Joshua GanganoDr. WarnerAmLit/Comp Per. 122 January 2018Unjust FreedomDuring the late 19th century heading into the early 20th century, slavery was very strong amongst the Americans living in the south. While a few people, such as Frederick Douglass where fortunate enough to receive an education, many other slaves had the oppression of receiving no education and blocking them from the two most important tools in being able to start succeeding in life. Reading and writing.
Most slaveholders wanted ignorant slaves. In the Narrative of Frederick Douglass, it shows how white slaveholders often kept their slaves ignorant by limiting their access to basic facts such as knowing their age, where they came from, and who their parents were. At the time Douglas was writing, many people believed that slavery was a natural state of an African-American. They believed that blacks were incapable of participating in civil society and should be kept as slaves for the whites. Slaveholders knew that literacy would lead slaves to question their existence of being a slave and question if their masters had the right to own them. Personally, I believe the slaveholders were preventing the slaves from seeking the truth and were abusing their right as a human being.It brings back to the question, “why were slaveholders keeping slaves ignorant?” It’s simple, they wanted to keep them illiterate.
If slaves could not write then a story couldn’t be told. If a story couldn’t be told then there was no one to stop them from the horrible crimes that they were legally doing. Slaveholders wanted to prevent slaves from anything that might give slaves a sense of identity. Slaves were considered to be animals with different slight of emotions and thought. But slaveholders had to work at keeping the slaves at the same level of animals.
They would restrict them from learning, reading, writing – they changed their names and kept them from knowing anything of their history or background. By doing this, slaveholders hoped to keep slaves unknowledgeable. If a slave knew his date of birth, then he would know his age, and knowing how old you are is a part of having an identity. If slaves developed an identity then they might gain the courage to go against the slaveholders.In the narrative of Frederick Douglass, Douglass shows slaveholding to be damaging not only to the slaves themselves, but to slave owners as well. The corrupt power that slave owners enjoy over their slaves has a detrimental effect on the slave owners’ own moral health. With this theme, Douglass completes his overarching depiction of slavery as unnatural for all involved.
Douglass describes typical behavior patterns of slaveholders to portray the damaging effects of slavery. He counts how many slave-owning men have been tempted to rape, fathering children with their female slaves. Such action threatens the relationship of the slave owner’s family, as the father is forced to either sell or continually punish his own child, while the slave owner’s wife becomes resentful and cruel. In other cases, slave owners such as Thomas Auld develop a blind sense to the sins they commit in their own home. Douglass’s main story of the corruption of slave owners is Sophia Auld. The irresponsible power of slaveholding transforms Sophia from an idealistic woman to a demon.
By showing the effects of slaveholding from past slaveowners, Douglass implies that slavery should be removed for the greater good of all society.