Frederick Douglass: The Story of Slaves by a Slave
After the American Revolution, slavery became a more significant component in the American economy. As a result of many slave owners being materialistic, slaves were overworked and treated callously. One such slave was Frederick Douglass. Through most of his life, Douglass was trapped in a typical slave environment. However, Douglass taught himself to read and eventually escaped the desolate life of a slave. After his freedom, Douglass wrote his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, which chronicled his life story. In his book, Douglass details his slave upbringing and how it affected him. His autobiography was incredibly comprehensive which is one reason why it was accepted to be accurate. In addition, Douglass's life story furthered the abolitionist cause. His rationale on what slavery does to white people is one example that advanced the abolitionist causes.
Most slaves were treated inhumanely and grew up with no education. In fact, it was inapt to teach a slave how to read. Consequently, when Frederick Douglass's biography was published many wondered if it was valid due to Douglass's unexpected literacy. Not only were slaves deemed unintelligent, but the stories Douglass described seemed unbelievable and exaggerated. John Blassingame noted, "Journalists fabricated many nineteenth-century accounts, and true stories has to compete with fiction parading the truth" (x).
Douglass was very aware of this fact, and he implemented several ways to establish his credibility. One way was to have his face on the cover and his signature under it. This proved that he was literate. Probably the most corroborating proof was that Douglass used real names and places in his book. By doing this, the names and places could be traced back proving his authenticity. Douglass did not stop there; after his book was published, Douglass mailed a copy of this story to his master and challenged him to refute it publicly.
Douglass was also a great speaker and his speeches got many people to wonder if slavery should be abolished. Many journalists waited for him to speak before they critiqued his book. After they heard him speak, they were sold that his story was credible. In turn, these journalists printed many columns about Douglass and his hardship which helped the abolitionist cause greatly. Nearly every newspaper that came across the Narrative consented it with their approval. Isaac Nelson was a critic and waited to meet Douglass before critiquing on the Narrative. He stated, "My meeting with Frederick Douglass dispelled my doubts; he is indeed an extraordinary man-the type of class- such an intellectual phenomenon as only appears at times in the republic of letters" (xxix). The British Friend acknowledged that, "truth seems stamped on every page of this narrative" (xxviii). The Narrative was so powerful that jurors in Virginia jailed a person for circulating...