of talking back. He would not communicate with any of the slaves except for giving orders and beating them. “He was, in a word, a man of the most inflexible firmness and stone-like coolness” (p. 13). There were also those white people who encouraged black people to escape, and them catch them to receive rewards.
Slaves could not catch any breaks.
On the other hand, there were some good whites. Douglas wanted to learn how to read, so he made friends with some little white boys on the street. Douglas spoke of running errands, and stopping in with the white children to learn to read in his spare time. As a symbol of his gratitude, Douglas would give the children bread to eat. They, in fact, had a discussion about slavery at one point.
He told the children, “You’ll be free as soon as you’re twenty-one, but I’m a slave for life! Have I not as good a right to be free as you have?” (p. 22). He recalled that this troubled them, but they still showed much sympathy towards him. The presence of sympathetic white people gave him hope that one day he would be free.
At last, Douglas moved to New York when it became a free state. His hopes of being free finally came true.
This, however, did not mean that the racism had ended. Whites acted as if blacks were threats to their jobs. This is because of the skills they had learned during slavery. This was a fantastic narrative that I would recommend to anyone who wants to be uplifted. His pursuits in life showed how much of a leader he really was. This narrative really made his leadership qualities shine as he fought for his freedom.
Along with learning many leadership qualities, this narrative also expanded my knowledge on slavery. It was really uplifting.