The slavery era in the United States Essay
The slavery era in the United States was not contingent on the democratic values fought for during the revolution. Slavery created a culture of cruelty and ingrained inequality that we still attempt to make reparations for. During this period, African Americans were seen as property, treated extremely poorly, were separated from their families and many other reasons that prove how African Americans were treated inhumanly. Federick Douglass a former slave and abolitionist explain in his narrative everything that slaves, unfortunately, went through.
Slavery is the main theme in Douglass’ narrative; he states how it was wrong and what living hell they had to go through. Federick Douglass lets the audience know how slaves did not even have the right to know their exact age or who their parents were or any other details about themselves "The white children could tell their ages. I could not tell why I ought to be deprived of the same privilege" (1). He was just six years old when he was separated from his mother to go live and work in Maryland. Douglass faced being treated and seen as a material asset a property, he did not have ownership of his own life. His mother passed away when he was seven years old and he did not know much information about who his father was he just knew his father was a white man. Douglass was given to Lucretia and her husband who taught him about the alphabet and later taught himself how to read and write to teach other slaves near him. He does claim that Lucretia treated him as a human and did not see him as an object but explains how later she the desires of owning a human being takes over her and becomes as cruel as her husband. Separating children from their mothers was not seen as a cruel thing during their time. He states how children were almost lucky to turn one year old and still be with their mother, otherwise, they would separate the mother from the child and the child would be taken care of from someone else, "It is a common custom, in the part of Maryland from which I ran away, to part children from their mothers at a very early age. Frequently, before the child has reached its twelfth month, its mother is taken from it…" (1).
Douglass’ first owner was Colonel Edward Lloyd and then is given Aaron Anthony his first master and overseer (Lucretia’s father), who was a very cruel man that whipped his slaves and enjoyed it. Douglass states how this man would always whip his aunt and seemed to feel and have such power over her due to her weakness. As the years went by Douglass began working for Mr. Gardener to learn the trade of caulking. It was a shipyard mixed with free black carpenters and white carpenters. Due to the fact that African Americans were not really accepted in society, there seemed to be a lot of problems wich Mr. Gardener did not have control of, "They, therefore, felt called upon at once to put a stop to it. And, taking advantage of Mr. Gardner's necessities, they broke off, swearing they would work no longer unless he would discharge his black carpenters" (17). This proves how whites did not accept under any circumstance to work with African Americans.
The slave masters had complete control over their slaves where they were able to physically abuse them. They were allowed to rape their female slaves and had no punishment for that. As mentioned, slave women had their children taken away, without any sympathy, female slaves technically had no ownership over their own children, instead, they were owned by the masters. Douglass explains how during the nineteenth-century women were supposed to be taken care of and away from danger but yet, only black women were the victims of all this mistreatment and suffering. He talks about how his first master would beat his aunt Hester for his own pleasure, "I have often been awakened at the dawn of day by the most heart-rending shrieks of an own aunt of mine, whom he used to tie up to a joist, and whip upon her naked back till she was literally covered with blood. No words, no tears, no prayers, from his gory victim, seemed to move his iron heart from its bloody purpose. The louder she screamed, the harder he whipped; and where the blood ran fastest, there he whipped longest. He would whip her to make her scream, and whip her to make her hush, and not until overcome by fatigue, would he cease to swing the blood-clotted cowskin. I remember the first time I ever witnessed this horrible exhibition" (5). Another beating of two women that Federick Douglass witness was Mary’s and Henrietta’s. A slave owner names Thomas Hamilton owned both of them and lived across the street from where Douglass lived. Douglass explains how Hamilton’s heart must’ve been made of stone, for which he would beat those young girls until hey couldn’t feel parts from their body " His heart must be harder than stone, that could look upon these unmoved. The head, neck, and shoulders of Mary were literally cut to pieces. I have frequently felt her head and found it nearly covered with festering sores, caused by the lash of her cruel mistress. I do not know that her master ever whipped her, but I have been an eye-witness to the cruelty of Mrs. Hamilton" (30,31).
Douglass also had many rough times with overseers and masters, for example, Mr. Gore. he would torture slaves for the slightest mistake or anything that disturbed his peace. Douglass states how he whips a slave named Demby, the slave runs t a creek to wash his wounds and refuses to come back after the third call from Mr. Gore, therefore he shoots him without any hesitate " Mr. Gore then, without consultation or deliberation with anyone, not even giving Demby an additional call, raised his musket to his face, taking deadly aim at his standing victim, and in an instant poor Demby was no more. His mangled body sank out of sight, and blood and brains marked the water where he had stood. A thrill of horror flashed through every soul upon the plantation, excepting Mr. Gore" (20). Overseers and masters killing their slaves was not seen as a crime because slaves were seen as a form of property, I speak advisedly when I say this,—that killing a slave, or any colored person, in Talbot County, Maryland, is not treated as a crime, either by the courts or the community. Mr. Thomas Lanman, of St. Michael’s, killed two slaves, one of whom he killed with a hatchet, by knocking his brains out" (21).
Future generations are able to learn about the mistreatment that slaves went through thanks to Federick Douglass’ narrative. His narrative is one in a million African Americans who suffered from slavery if his life was difficult other slaves may have had it worse. He wanted to let people know what occurs during the nineteenth century. As a national leader of the abolitionist movement he worked towards the constitution and proved that everybody should be treated equally, he took a great part in going against slavery and speaking for his people’s rights and was admired by many.
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