Slavery in American history dates as far back as the late 17th century when twenty African slaves landed in Virginia carried by a Dutch ship. Since then, the practice of slavery dramatically increased with over 3.8 million slaves being transported to the New World between 1700 and 1800. As one of the 1.5 million estimated slaves during the early 19th century, Frederick Douglass makes his feelings of disgust and hatred towards slavery evident in his memoir, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, in which he critiques the dehumanizing nature of the act.
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Douglass accounts everyday cruel treatment, poor living conditions, denial of rights and education, beatings, and perils he both personally experiences and witnesses. In relation, education was a privilege that was not granted to slaves in America and it was against the law in the 1830s for slaves to be taught how to read or write.
Despite this, Douglass teaches himself to read and write. Douglass also emphasizes the importance of freedom when he first gets sold to Baltimore as a slave and eventually succeeds in his relentless pursuit to be free in 1838.
In day-to-day life, Douglass recollects the barbarities and dangers he views and undergoes at the hands of slaveholders. This cruelty would be exemplified by Douglassr’s first ever witness of his Aunt Hester being whipped until bloody by Master Anthony. The sight of this whipping left Douglass terrified and horror-stricken;such violence against slaves occurred regularly, proving to be one of the many hardships Douglass experienced. Living conditions were of poor quality and inhumane. No beds, regular whippings, a stingy allowance of food and clothing, loss of sleep, and little protection from heat and cold were daily adversities. It was very common according to Douglass in Maryland for slave children to be separated from their mothers at very young age and raised without proper maternal care. Some of the women suffered being raped by their masters and bearing their children; their mulatto children were both at an advantage, receiving favors withheld from other black slaves, and disadvantage, being sold, whipped, and tied up by their white sibling or father. For slaves throughout America, safety and protection was never granted in their daily lives.
In like manner, slaveholders would strip away the individuality of men and women, which in turn intensifies Douglassr’s hatred of slavery. In the time of Master Anthonyr’s death, Douglass describes how he felt degraded as he becomes valued as property for Mrs. Lucretia and Master Andrew. According to Douglass, slaves were ranked and traded as property with no more of a say in that decision than the animals. As a result from the slaveholders rankings and trade, slaves were dehumanized to the state of property. Further evidence of how slaveholders imbrute slaves was when Douglass witnesses slave children devouring mush out of a wooden trough like so many pigs.
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