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What It Means To Be Free

1327 words - 6 pages

In the Nineteenth century, most people had one goal that they wanted to obtain more than any other. It wasn’t immense wealth, health, or even material goods, even though that was probably what some had in mind. It was the freedom. There are numerous ways in which freedom could be defined such as: having the “rights” of a white adult male, having a voice in the community/ government, not being owned by another human, being able to speak, write, and practice whatever religion one may want without consequences. The list of what it was like to be free goes on and on. All of these qualities of being free still hold true today. Many of those who were not free spoke out against the oppression they were facing. Fredrick Douglas and Harriet Jacobs were two African American writers whose pursuit for freedom caught the eye of many Americans. These two writers attacked what Americans in the Nineteenth century painted freedom to look like and the reality of what it really was. They lived in a time where Americans talked about all men being equal, yet they owned slaves. Both being born into slavery, Douglas, Jacobs and other slaves were not meant to read and write like those of the white race. Something as simple as literacy was important root to the idea of freedom. Fredrick Douglas and Harriet Jacobs used their personal life experiences to show their readers why freedom was and still is so much deeper than the characteristics named earlier. These writers struck the hearts of Americans and redefined freedom as a treasure that allows one to be a self-governing, literate, and a self-reliant individual.
At the mere age of six, Harriet Jacobs discovered she was a slave after the passing of her mother. This seems a bit odd for one to not know that they were a slave, especially after being born into it. Even this early on in the narrative we see that Jacobs is so human that it took her six years to figure out someone else owned her. When we look deeper into the text, Jacobs tells us that she grew up with a happy childhood until her mistress passed away. After her mother’s death she was taken care of a sweet mistress, but after her death everything changed. Jacobs used this moment of childhood awakening to show how unnatural it was to be a slave. As she grew up, she saw the terrors of slavery and states, “ [but] the condition of a slaves confuses all principles of morality, and in fact, renders the practice of it impossible” (177). Freedom to Jacobs was something new and exciting. It was a dream she long dreamt and she then decided she would go to the extremes to obtain it.
Throughout the text Jacobs uses Dr. Flint to describe both the characteristics of slavery and freedom. Dr. Flint can be seen as cruel, dehumanizing, and in complete control of Jacobs’s body and soul just like her time in slavery. On the opposing side, Jacob’s freedom is also represented by Dr. Flint in the aspect that he is protected by the law, can legally love who he wants, and has the...

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