5 Page Paper On Frederick Douglass For Philosophy 101

2471 words - 10 pages

Frederick Douglass was an emancipated slave who passed from one master to another until he finally found the satisfaction of being his own; he went through almost as many names as masters. His mother's family name, traceable at least as far back as 1701 was Bailey, the name he bore until his flight to freedom in 1838. His father may or may not have been a white man named Anthony, but Douglass never firmly validated or rejected this possibility. During transit to New York (where he became a freedman) his name becameStanley, and upon arrival he changed it again to Johnson. In New Bedford, where there were too many Johnson's, he found it necessary to change it once more, and his final choice was Douglass, taken, as suggested to him by a white friend and benefactor, from a story by Sir Walter Scott (although the character in that story bore only a single 's' in his name). All throughout, he clung to Frederick, to 'preserve a sense of my identity' (Norton, 1988). This succession of names is illustrative of the transformation undergone by one returning from the world of the dead, which in a sense is what the move from oppression to liberty is. Frederick Douglass not only underwent a transformation but, being intelligent and endowed with the gift of Voice, he brought back with him a sharp perspective on the blights of racism and slavery. Dropped into America during the heat of reform as he was, hisappearance on the scene of debate, upon his own self-emancipation, was a valuable blessing for the abolitionists. In their struggles so far, there had been many skilled arguers but few who could so convincingly portray the evils of slavery, an act which seemed to demand little short of firsthand experience, but which also required a clear understanding of it. Douglass had both, and proved himself an incredibly powerful weapon for reform. While the identity of his father is uncertain, it is generally accepted that the man was white, giving Douglass a mixed ancestry. Mirroring this, he was also blessed with an eye that could bring into focus different perspectives and, just as many multi-racial children today are able to speak multiple languages with ease, he had the ability to translate in the mosteloquent fashion between the worlds of the black man and white man. Thus, ironically, the torturous beginning of Douglass' existence was inadvertently made (by him) into a treasure for 'us' (being mainly white America). The story of the American Dream, wherein a young man, born into a hostile world, never loses sight of one goal, is not all that distant in theme from Narrative of The Life of Frederick Douglass. The story of the American Dream has been embedded deeply in our (American) culture from the beginning. Similarly anchoredin the American consciousness is the presence of a 'slavery-complex'. Along these lines Douglass' role is a major one, for relatively few first-hand accounts of slavery as powerful and representative as his exist, in...

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