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Being considered the “most famous African American of the nineteenth century”, Frederick Douglass was born a slave and rose to fame not only as “one of America’s best orators, but also as a prominent writer, intellectual and an abolitionist leader (Sundstrom 1; Stauffer…
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Download file to see previous pages... hand, Douglass’s narrative presents a vivid account of one of the darkest periods in American history, marked with “lawful” violence and suppression, outrageous cruelty to, and disregard for the human nature of millions of people, whose only fault was the color of their skin. On the other hand, the narrative depicts the bold quest for freedom of a man, born as a chattel, who passed through the whole spectrum of woes and humiliation one would imagine to become an “American icon” and “Representative American man” (Stauffer 201).
Although Douglass’s quest for freedom was thorny and everlasting, i.e. having continued far beyond the point of achievement of physical freedom, one particular episode in it denotes the actual transformation of the slave into a free man – when a single act of resistance annihilated years of humiliation and century-long collective self-perception of inferiority.
Frederick Douglass was born and grew up in slavery; being separated from his mother too early in his life – even before he knew her as his mother – he was unaware about who his father was (Douglass 9). That, in fact, was nothing unwonted in early-nineteenth-century America, especially in the South, where “the larger part of the slaves know as little of their ages as horses know of theirs”, and more often than not “before the child has reached its twelfth month, its mother is taken from it and hired out on some farm a considerable distance off” (Douglass 10).
It had been a common practice by that time slaveholders to have children from slave-women, which engendered the paradox of being both masters and fathers of those children; which probably was the case of Douglass’s coming into the world – “the whisper that my master was my father may or may not be true” (Douglass 11). Another common occurrence in the South, also established by the law, was that those “fathers” had the right to and did torture, as well as sell their children to other ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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