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Frederick Douglass and the Problem With Autobiography.

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Presentation on theme: "Frederick Douglass and the Problem With Autobiography."— Presentation transcript:

1 Frederick Douglass and the Problem With Autobiography

2 What do you think are some benefits of using Autobiographies or Biographies in teaching history? What do you think are some problems with using them?

3 Some benefits of using Autobiographies or Biographies in teaching history: - Can make history come alive - Personalizes events – makes history “human” - Interesting - Helps us understand why people made certain decisions, or took certain actions and the thoughts that were behind them -Brings depth to individuals who may get minimal attention in history textbooks – we can learn about their personalities – grit, determination, struggles, etc. - We can learn a lot about the individual as some historical figures have been written about in great detail (also perhaps in numerous books)

4 Some problems with using autobiographies and biographies: - bias, especially from autobiography - gives a very limited perspective of historical events through the eyes of one person, or a limited period of time - may gloss over an individual’s weaknesses or poor decisions - May make and individual look overly heroic or grandiose - An autobiography, in particular, may be written with an agenda in mind


6 Slave Families and Communities (History Alive) Positive things about slave families: -Most slaves grew up in families with both a father and a mother. -Tight-knit slave families and communities helped slaves cope with slavery. Negative things about slave families: -Laws did not protect slave families. -Owners could break up families through the sale of one slave. Frederick Douglass “My mother and I were separated when I was but an infant – before I knew her as my mother. 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 had reached its twelfth month, its mother is taken from it, and hired out on some farm a considerable distance off...” (pg. 17)

7 Living Conditions of Slaves (History Alive) Few slaves went hungry. They ate cornmeal, bacon, molasses, and food from the gardens and hunting. Frederick Douglass Slaves were given a monthly allowance of food – 8 lbs. of pork (or fish), one bushel of corn meal. (pg. 23) “There were four slaves of us in the Kitchen... And we were allowed less than a half of a bushel of corn-meal per week, and very little else, neither in the shape of meat or vegetables... A great many times have we poor creatures been nearly perishing with hunger, when food in abundance lay mouldering in the safe and smoke-house...” (pg. 54-55) “Not to give a slave enough to eat, is regarded as the most aggravated development of meanness even among slaveholders. The rule is, no matter how coarse the food, only let there be enough of it. This is the theory... it is the general practice.” (Pg. 54)

8 Living Conditions of Slaves (History Alive) Slaves wore course linen, called “Negro cloth”, and were typically given one pair of shoes and one set of clothes to last a year. Frederick Douglass “Their yearly clothing consisted of two coarse linen shirts, one pair of linen trousers, one jacket, one pair of trousers for winter, made of coarse negro cloth, one pair of stockings, and one pair of shoes...” (pg. 23) Children who were not yet able to work in the fields were not given shoes, jackets, or pants. They got 2 linen shirts per year, and if these wore out, they went naked. (pg. 23)

9 Controlling Slaves (History Alive) Some of the methods that slave owners used to control slaves are the following: Beating – Whipping – Branding Instilling fear (constant threat of punishment) Keeping slaves as ignorant and dependent as possible (could not learn to read or write) Frederick Douglass “Very soon after I went to live with Mr. and Mrs. Auld, she very kindly commence to teach me the A, B,C. After I had learned this, she assisted me in learning to spell words of three or four letters. Just at this point of my progress, Mr. Auld found out what was going on, and at once forbade Mrs. Auld to instruct me further, telling her, among other things, that it was unlawful, as well as unsafe, to teach a slave to read.” (Pg. 40) “... I would at times feel that learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing. It had given me a view of my wretched condition, without the remedy. It opened my eyes to the horrible pit... In moments of agony, I envied my fellow-slaves for their stupidity. I have often wished myself a beast.” (pg. 45)


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