Frederick Douglas 's On The Convict Lease System

Good Essays

In Fredrick Douglas’s essay on the convict lease system, he purposely does not use words like “racism,” nor does he outright blame the whites for the situation. Instead, he uses gentle language to state the injustices done, allowing the reader to guilt himself. He says that white people have “done little to prevent the Negro becoming a criminal” (Douglas 1), condemning their inaction, rather than their actions. Douglas talks about injustices such as exclusion from churches and schools, as well as unfair trials, but does not talk about the convict lease system’s “legal” slavery because he wants the reader to come to the realization of his guilt on his own. He avoids talking about unwarranted lynchings and unfair incarceration in order to draw attention to the metaphorical “elephant in the room”. The more he avoids talking about it, the more the reader thinks about its blatant absence and about their actions, subtly making the reader feel guilty for actions done in the past. His tone, while not accusatory, blames white people for the situation that black people are in. He hints that the reason so many African Americans are arrested is because “free white society” is excluding them from churches and school; that ignorance is not based on race and this ignorance could be amended if they were properly educated. He uses this roundabout, euphemistic approach in order to let the white people know what they have done wrong without accusing them. Douglas’ chiding is reminiscent to

Get Access