Emily Ramirez

Dec 11, 2020

4 min read

Fredrick Douglass

An influence to abolishing slavery

Introduction

There have been over six thousand slave narratives that have been written, but one of the best written and most widely read narratives is the first autobiography that Frederick Douglass wrote. Frederick Douglass was born into slavery and faced many life struggles, which inspired him to become a writer who was able to influence the world. Fredricks purpose was to gain support from outsiders to abolish slavery. This piece of writing launched Douglass’ as a national figure, becoming a best seller, and had been reprinted on several accounts. Fredrick Douglass became one of the leaders in the abolitionist movements which influenced the ending of slavery.

About the Author

Fredrick Douglass was born in Talbot County, Maryland. Douglass was born into slavery, as his mother was a slave and his father was a white man whom he did not know. At age 7, his mother died, and was taken in by his grandmother. When he was 7 years old he was sent to Baltimore to serve Hugh Auld. Douglas was taught how to read by his master’s wife

Once Douglass was no longer at the Auld household, he started teaching how to read the New Testament at Sunday school for about six months. Shortly after, he was sent to work for a slave driver named Edward Covey. Fredrick was dedicated to making a plan that would help him escape slavery, but these plans were discovered, resulting in him being thrown in jail.

While being jailed, he was in communication with a free black woman, Anna Murray, who helped him escape in 1838. From a train to a steamboat from Philadelphia to New York, he was over-joyed with leaving life as a slave and becoming a free man. Not even two weeks later, Douglass married Anna and had five children together. 44 years later, Anna died. Douglass moved to Massachusetts with his family, where they all became active in the anti-slavery campaigns. Douglass went on to travel the Midwest and East US for six months teaching about slavery abolition. “He became a leader in the abolitionist movement, which sought to end the practice of slavery, before and during the Civil War(Williams).”

About the Book

In 1845, this memoir was published and which then started to become a revolutionary piece of writing. In this autobiography, he speaks about his childhood and when he first started to witness the interactions between the slaveholders and slaves. He speaks about his important move to Baltimore, Maryland, and his new life with the Aulds and learning how to read and write. This sparks a realization of how important being knowledgeable is and all of the opportunities it could bring. This is when he learns “abolition” and starts thinking about running away to the North. Douglass speaks about his different living arrangements before sent to St. Michaels. Frederick shines a light on the harsh living conditions and the beatings he endured. Concluding his writing, he went to jail and met a woman who helped him escape and become a free man. Frederick tells a monumental personal story that allowed people to see what truly went on as a slave.

While reading this novel you will find a plethora of themes Frederick Douglass used such as knowledge being a path to freedom, the damage of slavery on slaves and their slaveholders, perversion of Christianity, and ignorance. In the preface of this narrative written by William Lloyd Garrison, he states “Mr. Douglass has very properly chosen to write his own Narrative, in his own style, and according to the best of his ability..” Douglass incorporates rhetorical questions and uses metaphors to emphasize his points.

Legacy

“Frederick Douglass has been called the father of the civil rights movement. He rose through determination, brilliance, and eloquence to shape the American nation. He was an abolitionist, human rights, and women's rights activist, orator, author, journalist, publisher, and social reformer(Digital History).”

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass was extremely influential because he was sharing his personal first-hand experience living life as a slave. Not many slaves knew how to read, write, or speak out, so the fact that he was able to do all of those things and talk about the disturbing truths he uncovered was inspiring. “It became a best seller and was reprinted several times. It was a ground-breaking work, one of the earliest first-hand accounts of slavery(Tejvan).” Once this was published, he gained a significant amount of credibility from those who doubted his experiences. This narrative helped open doors for the anti-slavery movement and for Douglass himself. “The book gained international acclaim, confounding critics who argued that such fluid writing and penetrating thought could not be the product of a Black mind(Williams).”

Works Cited

Digital History, Steven Mintz. “Digital History.” UH, www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/exhibits/douglass_exhibit/douglass.html.

“Frederick Douglass Biography: .” Biography Online, 5 June 2019, www.biographyonline.net/writers/frederick-douglass.html.

Williams, Yohuru. “Why Frederick Douglass Matters.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 10 Feb. 2018, www.history.com/news/frederick-douglass-bicentennial.