Resisting Slavery in “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas: An American Slave”

Name: Jing Cao 1540041

Professor: Lashawnda Pittman

Date: 20 NOV 2015

Resisting Slavery

in “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas: An American Slave”

The cultural product is a literary product, more specifically a memoir which was released by Frederick Douglass on 1845. The book was known as “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas: An American Slave” and has been considered as a canon when it comes to narratives which targeted the topic of slavery during this period in history. As a former slave himself, the relevance of Douglass’s book can be connected with the idea that he managed to integrate a lot of insightful analyses regarding the condition of slavery and how it affected him personally, and the people around him.

There are a total of eleven chapters from Douglass’s memoir which all mirror his life as a former slave, the hardships that he experienced in the hands of his masters, and how he was able to surpass these challenges by believing that slavery is not right. Personally, I think that the significance of the book for me as an individual is its impact and the way it was written by a former slave. The visual presentation of the plantation and the obstacles that Douglass faced as a slave seemed very visual and effective in delivering the basic perception that slavery doesn’t only affect the slaves, but also the masters themselves, since they are constantly being consumed by the power to control others. I was drawn into this particular cultural artifact because of the lessons that it tries to forward about greed, human nature, and the power of education to change the course of history. All of these very essential elements were discussed through the narrative of Douglass as a slave and as an empowered individual who utilized his courage in order to escape from the bonds of slavery.

Douglass is known as one of the most famous supporters of the abolitionist movement in the United States. Aside from becoming a leader of the abolitionist movement, the author was also known for his oratorical and writing skills. He became the living representation of the idea that slaves can actually gain the intellectual capacity to fight for their rights and to function as a free citizen of the country. His book is basically considered as an influential text that allowed Douglass to express his sentiments about slavery and why should this system be considered as unjust and not proper. Aside from of course functioning as the author’s memoir, the book was also probably written in order to support Douglass’s reigning advocacies during that time, which is of course, the complete abolition of slavery. In some ways, the narrative/memoir can be seen more of a propaganda for the abolitionist movement rather than merely dismissing it as a diary of a former slave.

As it has been mentioned earlier, the memoir was done on 1845, a time in U.S. history when the abolitionist movement was strong in its call to totally end all forms of oppression caused by the system. According to Robert Felgar (2014), “When Douglass’s Narrative was published in 1845, slavery has been entrenched for well over two hundred years. Slavery was the foundation of society in the South and the major form of wealth for the masters of large plantations. In other words, it was not going to be abolished voluntarily because it was the basis of the social and economic power of the planter aristocracy, which was determined to hold on to its slavery-based privileges, regardless of the cost (p. 1).” This period is basically significant to African Americans because this is the time wherein people started to think about new ways in order to abolish slavery. For instance, another event in relation to slavery which also transpired during this momentous period in history is the act of aiding of slave escapes through secret routed and safe houses (the “Underground Railroad”).

Douglass’s book became a really influential artifact that inspired the slaves to think that they can also escape from the bonds of slavery, as well as to gain access to knowledge and education which is constantly being denied to them by their masters. The publication time of the book was also timely with its cause in order to expose the evils of master-slave relations, as well as the difficult life of slaves in plantations where they are treated as animals and material goods that are merely being exchanged without their consent.

Personally, I think that the memoir of Douglass can be related to a lot of aspects about what I learned from the course. First of all, there are indeed a lot of negative effects which were brought by slavery to the people, especially the slaves themselves. More importantly, the book was also able to highlight the relevance of subversion and revolutionary actions such as the abolitionist movement.

There are a lot of things that learned in the course that informs my blog. First of all, the idea that slavery brought upon various issues in master-slave relationships. I also learned that resistance movements became a direct response of abolitionists in order to express their advocacy of changing the system. Apart from these, I also think that the narrative is very optimistic in a sense that it was able to forward inspiration to other slaves about the possibility of freedom. I think that Douglass’s narrative should still be considered as relevant even in the present, because of the contributions that it gave to the abolitionist movement, and for recording an aspect of history through the eyes of who had been considered as “voiceless’ during that time.


Works Cited

Felgar, R. (2014). American Slavery: A Historical Exploration of Literature (Historical Explorations of Literature. NY: Greenwood.


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