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Frederick Douglass Essay

1131 words - 5 pages

Frederick Douglass was a slave and well known reformer during the mid to late eighteen hundreds. In addition to his abolitionist causes, he is also known for his writing, which includes several autobiographies as well as his support for women’s rights. His autobiography titled the “Narrative of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave” centers around his life as a former slave from his birth through his escape from slavery later on. During this time, the publication focuses on the way he was treated by slaveholders and their wives, good and bad, and the thoughts that he had about slavery and the effects that it has on African American’s as well as whites. His purpose for writing the autobiography was to appeal to everyone including slaves, women and slaveholders, and to show what slaves go through. The publication however, was mostly directed toward white middle class citizens that were possibly well educated, intelligent and somewhat wealthy. Frederick Douglass utilized his own education and his ability to read and write, especially with the use of his language and grammar, to leave his mark on society.
As an abolitionist himself, Douglass wrote with the masses of other abolitionists in mind to push his cause further. Since many slaves could not read or write at the time, his publication was less for slaves than it was for whites. Although there were other slaves that may have been in the same situation, the numbers were too far and few between to make the mark that he was searching for. Additionally, the purchase of books or print at the time was most certainly a luxury that was afforded to upper to middle class people. Slaves in general were not prone to buying books or print, while there was starvation as well as their families to take care of. Additionally, it was illegal to teach a slave to read due to the thought of rebellion. It was believed that an education, even just to the extent of reading and writing was bad for slaves because it would possibly plant ideas into their heads.
Douglass made sure that he used language that would appeal to his audience. He used larger words, described events with poetry like explanation and was eloquent in his writings which were necessary to prove that he was intellectually on the same level as his audience. In a pleading that he wrote to explain his disparity, he stated "You are loosed from your moorings, and are free; I am fast in my chains, and am a slave! You move merrily before the gentle gale, and I sadly before the bloody whip! You are freedom's swift-winged angels that fly round the world; I am confined in bands of iron! O that I were free!" (Douglas 49). This type of writing was generally not thought to be one of a slave, but as a free and educated citizen. He had to prove that he was knowledgeable in order to get respect from his audience as well as draw them in with emotion. By using these techniques he could essentially influence his audience to embrace and make the changes that were...

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