Fredrick Douglass – My Bondage and My Freedom.

Chapters 1-3 

(Note Share) Choose 3 of the passages that you underlined or highlighted and describe anything that surprised, challenged, or changed what you already knew.

Few slave-mothers know anything of the months of the year, nor of the days of the month. They keep no family records, with marriages, births, and deaths.

This quote opens the eyes of the reader to the situation in which the slave is put. Douglass explains how not many slaves now what month it is, let alone what day. It is shocking to hear this because it’s hard to comprehend not knowing what month it is. It begins to put things in perspective for the reader.

Brothers and sisters we were by blood; but slavery made us strangers.

This quote is more or less haunting. It expresses just exactly what slavery was meant to do. Slavery was used, not only to make money but to oppress Blacks. What better way to oppress someone than to cut them off from everything they know, including their family. It is disgusting to think about for too long.

 I do not remember to have seen my mother after this occurrence. Death soon ended the little communication that has existed between us.

Once again, Douglass helps us understand the lives of slaves through showing us what was being taken away from them in a way that we all can understand. It is difficult for me to think about losing my mother, but to think of myself in Douglass’ situation makes it even harder. Quotes like these that remind us of the families that slavery tore apart makes me glad that it is over.

(Critical Literacy) Whose interests are served by the information Douglass provides in these first 3 chapters? 

Seeing as the first three chapters of Douglass’ book inform us of the ways he spent his childhood, I feel that people, whether it be older or younger, who support the notion of slavery and the oppression of the Black race would benefit from reading this book. I say this because Douglass’ stresses highly the importance of family and how slavery essentially rips family away from slaves. It may be eye-opening to those people if they were able to read the first-hand accounts of slavery and what exactly it does to a person. I feel it may take a hit at their humanity and possibly (and hopefully) make them rethink their position. On the other side, I feel that young people would benefit greatly from reading this book. Hardly in our schools’ curriculum are young people exposed to harsh readings such as these revolving around slavery, and by reading texts such as Douglass’ will open their mind to the realities of slavery, in turn making them less ignorant to the topic. As it is said, the only cure for ignorance is knowledge.

Chapter 4-5

(Note Share) Choose 3 of the passages that you underlined or highlighted and describe anything that surprised, challenged, or changed what you already knew. 

Slavery, in the state of Maryland, exists in its mildest form, and that it is totally divested of those harsh and terrible peculiarities.

It is interesting to hear that the slavery in Maryland was less harsh than in other states. While I do know that Maryland is the north so it would be more liberal than the southern states, it is still shocking to have read what Douglass has already said about the things he has experienced and then learn that this is not even as bad as it gets. It is truly eye opening.

and they, therefore, bring no foreign or dangerous influence from abroad, to embarass the natural operation of the slave system.

This quote essentially explains that slave owners do not want to educate slaves because they fear that if they are educated that they will understand what is happening to them and begin to fight back. In this instance, that is the slave owners worst fear; the slave realizing its worth and power and resisting. If you give back everything the slave owner is taking from the slave, such as family and education, the slave would fight back, and the slave owner would not be able to handle this.

The man who now wields the lash is irresponsible. He may, if he pleases, cripple or kill, without the fear of consequences; except in so far as it may concern profit or loss.

Here we are given an insight into the mind of the slave owner. They will beat their slaves into submission so that they know who is in charge, but they can’t beat them to the point where they kill them or else they will be out of a profit. In this case, we see that the slave owner is completely dependent on the slave, meaning that the slave is really the one who holds all the cards. However, because of the power dynamic between the slave and the slave owner in which the white man must be on top, both the slave and slave owner convince themselves that the slave owner is the one with all the power.

(Critical Literacy) Whose interests are served by the information Douglass provides on the impact of the slave system on the slave owners? 

I believe that, given the information of the impact of the slave system on the slave owner, Black people whose ancestors were slaves or even Black people who were slaves themselves and lived through this oppression are served. I believe this because, as I stated in my note share above, through the text we see instances in which the slave owner seemingly doesn’t know what to do with all his power. In some cases, when the slaves would do something very minuscule that could be seen as punishable, the slave owner would punish the much more severely than the disobedience called for. This seems to be because the slave owner feared that the slave was beginning to gain power over the slave owner, is really their greatest fear. With this information, Black people who experienced this oppression first-hand can be comforted in the knowledge that, in a certain way, they held the power in the slave master-slave power dynamic. Without the slave, there is no slave master. This revelation can understandably be seen as both comforting and abhorrent given that the only driver of slavery, in the end, was greed.

Chapters 8-9

How would you characterize this particular chapter of Frederick Douglass’ autobiography? Does it appeal more to ethos, logos, or pathos?  Be sure to cite textual evidence throughout your answer. (200 words)

I believe this chapter of Douglass’ autobiography did more to appeal to pathos. I say this because Douglass goes on to tell many stories of slaves who were killed by the overseers. In doing so, he pulls at the reader’s heartstrings and really makes them feel something. Multiple times during chapter 8, Douglass explains the unjust process of slaves being beat and murdered by overseers and the overseers not receiving or hardly receiving any punishment. Such example can be found through the line, “killing a slave, or any colored person, in Talbot county, Maryland, is not treated as a crime” (94).

In speaking of the injustices committed against the colored population, Douglass gets the reader mad. He gets the reader mad at thinking about the things people had to go through back then simply because of the color of their skin, and he also helps us make a connection to today. When reading these stories of the Black slaves that were killed by their white overseers and received no form of justice at all, I couldn’t help but connect it to our issue today with police brutality. By this standard, the situation of the slaves Douglass writes about and the situation of the Black men and women who are victims of police brutality who never receive just are similar. Because of this connection that the reader makes, it is even easier to say that this chapter appeals more to pathos.

At the end of chapter 9, Frederick Douglass unashamedly acknowledges and gives thanks to God. Briefly, describe what God meant to Frederick Douglass as well as his worldview.  Be sure to cite textual evidence throughout your answer.  (100 words)

At the end of chapter 9, Douglass explains that he believes that the fact that he got to leave Col. Llyod’s Plantation which he describes as “a prison” (101), was a “special interposition of Divine Providence” (104). By this Douglass means to say, God, which he explicitly clarifies at the end of the last paragraph of chapter 9. Douglass then explains that even though he is a slave and things are obviously awful for him and his people, he still has faith in God. This shows us that Douglass still has a very strong relationship and connection with God to be thanking him even after all that he has been through.

Chapters 10-12

(Note Share) Choose 3 of the passages that you underlined or highlighted and describe anything that surprised, challenged, or changed what you already knew.

Mrs. Auld evidently felt the force of his remarks; and, like an obedient wife began to shape her course in the direction indicated by her husband.

I was surprised to have read this quote given the way that Douglass had previously described Mrs. Auld. He said that she was pure and untouched by the influence the slave system seems to have, and yet she so easily listened to her husband and stopped teaching Douglass how to read. I had thought she would have been different because of the way she viewed Douglass as a person and not the human cattle he was condemned to being, but it seems that the slave system leaves no soul untouched.

It is some relief to this picture of slavery in Baltimore, to say what is but the simple truth, that Mrs. Hamilton’s treatment of her slaves was generally condemned, as disgraceful and shocking.

I was also surprised by this quote which was, in a way, kind of upsetting. I had expected that those who supported slavery wouldn’t care about the way a slave master was treating their slave. The fact that I assumed that no one would care about the mistreatment of these human beings given the information I’ve been given thus far is upsetting in its own right. However, the line after this “the very parties who censured the cruelty of Mrs. Hamilton, would have condemned and promptly punished any attempt to interfere with Mrs. Hamilton’s right to cut and slash her slaves to pieces. There must be no force between the slave and the slaveholder”, didn’t surprise me. People are so quick to say that they don’t like the way that things are being done but seem to be silent when given to opportunity to fix it.

I do not remember ever to have met with a boy, while I was in slavery, who defended the slave system.

This quote challenged me. I say this because given that the majority of adults at the time had supported slavery it is, more or less, confusing to hear that the boys raised by the people with these mindsets do not think that way. However, this goes to further prove the fact that the way you were raised doesn’t always influence your thinking and how you view the world. For example, your dad could be the most powerful slave master there is but you could grow up to think slavery revolting. On the other hand, the opposite is also true where your father could be a well-known and powerful abolitionist whereas you grow up to believe that slavery is the natural way of things.

(Critical Literacy) What view of the world and what values does Douglass present in these 3 chapters? (150 – 200 words)

In these 3 chapters, having learned how to read in chapter 10 and to write later on, Douglass opened himself up to all different forms and kinds of knowledge. In doing so he was educated more on his condition as a slave and learned that he, in fact, is a slave for life. Unable to handle this realization, Douglass expresses that he is absolutely disgusted with slavery. These chapters continue to show us Douglass’ developing views on slavery. When introduced to the prospect of abolition, though hardly knowing what it is, Douglass finds that he agrees with whatever it is since it, “could not be unfriendly to the slave, nor very friendly to the slaveholder”. Douglass stated that at the age of 13 he became very religious. In doing so he was able to answer his question about whether or not God intended for Blacks to be enslaved. His question is answered in the line, “I had now penetrated the secret of all slavery and oppression, and had ascertained their true foundation to be in the pride, the power and the avarice of man”. In conclusion, these chapters present to us the views of Douglass on slavery, in that, he absolutely abhorred it and that the phrase, “I am a slave for life”, haunted him.

Chapters 13-15

(Evaluating an Argument) Douglass writes, “I hold that the slave is fully justified in helping himself to the gold and silver, and the best apparel of his master, or that of any other slaveholder; and that such taking is not stealing in any just sense of that word” (p. 140). Do you agree with Douglass’s argument? If so, why?  If not, why not?  Be sure to site textual evidence throughout your answer. (150 words)

Douglass discusses here that a slave is rendered unable to steal given his status as a slave. He elaborates more or this subject in the line, “Society at large has bound itself, in form and in fact, to assist Master Thomas, I have, equally, against those confronted with him in robbing me of liberty…Since each slave belongs to all; all must, therefore, belong to each”. With this quote, Douglass explains that a slave cannot really steal because they are property of their master, and property cannot take property. I would say that I agree with Douglass. I say this because if dehumanizing a slave so much so to the point that they are hardly even human, just mere cattle to you, what right do you have now to say that he cannot steal because people should not steal. The master himself has demoted the slave so much that he is not human anymore, so the slave should be allowed to steal. As Douglass stated, “since each slave belongs to all; all must, therefore, belong to each”. The slave has a right to the property of the master given that the slave IS the property of the master.

(Just Quote) Quote 3 passages in which you believe Douglass exposes this contradiction best. Do not abbreviate the passages, even if that means quoting an entire paragraph.  Please use the appropriate citation. 

“If he has got religion,” thought I, “he will emancipate his slaves; and if he should not do so much as this, he will, at any rate, behave toward us more kindly, and feed us more generously than he has heretofore done.” Appealing to my own religious experience, and judging my master by what was true in my own case, I could not regard him as soundly converted, unless some such good results followed his profession of religion (143).

If religion had any effect on his character at all, it made him more cruel and hateful in all his ways. The natural wickedness of his heart had not been removed, but only reenforced, by the profession of religion. Do I judge him harshly? God forbid (144).

Slaveholders may, sometimes, have confidence in the piety of some of their slaves; but the slaves seldom have confidence in the piety of their masters. “He can’t go to heaven with our blood in his skirts,” is a settled point in the creed of every slave; rising superior to all teaching to the contrary, and standing forever as a fixed fact. The highest evidence the skaveholder can give the slave of his acceptance with God, is the emancipation of his slaves (143).

(Summary) Summarize the man and the methods of Mr. Edward Covey, “the negro breaker”. Feel free to use excerpts from the text when necessary to supplement your summary.  Please use appropriate citation.  (150 – 200 words)

In chapter 15, Master Covey is described as, “the negro breaker”. Douglass states at the beginning of the chapter that his stay with Mr. Covery will leave him, “broken to the yoke of a bitter and life-long bondage” (151). By the end of the chapter, Douglass reveals that Covey had succeeded. Covey made it a point to instill fear into the hearts of his slaves every chance he got. He would hide in ditches and watch them work unbeknownst to them, he whipped his slaves severely and frequently without reason, and starved them, among other things. Covey was very obviously not a kind man at all. On page 160,  Douglass describes the result of his staying with Mr. Covey for that year. He explains that he become “broken in body soul and spirit”, and that, “the dark night of slavery closed in upon me” (160). This chapter paints Covey in the cruel light that Douglass intended for us to see him in.

Chapter 16-18 

(Summary) Summarize the fight between Frederick Douglass and Edward Covey and explain why this was a major turning point for Douglass.  Be sure to cite textual evidence throughout your answer. (200 words)

Douglass explains his fight with Covey in chapter 17 as a turning point in his “life as a slave” (180). The fight occurred when Covey tried to tie Douglass’ legs while he was going to tend to the horses in the stables. At this attempt, Douglass states that he, “forgot my roots, and remembered my pledge to stand up in my own defense” (177). Douglass decided to stand up against Covey and resist. The two fought for 2 hours and Covey did not succeed in hurting Douglass. Instead, Douglass managed to draw blood from Covey, effectively defending himself. This was a major turning point for Douglass because it shows him, essentially, breaking the “negro breaker”. In fighting back against Covey, Douglass in that moment refused to succumb to his oppression which is exactly what the slaveholders so fear. After the fight Douglass explains that “after this transaction, he never laid on me the weight of his finger in anger” (180), and that the only reason Covey didn’t take him to court over this offense was because he was embarrassed that he got beat by a “weak little 16-year-old slave”. The thing that slaveholders fear the most are the slave realizing its worth and gaining power, and that is exactly what Douglass did. This is why it was such a turning point.

(Noteshare) Choose 1 of the passages you highlighted pertaining to Douglass’s new relationship(s) and 1 of the passages you highlighted pertaining to Douglass’s new duties and describe anything that surprised, challenged, or changed what you already knew.

Mr. Freeland, like Mr. Covey, gave his hands enough to eat, but, unlike Mr. Covey, he gave them time to take their meals; he worked us hard during the day, but gave us the night for rest.

I was surprised to have heard this in relation to the work Douglass was put to. I didn’t know that there were any slaveholders who gave their slaves the night off. Though it makes more sense to give your slave rest so in the end, they do better work, it seems that none of the slaveholders actually understand this and instead just work their slaves to their breaking point just to make money. It is surprising and nice to see that Mr. Freeland doesn’t think this way.

Now for mischief! I had not been long at the Freeland’s before I was up to my old tricks. I early began to address my companions on the subject of education, and the advantages of intelligence over ignorance, and, as far as I dared, I tried to show the agency of ignorance in keeping men in slavery.

Here we see that Douglass has made a new relationship with the other slaves on Freeland’s plantation. The relationship he creates is essentially a student-teacher one. He makes it his mission to educate them and teach them everything he knows. He states that Henry and John Harris are very bright and intelligent but they can’t read, so he wants to be able to teach them how to. This is a positive relationship made for Douglass because it helps him not only learn more himself but to teach people the things he knows that will, in turn, help them realize their worth and their hatred for slavery just as Douglass did.

Chapters 19-21

(NoteShare) Choose 3 of the passages that you underlined or highlighted and describe anything that surprised, challenged, or changed what you already knew.

But the grim visage of slavery can assue no smiles which can fascinate the partially enlightened slave, into forgetfullness of his bondage, nor of the desirableness of liberty.

Here Douglass explains that, in appreciating and respecting a slave master when they pick a slave that they like a lot, the slave risks succumbing to his oppression by accepting the fact that he is property to be owned and used by others. While Douglass says that “no smiles can have this effect”, it is still a legitimate argument to bring up. This seems to be a prominent issue within the slave community; unknowingly succumbing to your oppression as a slave. It seems probable that this issue has stopped many slaves from running away from slavery to become a free man; because this one slave owner is nicer and gives me more food than the other slave owner. This surprised me because I was not aware of the fact that a slave could so easily forget what his master stands for just because he seems to be kinder than his old master.

I had a reason to fear that my sable face might prove altogether too transparent for the safe concealment of my hazardous enterprise.

In simpler terms, Douglass is saying that he is afraid that his face will give away his plans of running way. He explains in this paragraph that “their [masters] safety depends upon their vigilance” (202). He says that slave owners have learned to read the slave’s mind and heart with such accuracy that many times a slaves plans to run away are foiled because they get “caught thinking about it” by the slave master. This is a reasonable fear of Douglass, especially given his history with slave masters and his hatred for slavery, it would seem to me that he would be a frequently watched subject.

To go there, and to be forever harassed witht eh liability of being hunted down and returned to slavery — with the certainity of being treated ten times worse than we had ever been treated before — was a prospect far from delight, and it might as well cause some hesitation about engaging in the enterprise.

This quote shows us the most realistic fear of Douglass and his band of slave brothers. They fear that if they do make it into a free state such as New York that they will be hunted down and brought back into slavery to be treated worse than ever before. They fear that they may not even make it to a free state in the first place. They fear that they may not even make it off the plantation. This was an unfortunate reality for many slaves who sought out their well-deserved freedom. When I read this quote I was the opposite of surprised, really, because I knew this was coming. Douglass shows us that he loathes slavery and that he is ready for his freedom and is determined to get it but he stills knows that there’s a chance that he will not win this fight. In this moment Douglass understands that less he succeed, he will suffer a fate worse than slavery while trying to escape it.

(Theme/Motif) For each theme/motif indicated above (Racism, Survival, Abuse of Control/Power), explain how a scene from chapter 20 is connected. (Quote the text as necessary)

Racism – Given that slavery is essentially rooted in the concept and act of slavery, many instances of it can be found not only throughout chapter 20 but throughout the whole book as well. However, the most obvious matter of racism comes in the form of Douglass’ work in the shipyard. Here he is put under the management of multiple white men who are described to have been reduced to the same conditions as he. The chapter describes these men as slaves just as much as Douglass is but since they are white they are still treated better than Douglass, a Black slave. The chapter quotes, “the difference between the white slave, and the black slave is this: the latter belongs to one slaveholder, and the former belongs to all slaveholders, collectively” (226). The act of oppressing one race more than another simply due to their race is already blatant racism in its own. A further example of racism in this chapter can be seen in the fight scene between Douglass and the four white men. Douglass receives blow after blow, only retaliating once, and is nearly killed while almost 50 other white men stand and watch. Instead of stopping the men from hurting Douglass they yell things like, “kill him — kill him — kill the damned n-word”, and “Knock his brains out” (229)! The use of such a slur as the N-word is once again blatant racism enough without any explanation.

Survival – This theme comes into play once again during the fight between Douglass and the four men. Though he continues to receive blow after blow, Douglass still attempts to defend himself when he picks up the hand-spike to retaliate with. Though his efforts prove to be futile, this is still an element of survival that is present in this chapter. Later on, Douglass then states, “I found my only chance for life was in flight” (229). This is reference to one’s fight or flight instinct, and Douglass decides that running from the shipyard is his best option for survival.

Abuse of Power/Control – Once again, racism and abuse of power play hand in hand. You cannot have racism without the abuse of power from one who sees themselves in a position of racial superiority. However, the slave system would not be able to thrive without the presence of racism and abuse of power. Therefore, they all play a crucial part in the existence of one another. The biggest example of abuse of power in chapter 20 is when Master Hugh becomes angry with everyone at the shipyard for beating Douglass and treating him the way they did. While seemingly harmful on the surface, Douglass shows us how this act is an abuse of power through the line, “His indignation was really strong and healthy; but unfortunately, it resulted from the thought that his rights of property, in my person, had not been respected, more than from any sense of the outrage committed on me as a person” (230). In this line, Douglass explains that the only reason Hugh was upset in the first place was because his property was disrespected, not in that Douglass as a human being was disrespected. This is the most obvious abuse of power because Douglass is unable to do anything about it, knowing that Hugh is only doing this because he thinks of him as property and not a person. Hugh is exerting his power as a slave owner and while he is technically using it for good in the eyes of some, the reason why he is doing it is an obvious and gross abuse of power and a confirmation of the slaveholders superiority over the slave in that he has the ability to control every aspect of a slave’s life.

(Question) What does Douglass teach us about human nature and the human spirit throughout these three chapters?  Your answer must include at least 3 quotes (one from each chapter), that supports your answer.  (150-200 words)

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “Fredrick Douglass – My Bondage and My Freedom.

  1. Your quotes and notes are great but I see there is a little confusion in how to answer the critical literacy question. The question asks – Whose interests are served by the information Douglass provides? In other words, whose interests are served by the TEXT? not, whose interests are served by the system of slavery. This kind of question is asking you to consider Douglass’ purpose in writing, and more specifically, who is served by what Douglass is writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sidra, your claim that Douglass appeals to pathos often throughout this chapter is correct, however, the quote you use to support that claim is a quote that really appeals to logos. Douglass is stating a fact (he’s giving us data), when he writes, “killing a slave, or any colored person, in Talbot county, Maryland, is not treated as a crime” (94). This is the argument. His appeal to pathos comes through the horribly vivid stories he tells about the grotesque murders of slaves on and around Lloyd’s plantation.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s