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The Lion That Wrote History Essay

2014 words - 9 pages

Wendell Philips discussed the importance of Frederick Douglass’ Narrative of the Life of an American Slave stating, “I am glad the time has come when the ‘lions write history’.” Douglass was the lion that proved the undermined capabilities of African Americans. The demand for free labor created an economic foundation for America that caused many repercussions due to the methods used to instill it. Rising from slavery, Frederick Douglass became a human rights activist using his literary and rhetoric skills to move the abolition movement forward exposing the inequalities facing African Americans and other marginalized group.
From 1619 to the 19th century approximately 12.5 million African ...view middle of the document...

Douglass never had knowledge of his exact birth date; many slave owners followed the habitual act of keeping their slaves ignorant of their birth dates as another tool of dehumanization and maintenance of coercion. He was raised by his grandparents Betsey Bailey, a slave, and Isaac Bailey, a freeman, while his mother was forced to work until at the age of 6 Frederick was sold to the Wye House where several of siblings, whom he was unaware of, worked at. It was a common practice to take children away from their mothers in order to allow the mother to get back to work (Adler 2-3). Separating children from their mothers was a common practice among slave owners in order to halt the forging of family attachments alleviating the hysteria of “the weeping time”, a term for the emotional turmoil families faced when they were sold apart during slave auctions (Ruffin 5, 12). Slave auctions marketed of Africans as property using health, physical strength, talents, and breeding capabilities as criteria for their price (Ruffin 1). The largest auction, held in a Savannah, Georgia race track in 1857, sold 429 people in 2 days. It was normal to discipline slaves leaving them beaten, scarred, cripple, or even dead (Ruffin 13). In Douglass’ childhood he witnessed disciplines that had a lasting effect in his fight toward abolition. When he was around seven years old he watched Captain Anthony, the master, beat Frederick’s Aunt Hester after catching her with a man at night. The incident left Douglass “terrified horror-stricken at the sight” (Douglass Life 22). Douglass believed that Captain Anthony was keen on Hester, after seeing her involved with a man and breaking the rules vengeance mixed with greed, power and hate left a woman broken, battered, and belittled. To be a woman was to endure a variety of cruelties ranging from rape, to verbal and physical beatings, to the loss of one’s children. The atrocities suffered were the result of a heinous system against humanity that applied ignorance and racism as its justification (Moss).
Frederick Douglass’ began reading after Captain Anthony’s daughter sent him to live with her relatives Hugh and Sophia Auld in Baltimore. Sophia Auld treated Frederick like a son, helping him memorize the bible to teach him how to read. At that time slaves were prohibited from becoming literate; illiteracy was used as a tool to keep slaves ignorant of life outside of plantations (Douglass Life). When Sophia was forced to stop teaching young Frederick, he became determined to read. Using a spelling book he found on the ground and lessons from poor white school boys, he learned to read (Ruffin 20). One day, an adolescent Douglass was sitting under the shade with a headache when Edward Convey, the slave breaker known for humiliating and demeaning slaves, kicked him in the head and the next day proceeded to whip him, however, that day, Frederick fought back reclaiming his life (Douglass narrative 46). After that incident Douglass became his...

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