Frederick Douglass: The Psychological Approaches Used To Maintain The Institution Of Slavery

1612 words - 6 pages

Within the “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave” Douglass discusses the deplorable conditions in which he and his fellow slaves suffered from. While on Colonel Lloyd’s plantation, slaves were given a “monthly allowance of eight pounds of pork and one bushel of corn” (Douglass 224). Their annual clothing rations weren’t any better; considering the type of field work they did, what little clothing they were given quickly deteriorated. The lack of food and clothing matched the terrible living conditions. After working on the field all day, with very little rest the night before, they must sleep on the hard uncomfortably cramped floor with only a single blanket as protection from the cold. Coupled with the overseer’s irresponsible and abusive use of power, it is astonishing how three to four hundred slaves did not rebel. Slave-owners recognized that in able to restrict and control slaves more than physical violence was needed. Therefore in able to mold slaves into the submissive and subservient property they desired, slave-owners manipulated them by twisting religion, instilling fear, breaking familial ties, making them dependent, providing them with an incorrect view of freedom, as well as refusing them education.
Slave-owners forced a perverse form of Christianity, one that condoned slavery, upon slaves. According to this false Christianity the enslavement of “black Africans is justified because they are the descendants of Ham, one of Noah's sons; in one Biblical story, Noah cursed Ham's descendants to be slaves” (Tolson 272). Slavery was further validated by the numerous examples of it within the bible. It was reasoned that these examples were confirmation that God condoned slavery. Douglass’s master, Captain Thomas Auld, epitomizes the Christian southern slaveholder. Upon his conversion Auld became “more cruel and hateful” than before (Douglass 246). His already callous and wicked treatment of his slaves was now supported by religion. However, he soon earned the respect of the community as a pious and kind man. Yet Auld not only starved his slaves, but repeatedly struck a young woman while quoting the scripture, “He that knoweth his master's will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes” (qtd. in Douglass 246). By teaching slaves this false Christianity they came to believe that their struggles were deserving and inevitable, just a cross they had to bear in order to gain entry into heaven.
The inhumane treatment slaves suffered from filled them with an intense fear. Throughout the narrative, Douglass describes a great deal of violence committed by slaveholders. One particular fear striking incident involving an overseer, Mr. Austin Gore, and a slave, Demby, stands out. In an attempt to escape a lashing from the merciless Mr. Gore, Demby takes refuge in a creek and refuses to come out. Mr. Gore tells Demby that he will count to three and if Demby is still in the creek on the third count then he will...

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