The issue of slavery in antebellum America was not black and white. Generally people in the North opposed slavery, while inhabitants of the South promoted it. However, many people were indifferent. Citizens in the North may have seen slavery as neither good nor bad, but just a fact of Southern life. Frederick Douglass, knowing the North was home to many abolitionists, wrote his narrative in order to persuade these indifferent Northern residents to see slavery as a degrading practice. Douglass focuses on dehumanization and freedom in order to get his point across.
Frederick Douglass emphasizes the dehumanization aspect of slavery throughout his narrative. As is the general custom in slavery, Douglass is separated from his mother early in infancy and put under the care of his grandmother. He recalls having met his mother several times, but only during the night. She would make the trip from her farm twelve miles away just to spend a little time with her child. She dies when Douglass is about seven years old. He is withheld from seeing her in her illness, death, and burial. Having limited contact with her, the news of her death, at the time, is like a death of a stranger. Douglass also never really knew the identity of his father and conveys a feeling of emptiness and disgust when he writes, "the whisper that my master was my father, may or may not be true; and, true or false, it is of but little consequence to my purpose" (Douglass, 40). Douglass points out that many slave children have their masters as their father. In these times, frequently the master would take advantage of female slaves and the children born to the slave w...
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... the abolitionist movement is fueled by reading The Liberator, a newspaper that stirs his soul in fighting for the anti-slavery cause. While attending an anti-slavery convention at Nantucket on August 11, 1841, Douglass, with encouragement from Mr. William C. Coffin, speaks for the first time to a white audience about slavery.
In conclusion, Frederick Douglass starts his life as a slave determined to get his freedom. At the end of his life, he is one of the foremost figures of the abolitionist movement. Douglass' narrative takes advantage of the literal advantage in order to abolish slavery. Through depictions of dehumanization and freedom, Frederick Douglass' narrative is instrumental in swaying the views of the indifferent Northern residents.
Douglas, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas. New York: Signet, 1968.
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