These tactics forced the slaves to adopt survival tactics of living, reinforcing the beliefs of white people that menial labor was all the slaves were capable of – higher thought was clearly beyond the capacity of their more primitive brains. Making the situation even worse, this societal attitude was successful in convincing many of the slaves that these assumptions were correct. Proving that this was not the case, though, was Frederick Douglass. An escaped slave from Maryland, he was the first black man to appear on a presidential ticket in America. Douglass told the world his story revealing in the process how literacy changed him deeply to transform him from a masterless slave to a freethinking human being. These ideas are also revealed in his early narrative Frederick Douglass: Life of an American Slave.
Although his exact birth date is unknown, Douglass believed he was born sometime in February of 1818. He died on February 20, 1895. Today’s common perception is that slavery, at least the brutal form of it, was confined mostly in the south on the big plantations yet Douglass witnessed many brutal beatings on his master’s Maryland farm where he lived for his first seven years. As a child, he was often required to endure cold and hunger because the master kept most of the slave-generated products, including food and fuel, for his own comfort and well-being. Normally a very traumatic event for a child, when 7-year-old Douglass’ mother died, he felt almost no grief. “Never having enjoyed, to any considerable extent, her soothing presence, her tender and watchful care, I received the tidings of [my mother’s] death with much the same emotions I should have probably felt at the death of a stranger” (Ch. 1). The important lesson Douglass tries to convey in these early chapters is how the slave is created from birth. He is separated from his family to destroy any natural human feelings of ...
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