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Fredrick Dougalass Essay, Research Paper
Is it possible for one of our times, living in the free United States, to be bonded in the institution of slavery? One hundred and fifty years have past now since slavery was abolished. The institution of slavery kept the deprivation of women legal and the learning of the mind illegal. Among the slaves, there could be no men, or else that slave would not be a slave. Frederick Douglas existed among slavery only to later on escape and gain his freedom from those who oppressed and enslaved him. The masters of slaves were determined to keep their slaves ignorant so that they would not even think of freedom or the joys it. Slaveholders tried to keep their slaves happy, but yet under their control. Douglas would not stand for this. It was his intelligence, bravery, and determination that made Frederick Douglas a man and not a slave.
Frederick Douglas was born and raised a slave. He had no other life in his youth. The harsh conditions of the institution forced Frederick to crawl into a bag at night and sleep on the cold ground with his head in the bag and his feet outside of it. This form of sleeping led his feet to be cracked with frost so badly that one could stick a pen into the gashes. Douglas and the other slaves were not fed a regular allowance of food. Him and the other children were called and eat coarse corn meal from a large wooden tray that was put on the ground. The children would be forced to eat like pigs gathered around left over mush.
At the age of seven or eight years old, Frederick left Colonel Lloyd s (a prominent slaveholder) plantation to live in Baltimore, Maryland with Mr. Hugh Auld. Mr. Auld was a man who had never bonded a slave and knew very little of the keepings of them. Neither did his wife, who (without the knowledge of its repercussions) taught Frederick how to read. After Mr. Auld forbade his wife to teach Douglas, Frederick decided he would learn anyway. He tried to read newspapers and was forbidden. Whenever Frederick was left alone, he would attempt to read only to have Mr. Auld come and snatch away whatever reading material he had. The little that Frederick was taught was enough for him to go into the streets and receive his lessons from the boys whom he was acquainted with. Though Mrs. Auld refused to teach him, Douglas was determined to learn and he did. Determination was the first step that led the boy in Douglas to becoming a man.
Learning how to read illuminated Douglas mind. It allowed him to see a light in a dark tunnel. It allowed him to find the key, to unlock his chains. This one great skill allowed him to see that slavery was wrong. He was no longer ignorant, nor could anyone keep him that way. Learning to Douglas was a grand achievement and he prized it highly. He realized that the only thing that kept him a slave was the neglect of enlightenment. It was his newly found intelligence that forced Douglas to act brave and resistant. His learning in the city had a great affect on him. It ruined him for every good purpose of a slave and fitted him for all of the whippings and lashes. These penalties had no affect and it was Master Thomas (his owner after leaving the city) decision that Douglas had to be broken in. Douglas mind was too keen and this intelligence brought him great sorrow for he had to now live with Edward Covey, a man considered the nigger-breaker .
Covey was a poor man who rented his farm and because of his reputation, he had plenty of slaves because various masters would send their slaves to be broken. Covey barely owned anything of his own but his reputation. After living with Master Thomas for seven months and refusing to obey, Douglas was sent to Covey. While living with Covey, Douglas says I was seldom free of a whipping. He was often whipped for the simple reason of his awkwardness, the funny way he did his fieldwork. In a few months, Douglas was broken. The whippings were numerous and the work was hard. Douglas was broken in body, soul and spirit. His intellect languished, the disposition to read departed, the cheerful spark that lingered around the eye died. Behold, once an intelligent man now a brute. A bonded man without pride.
This did not last long in deed for in a few months, Douglas non-slave like characteristics would arise again. Covey would go to whip him (Douglas had avoided his whippings by running away and hiding). Douglas refused to be whipped. This caused a fight between the two that would result in a stand off. This allowed Douglas to be free of whippings from Mr. Covey. No word was ever spoken of this incident for if word did get out then Covey would not have any more slaves to break. His reputation as a nigger breaker was one that he held dear and did not want to lose. Douglas proved himself to be brave. Brave enough to stand up to a man that was know for his cruelty. The battle revived Douglas thoughts of freedom and it became that turning point in his career as a slave. It revived his sense of manhood.
Douglas was determined to live a free life. He tried to escape from bondage not once, but twice. After betrayal the first time, Douglas was sent to the city once again to live with the Auld family. Douglas picked up a trade and worked to gain wages. He devised a plan where he would contract his time and would pay Mr. Auld six dollars a week to allow him to do this. He would allow Mr. Auld to trust that he would not run away. He did this by working hard and giving Mr. Auld all of his wages. He would make Mr. Auld very happy and content with this agreement. At the height of this, Douglas escaped bondage. He was able to outwit his master and escape from the hells of slavery.
Among the slaves, there were few who one could point out to be men for they lacked the intelligence, determination and bravery. Douglas was able to open his eyes and see that this life was not right. He viewed slavery as the greatest evil of his time. His successful escape proved him to be the man that a slaveholder could never keep.
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