According to Frederick Douglas, slaves did not get a chance to know much about own mothers and their birthdays, such unawareness considerably influenced their mental well being – they could not be fully alive and were a kind of property of their masters. Frederick Douglas compared slaves to horses, who neither knew their age (Douglas, 25).
In fact, slavery was one of the most horrible tools, which served to destroy people’s identity, ethnicity, and humanity. Slaves were treated as animals and working tools, this is why their diminished humanity meant nothing for their masters, and slaves themselves even forgot about such a significant issue as human rights. However, many slaves were happy to work at the Great House Farm, as it was considered to be a privilege. Slaves’ songs were some kind of evidence that slaves were happy to live and work, however, Douglas found such songs as slaves’ greatest anguish. But still, songs were the only ones opportunities, which helped to develop slaves’ language and skills to communicate properly. It was known that many southern slaveholders preferred to keep their slaves illiterate, because they believed that if the latter could not write, they could not share their troubles with the others, describe how poor the conditions to work were, and how cruel their owners were. According to Douglas, education and slavery were two incompatible things. Slaves did want to become educative, however, their holders deprived them from such opportunities in order to be sure that slaves did not get a chance to tell about their owners’ treatment and punishment.
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In spite of the fact that many slaves were uneducated, they still could distinguish the profit from the work, be able to choose better working conditions, and even argue between themselves whose owners is the richest. To prove such assumption, Mr. Douglas used such a phrase, full of irony and sarcasm: “To be a poor man’s slave was deemed a disgrace” (Douglas, 40). By means of numerous quotations, Douglas also wanted to underline how terrible the treatment of slaveholders was.
“It was worth a halfcent to kill a ‘nigger,’ and a half-cent to bury one” (Douglas, 45) is one of such quote that proves that slave’s life did not mean anything for the owners. Slaves’ deaths were not about pity or some emotions. It was all about more money and owners’ costs, which had to be spent to bury a person. Colonel Lloyd was the brightest example of wealth and terrible owners; he had so many slaves that “he did not know them when he saw them” (Douglas, 39). He demanded too much subservience from all his slaves and very often, his punishment was too cruel. Such wealth corrupted owners’ self of justice, because owners kept slaves ignorant and gained the necessary power, and all the play was not fair, because slaves could not resist such treatment and did obey. Austin Gore was a proud and cruel slaveholder, whose maxim was “it is better that a dozen slaves should suffer under the lash, than that the overseer should be convicted, in the presence of the slaves, of having been at fault” (Douglas, 41). Gore killed poor Demby because the latter did not response to the calls of the former – such punishment is cruel and even inhuman.
Of course, there were people, slave-owners, who demonstrated their understanding and compassion to their slaves. Mr. and Mrs. Auld were slaveholders, where the narrator spent some time. The peculiar feature of these people was that sincere Sophia was eager to help Douglass to become more educative; however, her husband forbade her provide any assistance, because if to “give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell” (Douglas, 52). However, the slaves of the Aulds were not the only ones, where slaves felt themselves in safe.
A city slave had much more privileges in comparison to a country one. He had better clothes, food, and living conditions. City slaveholders did not want to disturb their neighbors with slaves’ cries and suffering, this is why city slave’s life was similar to a free one.
“Death of a master all too often meant that debts had to be paid and that slave families had to be divided or something sold” (Miller and Smith, 447). Mr. Douglas admits that some kind of fear and uncertainty is inherent to a slave after his/her master’s death.
Slaves did not care about the death as a loss but considered it as one more factor to be bothered about. Douglass supported that less religion and piety was something really important. It was not that important to build churches and other places to pray and ask for forgiveness. Slaves had a need of fresh air and observing sunshine in order to be ready to work better. Frederick Douglas was a religion man, because during his work, he always admitted that his religious experience played a significant role in his education. Due to religion, Douglas got a chance to control own emotions and choose the best way to improve his life of a slave. He considered religion as something that helped to look beyond and be ready for further challenges: “O God, save me! God, deliver me! Let me be free! Is there any God? Why am I a slave?” (Douglas, 77). Due to such unbelievable devotion to religion, Mr.
Douglas created a wonderful speech in favor of July, 4th. This speech is considered to be the brightest words in regards to civil rights, slave freedom, and a kind of reborn of slaves and their families.
Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas. BiblioBazaar, LLC, 2008.
Miller, Randal, M. and Smith, John, D. Dictionary of Afro-American Slavery. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1997.