Slave narratives were one of the first forms of African- American literature. The narratives were written with the intent to inform those who weren’t aware of the hardships of slavery about how badly slaves were being treated. The people who wrote these narratives experienced slavery first hand, and wanted to elicit the help of abolitionists to bring an end to it. Most slave narratives were not widely publicized and often got overlooked as the years went by; however, some were highly regarded and paved the way for many writers of African descent today.
Two slave narratives that are noticed today are “ The Narrative Of Frederick Douglass” written by Douglass himself, and “ The Incidents in the life of a Slave Girl” written by Harriet Jacobs. Both of these works contain the authors own personal accounts of slavery and how they were successfully able to escape. Although their stories end with both Douglass and Jacobs being freed, they share a similar narrative of the horrifying experience of a slave.
Frederick Douglass’s narrative unveils a large number of ways in which African Americans suffered under the oppression of slavery. For instance, many slaves including Douglass himself, did not know their own birthdays or much of their own family history. This was most likely the result of slave children being separated from their actual blood relatives either at birth or due to being sold to different slave owners.
The slaves were only rationed a small amount of food that they had to try and preserve. In addition to preserving food, the slaves had to learn how to preserve their clothing. Douglass mentions how each year, the adult slaves were only given two shirts, one pair of pants , one pair of socks and shoes; while the children were only given two shirts. If they didn’t take care of their clothing they would have to walk around naked.
Douglass was taught the skills of reading and writing from his mistress, Mrs. Auld. At this time, Slave masters believed that by keeping their slaves illiterate, and preventing the slaves from realizing the injustice they are suffering, this would then enforce the owners power over them. So, naturally when Mrs. Auld’s husband, discovered that she had been teaching Douglass, he forbade her from further educating the slave.
Realizing that ignorance is the key to slavery, Douglass manages to continue to teach himself. Forgetting his role as a slave, Douglass gets in deep water after sassing his master and is sent to Mr. Covey’s plantation. At Covey’s, Douglass is both mentally and physically abused until he reached his breaking point and fought back. Douglass noted that as his last time ever being whipped.
Slaves were not treated like or considered to be humans; they were property. Often times they were beaten or subjected to cruel and unusual punishment for no reason at all. Many women were either raped by their masters or if they were married, forced by...