Frederick Douglass 's Narrative Of The Life

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Grant Sumner
Dr. Wiewora
History 101
Frederick Douglass
To Douglass, freedom is more than merely freedom from the lash and cruel conditions. It also encompasses intellectual and emotional freedom. He sees that true freedom exists in the ability to read and reason and is a mental state; Douglass feels that slavery is not only a practice, but a mindset maintained through those practices. In Douglass’s Narrative of the Life, he maintains that slavery is an abhorrent practice that strips the humanity from both slaves and slaveholders alike, enabled by forcing ignorance onto the slaves.
First, dehumanization of those enslaved in Douglass’s narrative can be separated into three categories: examples of the treatment of human beings in
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In this situation, the slave owners have legal freedom to act upon their lusts; this results in slave women being helpless victims, and the mulatto children being subject to cruelty by their masters’s wives.
In fact, this dehumanization goes back to the very constitution, where the Three Fifths Compromise can be seen in essence reducing someone to property, without rights, and only holding value in what the person can provide. The true method of dehumanization occurs in the forced ignorance that takes place: “By far the larger part of the slaves know as little of their ages as horses know of theirs, and it is the wish of most masters within my knowledge to keep their slaves thus ignorant...They seldom come nearer to it than planting time, harvest time, cherry time…”(236). A birthday is a symbol of a person and their separation from animals. As Douglass mentions, they have just as much information in this regard as an animal, which is what they are being reduced to: animals bred for a specific purpose, to slave away for another person. The slaves only being able to identify their birth with a specific work related time of the year is evidence of this. Combining the lack of knowledge of one’s birth, they are stripped from their mothers at an early age “....hinder the development of the child’s affection toward its mother, and to blunt and destroy the natural affection of the mother for the child.” (237). This is the inevitable
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