Slavery during the 17th to 19th century was horrific. There are many autobiographies of slaves at the time that made it to put their story out on their experience. Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jones story stood out to me the most. It is hard to imagine what it was like, and reading various stories on it is heartbreaking. The thing that stood out to me the most wask knowledge and ignorance.
Frederick Douglass is also known as the father of the civil rights movement. He was an abolitionist, human and women’s rights activist. He wrote “Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass”. The purpose to writing his book was to tell his story to show the way which slavery degraded slaves. I believe this narrative was for white people, mainly in the north, as he hoped to end slavery. There were many challenges he was facing including such as confusion, pain, and hope. A short quote that I found powerful said “ you have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man.” This shows us that his unbeatable will and desire to be free is much more powerful than slavery.
Knowledge and ignorance plays role throughout the narrative. Douglass writes “ I have found that, to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken his moral and medical vision, and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason. He must be able to detect no inconsistencies in slavery; he must be made to feel that slavery is right; and he can be brought to that only when he ceases to be a man”.
Overall, his experience as a slave, Douglas finds that masters regularly tried to take away from their slaves’ knowledge in order to crush their wills to be free, or make it so that the they cannot understand of even being free. Another example is when Hugh Auld finds his wife, Sophia, teaching Federick how to write, he demands that she stops, saying that “learning would spoil the best nigger in the world.”
They demand in keeping slaves as uneducated as possible. Masters would do any and everything to manipulate slaves. To make them think that slavery wasn’t that bad, during their christmas holidays, masters would get slaves really drunk so they would sicken themselves, be in pain, and tell them that’s what their life was. This made slaves to believe that even being “free” wasn’t all that great.
Another abolitionist speaker that stood out to me was Harriet Jacobs. She was an African American writer who escaped from slavery and was later freed. She became an abolitionist speaker and reformer. She wrote “Incidents in the life of a slave girl” where she makes direct appeal to the humanity and extend their knowledge and influence their thoughts about slavery as an institution. One of her quotes says “I admit that the black man is inferior.
But what is it that makes him so? It is the ignorance in which white men copel him to live; it is the torturing whip that lashes manhood out of him; it is the fierce bloodhounds of the south, and the scarcely less cruel human bloodhounds of the north, who enforce the fugitive slave law. They do the work.” A common untrue myth, said by people who owned an kept slaves, to justify their participation in the “ peculiar institution” is that slaves were naturally inferior in terms to intellect. Jacob clearly disagrees and proves it by telling us readers that they’re like that only because white men made them so and made many believe so. If men are prohibited from education and religion, then they obviously don’t develop their mind.
Frederick douglass and harriet Jacobs are similar in some ways. Like said, they both wrote fugitive slave narratives and showed the tension between the complicating motives that generated autobiographies of slave life. One of the main differences between both writers were gender. Harriet focuses on sexual exploitation and mostly how much whose life was being a slave girl/woman. Douglass on the other hand focuses more on struggling to achieve manhood and freedom.
Overall, both Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs were able to make their voice heard. Not only did it inspire slaves to have hopes but it also help abolish slavery. It didn’t happen right away but it did make a huge impact in history. Although each narrative has its own experience and had many different perspectives, it was connected on many topics.
Lastly, is another powerful quote by Douglass that says “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”