Fredrick Douglas Narratives of a Slave Essay Sample

Fredrick Douglas Narratives of a Slave

Slaves didn’t know their mothers or birthdays. Attempt to assess the impact on their mental well being

Most slaves were separated from their mothers before they got to the age of 12 months. As for this reason, very few, if any at all, knew their mothers. The reason for the separation was to get their mothers working far away from them as slaves. Many as children were left at the care of older women who did not have the strength to work as slaves. For this case, the motherly love that they would have received from their mothers was either absent or provided by a total stranger. In this same case, the older women who were supposed to serve as caretakers of these children understood that these children were not theirs hence little care in terms of mentoring and protection was extended to them. In this sense, those who grew and searched the information on the legacy of their biological mothers understood almost nothing about their birthdays or even the great part of their childhood lives.

At slavery, these slaves did not have a reason to live for or to lose for the same matter. Their mental well being had been corrupted in that they had no one to look up to and their mothers to whom they would have turned to had been working as slaves, as well. The rumor on the succession of slavery had crippled the sense of emotion to some to the slaves. Owing no one or nothing in their lives made it clear that they were lesser humans and there seemed to be a right of mistreatment considering their livelihoods. Animals do have instincts that they use to identify their own, however, these so called slaves could not even if they wanted to, associate themselves with someone. For this reason, the lack of knowledge of their mothers and even their birthdays was a mental fixation to slavery that took away their sense of emotion and valuation of life (Douglas & Stepto Chapter 1).

Slavery degraded master and slave. Describe how specific behaviors contributed to their diminished humanity?

Slavery was the line that distinguished the powerful and the powerless. As for the slaves, to be hosted by a good master was a privilege. To the master, pressure from other masters was amounting to humanity to their slaves. A master who treated his slaves with respect or offered them hand of goodness was considered a weak master. In this case, the master would ensure that they got the rank of being better masters than their fellow masters by using slaveholders. To the extent at which the slaves knew and thought that a master could be considered as a kind one, was met short by the actions and treatment that they received from the slaveholders.

On the side of the master, he would always seem to be considered a good master by his slaves by providing them with food and clothing. In this matter, the slaves would be salved over as had been done until the atrocities of the slaveholder were brought to the picture. Given that most slaves were never under direct watch of their masters, gave an impression that the orders and the expectations in terms of morals and value of human life would extend to the slave through the slaveholders. However, as the slaveholders thrived to impress their employers, they would do anything in their power to portray devotion. This devotion was achieved through torment to the slaves and overworking them to acquire the dreaded results. In the same manner, the expectation of the master that he would be regarded as a good master by the slaves pushed the master to provide the slaves with enough food and clothing so as to earn the status. For this case, enough food was provided by the master, but very little time was allowed to them by the slaveholders. With the mixed intentions and tactics to achieve these diverse goals, the slaves ended up hating their masters and the cruelty of the masters multiplied from that point through the actions of the slaveholders (Chapter 1).

Describe the character of Colonel Lloyd. How did power corrupt his sense of justice and fair play? Provide specific examples

Being the master and owner of the Great House Farm, Colonel Lloyd was once applauded as being the owner of the most beautiful empire that every slave dreaded to serve in. However in time, he discovered that he had more powers than most of other farmers and, therefore, his judgment was blurred from using sense. He could no longer feel like he was a human being like any other person and even more so a slave. In this case, he thrived to make it known who is the boss. It was a concept that many slaves and employees at his farm understood clearly.

Considering that he owned some of the finest horses in the whole Maryland, he went ahead to put their lives before those of human beings. Considering just his own feelings and mood, he would punish his slaves without a clear basis of accusations. If the horses that he kept, appeared to be in worth conditions, than the lives of his slaves would be examined on a regular basis. This examination was leading to a scandal every time it happened. If a horse could not run as fast as he desired or if a horse could hold its head high enough, that would be a matter taken out on the slaves. The consideration that a horse could have been sick never crossed his mind and neither did he want to hear about it from the slaves. It was hard for him to even come to terms with the thought of such occurrences. This and other occurrences gave the impression that he had come to a point where he valued the lives of animals more than human lives.

The reasons that were put forward as a basis of committing such inhuman acts were too shallow if we consider his actions. In spite of the fact that slaves have always been whipped for not finishing their work or for not being careful enough with what they did, the comparison of them with animals showed that Colonel Lloyd had run over by a wave of misjudgment and didn’t respect people anymore (Chapter 2).

What was a slave’s life like at the Great House Farm? What was Douglas’s perception about the songs?

Slave’s life at the Great House Farm was better than most of other places many slaves had been. Sufficiency of food, the beauty of the place made many wish to serve there. Many felt as they were treated better than they had been in other places before. In this case, many happy slaves or those who thought to be so composed songs that were meant to show off their feeling about the place.

With less whippings, more food, and considerably better treatment as compared to other places, the life at Great House farm was a way better than at any other place. The comparison of this place with others brought the effect to the slaves that they felt as it was better. One would wonder how being a slave and never going to be free for the rest of the life would still make one happy. Here, we have to consider the fact that many slaves had seen and experienced worse life than there was at Great House Farm. With or without the plentiful of food and clothing and conducive environment, the human torment on the people in power was less harsh in comparison to other places they had been before.

Back to the songs; the songs that were sung by the slaves at this place were as a result of joy and a sense of freedom. However, the contents of the songs were mixed depending on how the slaves felt about the whole idea of being slaves. Some would sing in praise to the place and the more advanced humanity that shown to them. Other or the same lot would curse the kind of treatment they were receiving from their masters and the slaveholders. Given that there were open grounds of mistreating slaves, the environment was not a guarantee that such mistreatments were not present. It was a matter of expressing whatever one felt: joy and sadness were the themes of such songs.

Douglas in his opinion about the songs told that the songs were sung as a relieve dose to the slaves. Once they had sung, they could offload all of their issues and thus restore a state of comfort and relaxation of their hearts (Chapter 2).

Did Southerners treat their slaves well? They loved to sing. What was Douglas’ perception about the songs?

Great House Farm is an example of a place in the south where slaves would be sold or transferred to. Their service to their masters was way better than most of other places in that the level of inhumanity was lesser. In the general sense, life of torment was less exercised here due to the fact that punishment was a result of actual punishable courses. However, it is not clear that all the slaves had the same feeling due to the division of labor and the treatment they got from it. As a matter of fact, those working closely with Colonel Lloyd would have thought otherwise considering the type of treatment they received from him when he thought things were wrong with his horses.

The fact that many slaves thought of the place as a safe haven as compared to the treatment that they had received in other places, generally there was some sense of humanity and better treatment. This meant that they could choose to be there than anywhere else they had been to. For this reason, I can say that slaves are better treated in the South.

The love of singing as compared to the actual reason for singing does not make sense when taken together. Singing is considered as an act of relieving oneself from agony and sometimes an act of expressing joy and gratitude. Douglas himself thought that the idea of slave singing was some kind of absurd. This is because singing in a sad mood is not achievable and singing about sad experiences at happy moment seems confusing. For this reason, Douglas’s perception about the songs was that they had a meaning more than the chemistry between the words and the mood of the singers. The bottom line on the issue is that the slaves felt relieved being under the hands of the Southerners.

Assess: “to be a poor man’s slave was deemed a disgrace"

In spite of the fact that slavery did not bring a good feeling in the mind and heart of a slave, being a slave to a lesser capable master was even worse. The power of wealth that a master had determined that amount of money and the kind of life that the slaves had. In this case, despite the standing facts and odds, slaves did not like to talk bad about their masters with other slaves. The empire and wealth that one master owned told to all about his power and the ability he had in acquiring more slaves.

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Being a slave belonging to a poor master gave the impression that as other masters were buying slaves, only the poor and the unable were in a position to buy you. The part that spelled out a disgrace was the worthless nature of a slave and the ease he could have been afforded by a poor master. In this case, whether slaves detested the fact of being slaves or not, they would not like to be associated with a poor master because they considered that as a disgrace to their personality (Chapter 3).

Who were Austin Gore and his maxims? What did he do to Demby? Why? What is Gore’s Punishment?

Austin Gore was a slaveholder serving Colonel Lloyd who was considered the master of all slaveholders due to the kind of actions he was capable of. In his position, he made sure that it was known, the duties and expectations of everyone amongst the slaves. Nothing would pass unnoticed by him. Noticing of a wrong doing was a straight ticket to punishment which was not a thing he was found to take pleasure in. He used to whip slaves accordingly considering their wrong doing with a stern look of commitment.

Given that, Gore took pride in all that he did, he expected slaves to obey any word that he gave out. He did not pride in repeating orders for whatever he had said. In this case, Demby, a slave of Colonel defied his orders by refusing to go where he was called to. Given that Gore had given him a warning that he would be shooting him if a count of three expired before he would obey; the count passed and, without any further warning, he was shot in the head. When this matter was investigated, and Gore was asked about it, he ascertained that he was just preventing such an occurrence in the future.

Assuming that Demby did not have an account of what Gore was capable of, he must have thought that a degree of bluffing was in play. However, given the history of Austin and how he handled matters, it can be regarded that he was passing along his legendary Gore Punishment (Chapter 3).

Assess: "was worth a half-cent to kill a nigger and half-cent to bury one".

People of color were mostly acquired from Africa and were purposely sold to other nations in order to provide cheap labor to the whites. The value of the people of color was very minimal to the whites in that they were considered lesser people. Assuming that most of these people did not have a family background or a near pace they could run to, the whites thought that this was their chance to treat them as they wanted. If one wanted, he could acquire a slave as quick as the thought crossed his mind. In the same sense, if one slave was in a position to alter business because of his unmanageability, he could be easily done away with without question or follow-up trials on the killer.

Killing of slaves was not considered an offence and in many instances was considered an example to others that shared the same thoughts or actions as one did. To eliminate a black slave was even made less stressful by the obvious stand of racism and unworthiness. With no family, social background, home, resources, education, or ability to take care of themselves, blacks were considered to be as easily abolishable as they were acquirable. In this case, it was almost priceless to kill one, as it was to bury him; this is because they were not valued at all by the masters nor were they protected by the authorities (Chapter 4).

Who were Mr. and Mrs. Auld? Douglas’s discovery what was in Miss Sophia’s care? What was Hugh's Response?

After Douglas was transferred to serve at Baltimore, he was received by Mr. and Mrs. Auld. Mr. and Mrs. Auld were the new masters that were to be served by Douglas in Baltimore. He was to give service to their son Thomas hence he was their slave.

Following the move from Maryland to Baltimore, Douglas discovered that he was different from other people of the city in that they could read and write. Under Miss Sophia’s care, Douglas got to know that education could be acquired through learning how to read and write; a course he was ready to pursue with all his might and means. To achieve this, Mrs. Auld offered her aid to him in reading and writing through teaching him A, B, C, and counting.

In the same time, Mr. Hugh did not seem to agree with the efforts of his wife of teaching Douglas how to read and write. In his response, Hugh said that it was wrong to teach a slave and for that reason a black one. He argued that teaching a black slave how to read and write would open him to retaliation against slavery and would turn out to be unmanageable. He added that once Douglas was taught fully he would be destroyed by the education in that he would be of no worth to them or any other master in need for slaves. Hugh in his right mind understood that once slaves started to get education, it would be hard for them to make them work for the whites. They would have learnt that working as slaves is a mean course and they would resist the urges of the white to work for them – a move and thought Hugh didn’t seem to agree with (Chapter 4).

How does the life of a city slave compare/contrast to that of a country slave?

The city life as compared to country life is much more sophisticated to a certain degree, and people tend to use their minds more. By understanding the feelings of human beings, the life of a city slave is easier that of a country slave. The reason for this is the underlying issue in terms of how much this happens to be in consideration to work. In the city, there are less farms and activities that involve manual work. On the other hand, country life involves too much manual work especially in the farms and so on. For this reason, a slave at the country side is likely to be treated differently because of the culture difference between the city and the country. Also, considering the amount of work that has to be done, urging by humiliation and torment are some of applied tactics that masters result to in order to get things moving at the country side.

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In the city, the only work that may be considered as physical would be tending to a flower garden or maintaining a clean house of the master. In this case, most of the works required from the slave was accomplished in time without physical urging. Where whipping is a common factor in both settings, city whipping is much more considerate than that of a country side considering the frequency and purpose (Chapter 5).

Discuss Douglas’s view concerning education. How did he pursue it? Why?

After listening to Hugh’s response on how damaging education was, Douglas thought for a moment that may be Hugh had a point. However, through interaction with other boys from the neighborhoods of Baltimore he was able to get the reason why Hugh was so bitter about the idea. Douglas discovered that education was the only way through which he could free himself from slavery.

Considering that the tutor who used to give an education to Douglas, Mrs. Auld, had stopped; it was upon Douglas to pursue it all by himself. He looked forward to being able to read and write; however, the former came first and he could read. At the bay, he used to observe as carpenters labeled their timber with L, A, S, and F letters to mark how they would be joined together. With keen interest in this discovery, he could copy the same letters as he had seen them on walls and floors using chalk. Having been a close friend of Thomas Auld who was at this point in school, he could copy his writings on the black spaces of his book. All this happened mostly on Mondays when Mrs. Auld was away due to the prohibition of reading he had ordered for Douglas.

The plentiful of food especially bread at the Aulds’ house helped Douglas to fend for other literate boys’ time as they shared their knowledge with him. Within several months of persistence, Douglas achieved the most desired knowledge of writing.

Considering the methods that Douglas employed to pursue his education, it is clear that he was not in a position to get education through formal means as Thomas and others. In regards to Mrs. Auld, he could no longer read or write in her presence, for she had embraced the same idea as her husband. However, to make sure that Douglas did not educate himself or get help from within, she detested the idea worse than her husband. Within these circumstances, Douglas had to do all he could to spare some free time from Auld’s home in order to read or consult (Chapter 6).

What was the brutalizing effect of valuation upon the death of a master?

The death of a master was an event that brought forth the need to divide this empire amongst or between beneficiaries that were left behind. The empire consisted of the master’s wealth and all the slaves that were under his name. For this reason, slaves were to be valued accordingly so that division would be proper and fair to the beneficiaries. Men were equated with horses, women with cattle, and children with pigs during the valuation. This means that, where three children could not be divided evenly, a pig would be put in place to solve that issue of imbalance. For this reason, the brutality of the exercise was not the side that would have fallen but the animal that was put on the same place (Chapter 7).

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How did the institution of slavery measure with a Southerner’s piety? Do you agree?  Explain.

The institution of slavery did not measure with Southerner’s piety due to the fact that the Southerner anticipated better treatment of slaves while slavery itself was a demoralizing factor. The piety that the Southerners portrayed was highly questionable in terms of how they undertook matters. Whipping of slaves and selling them when they were unmanageable, brings out a different aspect all together.

Was Douglas a religious man? Support your position with Douglas’s words

Given that Douglas used several saying and examples with inclusion of the word God, doesn’t qualify him as religious. However, the perception at which he looked at some happenings we can say that he believed in God. After the death of one of Douglas’s former masters, the empire was acquired by the total stranger and the mother of the master was then separated from the rest of an empire to die alone with no one to look after her or wipe her last sweat of death. In this context, Douglas seemed to sympathize with her by asking God to look after her. On another account, when Douglas and 3 other slaves planned to escape and were captured, he wondered why God would hold to the power of thunder and lightning in periods like this. For this and other occurrences, we can hardly qualify Douglas as a religious man, but we can ascertain that he believed in God (Chapter 8).

Edward Covey had a reputation. What was that reputation and how did he earn it? A Snake?

Edward Covey was put in power to oversee the operation of the slaves and control them with possible means. He was almost obsessed with making sure that work was in progress at all times. With this, he had acquired a strategy on how to achieve an atmosphere of work. In spite of the fact that he had been placed in charge of the slaves, he had all it took to be regarded as a hard-working fellow. With an understanding of how much he could do, he expected all slaves to show the same commitment and apply the same strength and persistence as he could.

However, as time moved on he started to acquire a reputation and was labeled a snake for the same. Many were the instances where he would set off as if he was going far away leaving behind the slaves to work on their own after giving instructions. To the surprise of many who might have thought he had gone away, they would find him watching them from some distance. On another account that led to his snake name; it was the fact that he would hide in the corn field far away from the working slaves then come crawling on his knees and hands. Then in an instant he would just pop up almost at the midst of the slaves. For this acts of deceiving his workers and his sneaky behaviors, he was labeled ‘snake’. A reputation that he earned through his devotion to getting work going within the periods that the sun was visible in the horizon (Chapter 9).

Did Covey break Douglas’s spirit? How was Douglass reborn? Why was it a turning point?

Covey didn’t give a break to either Douglas or any other person in the same status as Douglas. To make sure that work was done all through the day, he used to punish anyone who was not performing according to the expected pace. Douglas, having been in Baltimore was not used to hard work and was experiencing difficulties with copping. To Covey, this was almost an excuse for being lazy and to motivate Douglas and the slaves like him; he used his cow skin whip to make them work. It was either you work hard or be whipped for it or still work that gave Douglas the impression that he had no power to defend himself against Covey. All that Covey asked, Douglas and others had to comply or else they risked being whipped and scarred all over their bodies.

A cousin of Douglas had a wife who was free. Her name was Amanda and the only way that Douglas got a chance to pull from the Jaws of Covey. Amanda gave Douglas some roots that she claimed would protect him if he would go back to Covey. With this brainwash giving him a lot of courage, he went to Covey and seemed to believe that the roots had done something because he was not confronted by Covey upon arrival. The next day, Covey tried to get Douglas for the whipping because he deserved it but Douglas retaliated by fighting Covey. From this point onwards, Douglas had made a comeback from his broken state. Covey could not just order him around or whip him, but nevertheless, he was still a slave (Chapter 9).

Christmas was an unusual time on the plantation. Why so? What was the intent of the master to the slave?

Slaves would not be working during Christmas and the period between Christmas and the New Year’s Day. For this reason, the slave would enjoy the freedom if he wanted. However, slaveholders and overseers did not quite want to keep the joy of commanding off their shoulders. They also did not like the idea that the slaves had rights to exempt them from their masters. For this reason, if it was time to drink, slaves would not just be allowed to drink as they wished. The masters would result into games that would result to the slaves being drunk.

The intention of the masters to the slaves was to make them believe that they had that spiritual sense in them and that they would not allow them to work during Christmas. If a comparison was to be made between the actions of this period and the rest of the days, one would not derive any positive intention in the actions of the masters (Chapter 10).

Describe Douglas’s life in Baltimore. How was he received on his job there and why?

In Baltimore, Douglas was received well and was treated well considering his status of a slave. For this reason he regarded the actions of Mr. and Mrs. Auld to be different as compared to those he had witnessed in Maryland. At the same time, his life was more associated with his passion to learning how to read and write. As for his job, Douglas was assigned by Thomas as his friend and the boy take care of him; a task that he didn’t seem to mind and whose requirement didn’t involve torture. The good receiving that he experienced was due to the fact that Baltimore was a city and Mrs. Auld had not been a master before. For this case, Mrs. Auld who was mostly around didn’t see a reason to be harsh to Douglas because she attached a great value to human life and good treatment.

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What were the plans for escape and their outcome? How do you think he was discovered?

The plans for escape that Douglas had with a bunch of his friends involved the use of a steam boat through the bay. Using his prowess in writing, he forged passes that were to be used by him and his crew along the bay as they were headed to Canada. However, the passes outlined that they were on their way to Baltimore and that they had permission for it from Master William. This plan never worked because the plan was discovered by the authorities and all accomplices were captured. Following an account that took place before they were captured where a colored man was seen walking behind the horses of some guards, it is certain that Douglas’s plan was unraveled by a whistle-blower (Chapter 10).

What subterfuge did Douglass use to gain his freedom? Describe the drama of his flight.

Having been left hopeless in some jail after the escape attempt had failed; Douglas was bailed out of his position by Captain Auld who was once his master. In this case, he was told that he would be sent to Alabama, but in real sense, captain Auld wanted to free Douglas from his slavery. After getting to Baltimore, Hugh hired Douglas to William Gardner and was supposed to work with him in his business of ship building at Fells Point.

Upon working a bunch of white, protests started to emerge where the whites refused to work with a free colored man. In this case, Douglas was confronted and during the wrangles managed to strike several of them. At one point, he was knocked unconsciously and at this moment would have been killed. When he gained some sense of recognition of the situation, the whites were deciding to kill him. For this reason, considering that the whites had regrouped, he stroke one of them and managed to flee from them.

From Mr. William Gardner, Douglas returned to Mr. Hugh and was welcomed after telling all that had befallen him. For this case, Hugh did not seem to be in the idea of keeping Douglas as a slave or reselling him; he instead hospitalized him because of the former injuries he had incurred during the confrontation he had with Mr. Gardner’s people. To be let free, Douglas was to pay Hugh back some amount of money so as to be released for good. He managed to get a job and paid that entire amount as agreed on which allowed him to be a free man.

How did the community of New Bedford react to the arrival of Douglas? Could he work in his trade? Explain.

After the arrival of Douglas in New Bedford, Douglas could not believe his eyes, the expected poverty stricken land and half-naked people getting whipped was a long gone phenomena. The people of this community did not react in a way to suggest that a big thing had happened for his return, but he was welcomed nevertheless. Amongst other things, he got employment on his third day and from there he was legible to undertake his trade. This is because the people of Bedford had done away with slavery and being colored they had found an industrious culture and had grown to support one another. For Douglas, this was easier that he had imagined it would be and it motivated him (Chapter 11).


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What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?

The Independence Day to the salve is the period between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Within this period, masters would let their slaves have things their way without any form of activity demand from the master. In this case, the independence they receive from the busy and tormented schedule is what they would refer to the Fourth of July.

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