Themes from RR#1: Frederick Douglass

Facts Douglass teaches readers about slavery

  • Haley: “Only a monthly allowance of food is not right. It’s very unhealthy and not enough. Their clothing is also made of a poor material, which isn’t warm enough for the winter. They could get sick and weak very easily.”
  • Sabrina: “Douglass states, “Children from seven to ten years old, of both sexes, almost naked, might be seen at all seasons of the year.” If this idea doesn’t disturb you, I don’t know what will.”
  • Conor: “[t]his quote from page 243 about the songs slaves sang struck a chord with me, no pun intended. “The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears.” (Douglass, pg 243). The only solace received was in the form of this pain killer for the soul, so to speak, in the only form of self expression they could salvage.

Institution of slavery and the power of a white supremacy ideology

  • Baraa: “[Douglass] didn’t know that his master, along with many others, felt more powerful when their slave(s) was unknowing of his or her identity; the masters had more control over them.
  • Jennie: “Family is what makes you who you are and because Douglass never knew his family he had to find himself all on his own.”
  • Rahilah: “I never thought about…how the poor treatments, lack of basic human rights, and harsh conditions could effect the slaves not only physically or emotionally, but in such a way; mentally.”

Douglass as a writer and autobiography as a genre of “self/life/writing”

  • Chaz: “Also in a way, Douglass without flat out saying it, shows that there really is no difference between color.”
  • Connor: “The last thing I want to talk about is the passive nature Douglass seems to have in the readings so far. He seems to be more of an observer and he doesn’t get beaten like some of his stories. “
  • Ralph: “I never catch emotions to a reading, but being able to visualize the pain and sorrow made me open my eyes into how our “Land of the Free” was dishonest and full of injustice.”
  • Mike: “Frederick Douglass knew that he would make it out of slavery.”
  • Tyquan: “Douglas took a chance by learning to read and write so he could expose slavery for what it was and everyone who supported it.”

Truth and persuasion

  • Kyle: “…the fact that Douglas has multiple sources backing what he is saying reinforces the idea that this is part of our history, not only as America, but as a species, humanity.”
  • Danny: “Douglass himself needs to be honest about his past in order to have the people he is trying to persuade about the horrors of slavery to believe him.”
  • Justin: “[Douglass] described everything in this book, which was very helpful to be viewed as believable; which is upsetting because he had to describe some of the “normal” things that happened on a plantation for people to even believe him like the whipping, murder, and the abuse.”

Laws and Justice

  • Adil: “[Douglass]  was trying to persuade the readers to believe what he has to say by providing further evidence of the corrupted acts, which were that if a white man killed a slave, there would be no consequences. The readings really show that slavery was cruel and negatively affected both the slaves and slave owners. The slaves were treated unfairly, whipped, and etc., while the slave owners were falling into tyranny and inhumanity.”
  • Emily: “[Douglass] mentions the murders were not treated as a crime by the courts or the community. I find it very disconcerting that the white community around was as unfazed by these acts as they were. Even though these community members may not have been involved themselves in these exploits, in my opinion that by no means makes them innocent.”

Christianity and belief in God

  • Tanner: “Douglass mentions God often in his autobiography.  It’s mentioned in the paratext, and mentioned by Douglass himself and he shares his own belief in God.  While this was extremely popular at this time, it’s surprising in a way that he believes in God.”
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