Slavery’s Dehumanizing Effects on American Slaves and Slaveholders

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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, brings to light many of the social injustices that colored men, women, and children all were forced to endure throughout the nineteenth century under Southern slavery laws. Douglass's life-story is presented in a way that creates a compelling argument against the justification of slavery. His argument is reinforced though a variety of anecdotes, many of which detailed strikingly bloody, horrific scenes and inhumane cruelty on the part of the slaveholders. Yet, while Douglas’s narrative describes in vivid detail his experiences of life as a slave, what Douglass intends for his readers to grasp after reading his narrative is something much more profound. Aside from all the…show more content…
Fittingly, they treated the slaves as if their family bonds were completely worthless – something they would never have imagined doing to a white man. This is illustrated through Douglass's relationship with his own mother, Harriet Bailey, whom he was separated from as an infant. As Douglass reminisced, "very little communication ever took place between us…I was not allowed to be present during her illness, at her death, or burial…I received the tidings of her death with much the same emotions I should have probably felt at the death of a stranger" (26). This passage depicts how the slaveholders became so convinced of the worthlessness of the slaves that they saw no reason to respect the vital bond between a mother and child. Consequently, the slaves' view of family fell askew. Although Douglass appeared to know that his mother was important and desired a relationship with her, her passing clearly did not ever sadden him. He also showed no affection for his brother and sisters, as he lacked the necessary interactions with them needed to form familial bondage. Additionally, slaveholders expressed extreme animosity towards the slave families by raping slave women, impregnating them, and then encouraging their white children to whip their half-black siblings. As a result of the dehumanizing behavior that slavery presents, slaves not only suffered and lost all of their freedoms, but also lost their entire family lives, which the slaveholders deemed necessary to

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