Fredericks Douglass Essay

Frederick Douglass 1817(?)-1895

(Born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey) American lecturer, autobiographer, editor, essayist, and novella writer.

See also Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself Criticism.

Douglass is considered one of the most distinguished black writers in nineteenth-century American literature. Born into slavery, he escaped in 1838 and subsequently devoted his considerable rhetorical skills to the abolitionist movement. Expounding the theme of racial equality in stirring, invective-charged orations and newspaper editorials in the 1840s, 1850s, and 1860s, he was recognized by his peers as an outstanding orator and the foremost black abolitionist of his era. Douglass's current reputation as a powerful and effective prose writer is based primarily on his 1845 autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself. Regarded as one of the most compelling antislavery documents produced by a fugitive slave, the Narrative is also valued as an eloquent argument for human rights. As such, it has transcended its immediate historical milieu and is now regarded as a landmark in American autobiography.

Biographical Information

The son of a black slave and an unidentified white man, Douglass was separated from his mother in infancy. Nurtured by his maternal grandmother on the Tuckahoe, Maryland estate of his master, Captain Aaron Anthony, he enjoyed a relatively happy childhood until he was pressed into service on the plantation of Anthony's employer, Colonel Edward Lloyd. There Douglass endured the rigors of slavery. In 1825, he was transferred to the Baltimore household of Hugh Auld, where Douglass earned his first critical insight into the slavery system. Overhearing Auld rebuke his wife for teaching him the rudiments of reading, Douglass deduced that ignorance perpetuated subjugation and decided that teaching himself to read could provide an avenue to freedom. Enlightened by his clandestine efforts at self-education, Douglass grew restive as his desire for freedom increased, and was eventually sent to be disciplined, or "broken," by Edward Covey. When he refused to submit to Covey's beatings and instead challenged him in a violent confrontation, Douglass overcame a significant psychological barrier to freedom. In 1838, he realized his long-cherished goal by escaping to New York. Once free, Douglass quickly became a prominent figure in the abolitionist movement. In 1841, he delivered his first public address—an extemporaneous speech at an anti-slavery meeting in Nantucket, Massachusetts—and was invited by William Lloyd Garrison and other abolitionist leaders to work as a lecturer for the Massachusetts Antislavery Society. By 1845, Douglass's eloquent and cogent oratory had led many to doubt that he was indeed a former slave. He responded by composing a detailed account of his slave life, the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, which was an immediate popular success. Having opened himself to possible capture under the fugitive slave laws, Douglass fled that same year to Great Britain, where he was honored by the great reformers of the day. Returning to the United States in 1847, he received sufficient funds to purchase his freedom and establish The North Star, a weekly abolitionist newspaper. During the 1850s and early 1860s, Douglass continued his activities as a journalist, abolitionist speaker, and autobiographer. By the outbreak of the Civil War, he had emerged as a nationally-recognized spokesman for black Americans and, in 1863, advised President Abraham Lincoln on the use and treatment of black soldiers in the Union Army. His later years were chiefly devoted to political and diplomatic assignments, including a consulgeneralship to the Republic of Haiti, which he recounts in the 1892 revised edition of his final autobiographical work, the Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, Written by Himself. Douglass died at his home in Anacostia Heights, District of Columbia, in 1895.

Major Works

In his speeches on abolition, Douglass frequently drew on his first-hand experience of slavery to evoke pathos in his audience. He is most often noted, however, for his skillful use of scorn and irony in denouncing the slave system and its abettors. One of the stock addresses in his abolitionist repertoire was a "slaveholders sermon" in which he sarcastically mimicked a pro-slavery minister's travesty of the biblical injunction to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." His most famous speech, an address delivered on July 5th, 1852, in Rochester, New York, commonly referred to as the "Fourth of July Oration," is a heavily ironic reflection on the significance of Independence Day for slaves. The several installments of Douglass's autobiography—which include the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845), My Bondage and My Freedom (1855), and the Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881)—depart from the biting tone of his oratory and are often described as balanced and temperate, though still characterized by Douglass's dry, often ironic, wit. While these works are valued by historians as a detailed, credible account of slave life, the Narrative is widely acclaimed as an artfully compressed yet extraordinarily expressive story of self-discovery and self-liberation. In it Douglass records his personal reactions to bondage and degradation with straightforward realism and a skillful economy of words. He based his 1853 novella The Heroic Slave on the real-life slave revolt aboard the American ship Creole in 1841. Douglass's only work of fiction, it celebrates the bravery of Madison Washington, who is portrayed as a lonely and isolated hero.

Critical Reception

Appealing variously to the political, sociological, and aesthetic interests of successive generations of critics, Douglass has maintained his celebrated reputation as an orator and prose writer. Douglass's contemporaries viewed him primarily as a talented antislavery agitator whose manifest abilities as a speaker and writer refuted the idea of black inferiority. This view persisted until the 1930s, when both Vernon Loggins and J. Saunders Redding called attention to the "intrinsic merit" of Douglass's writing and acknowledged him to be the most important figure in nineteenth-century black American literature. In the 1940s and 1950s, Alain Locke and Benjamin Quarles respectively pointed to the Life and Times of Frederick Douglass and the Narrative as classic works which symbolize the black role of protest, struggle, and aspiration in American life. Critics in recent years have become far more exacting in their analysis of the specific narrative and rhetorical strategies that Douglass employed in the Narrative to establish a distinctly black identity, studying the work's tone, structure, and placement in American literary history. In addition, scholars have since elevated the reputation of the Narrative, while noting that the later installments of his autobiography fail to recapture the artistic vitality of their predecessor. Continued study and praise of the autobiographies and Douglass's other works may be taken as an indication of their abiding interest. As G. Thomas Couser has observed, Douglass was a remarkable man who lived in an exceptionally tumultuous period in American history. By recording the drama of his life and times in lucid prose, he provided works which will most likely continue to attract the notice of future generations of American literary critics and historians.

US history is tainted by the most shameful form of enslavement of man by man – Negro slavery, that existed until 1863. Most people of America, negros and white, heroically fought for the abolition of slavery and for equal rights for black-skinned people. A place of honor in their ranks belongs to Frederick Douglass, who has been a recognized leader of the Negro people of the United States for decades.

Frederick Douglass is one of the most famous and influential African American leaders of the 19th century. He was an abolitionist, a revolutionary democrat, one of the main figures of African-American liberation movement. His real name is Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey.  He chose his name from a character in Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake (“9 Interesting Facts About Frederick Douglass”, 2013). With outstanding oratorical skills and the ability to express his thoughts in writing, Douglas launched an extensive anti-slavery campaign. He became a living response to the arguments of slaveholders who claimed that slaves do not have enough intelligence to become independent American citizens. Many residents of the northern states of the USA could not even believe that such a great orator as Frederick could be a slave.

Douglas grew up as a slave, but he was very lucky that one woman taught him to read and write even though it was prohibited to teach slaves. When he moved to Baltimore to work for his brother, the owner, he was lucky again: brother’s wife taught him further, particularly acquainted with the Bible. Douglas became a Christian at the age of 13 years. Later became a preacher and fighter for the abolition of slavery. Political activity of Douglas was subordinated to the idea of uniting all the anti-slavery forces, creating a mass abolitionist party. Douglas was involved in the organization of the National Freedom Party, the party’s activity of free soilers, Negro Congresses motion, the “Underground Railroad.” A brilliant writer and orator, in 1845 he published an autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. The book became famous, but freedom of the author was subjected to danger – according to the law, he had to go back to his host, to the South. Douglas chose to go to Europe, he lectured in the UK and Ireland during 1845-1847 years (“Frederick Douglass Biography”, n.d.).

Save Your Time with JetWriters

Get high quality custom written essay just for $10

ORDER NOW!

In the beginning of the Civil War, Douglass put forward the slogan of immediate emancipation of the slaves, took part in the formation of Negro regiments, was an adviser to President Abraham Lincoln (“9 Interesting Facts About Frederick Douglass”, 2013). In the post-war reconstruction period, he fought for the provision of full civil rights to slaves, advocated the democratization of the political life of the United States, for granting voting rights to women. He played a leading role in the organization of the Negro National League of struggle for equality (“Frederick Douglass Biography”, n.d.). Frederick Douglas has developed a program of political and civil rights for the black population of the country, especially the right to elect and be elected along with white Americans, and consistently fought for its implementation after the abolition of slavery. Until the end of his life he utters speech and lectures in various states America, published his texts, articles and open letters in various newspapers.

Frederick Douglass was a truly remarkable man of his era. Born a slave, he was doomed to experience the hardships of life and the suffering of many, but he found the strength and courage to fight for their rights and for improving the lives of others, infringed rights. Douglas antislavery activities coincided with the period in United States history, when the issue was at the peak of urgency, when the President understood the need for the abolition of slavery in the country. Douglas’ greatest merit lies in the fact that he led the revolutionary wing of the abolitionist movement, actively fought for inclusion in its ranks of the working masses. He was a strong supporter of active joint actions of white and black opponents of slavery. Douglas was a staunch supporter of peace and friendship among all peoples.


References:
9 Interesting Facts About Frederick Douglass. (2013). National Republican Congressional Committee. Retrieved 27 August 2016, from https://www.nrcc.org/2013/06/19/8-interesting-facts-about-frederick-douglass/
Frederick Douglass Biography. Biography.com Editors. Retrieved 27 August 2016, from http://www.biography.com/people/frederick-douglass-9278324#freedom-and-abolitionism

0 thoughts on “Fredericks Douglass Essay

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *