Presentation on theme: "History 419: American Social and Intellectual History Presented by: Mary Shelby."— Presentation transcript:
History 419: American Social and Intellectual History Presented by: Mary Shelby
Frederick Douglas My Bondage And My Slavery (1887)
Frederick Douglass: Background Was born Frederick Augustus Bailey in February of Son of a white father and Harriet Bailey (a slave of mixed African and American Indian descent. Taught himself to read, write, and study oratory. Escaped in 1838 at the age of 20. Married Anna Murray, a free black woman. Settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts. In 1841, gave his first speech at the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. Douglass wrote three autobiographical narratives: First: “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” (1845) Published seven years after his escape. Second: “My Bondage and My Freedom” (1855) Written after he had established himself as a newspaper editor. Third: “Life and Times of Frederick Douglass” (1881). Married his second wife Helen Pitts, a white woman because during this time there were not many black women.
Frederick Douglass: Historical Context Ex-slave who fought for the freedom of all slaves. He wanted to let America know how it felt not to have a true “family” or “father”. Douglass felt that “Slaveholders are only a band of successful robbers.” (Quote taken from, “Slavery in America from Colonial Times to the Civil War”) Slavery was wrong as well as the treatment of them. The early to mid eighteen hundreds in the South was extremely harsh on slaves. Slaves didn’t really belong to a family, they belong to their master’s like cattle, land, or crops. Douglass wanted to open America’s eyes because they had been closed far too long.
“My Bondage and My Freedom”: Main Points Slavery makes families dysfunctional. “ … My poor mother, like many other slave-women, had many children, but NO FAMILY!” (68) “The practice of separating children from their mother, and hiring the latter out at distances too great to admit of their meeting …” (68) “Women—white women, I mean—are IDOLS at the south, not WIVES, for the slave women are preferred in many instances; and if these idols but nod, or lift a finger, woe to the poor victims: kicks, cuffs and stripes are sure to follow.” (69) It has been noted throughout history that there was and maybe even today been “Southern Bells”. Why did we never hear of a “Northern Bell”. That seems to be term used only to describe the southern women of the south.
“My Bondage and My Freedom”: Main Points (cont.) Even black individuals who are half-white, they are often considered to be simply black slaves. “He may be a freeman; and yet his child may be a chattel [movable property: an item of personal property that is not freehold land and is not intangible.]. He may be white, glorying in the purity of his Anglo-Saxon blood; and his child may be ranked with the blackest slaves.” (69) Many white masters did not acknowledge their mulatto children. “Men do not love those who remind them of their sins unless they have a mind to repent—and the mulatto child’s face is a standing accusation against him who is master and father to the child.” (69) They would many times repent for their sins by selling the mulatto child. In this way, they didn’t have to see them and be reminded; a case of out of sight out of mind. It may be important to point out that not all slave owners engaged in a sexual relationship with their slaves.
“My Bondage and My Freedom” :Main Points: (cont.) White slave owners wanted to keep their black slaves ignorant to better insure their control over their slaves. “The frequent hearing of my mistress reading the bible … awakened my curiosity in respect to this mystery of reading, and roused my desire to learn.” (69) “he should know nothing but the will of his master, and learn to obey it.” (68) “it would forever unfit him for the duties of a slave…” (69) “His iron sentences–cold and harsh—sunk deep into my heart, and stirred up not only my feelings into a sort of rebellion, but awakened within me a slumbering train of vital thought.” (69) “the white man’s power to perpetuate the enslavement of the black man … knowledge unfits a child to be a slave.” (69)
Historical Significance: The document had a great impact on society because it publicized America’s ugly secret. The groups within society which appeared to be impacted the most by the author’s document was the slave owners. After all, who had the most to loose. Because slavery was wrong, Douglass vowed to speak out so others would know by writing and giving speaches.
Frederick Douglass: Questions to Consider: What is the importance for Douglass of his opening observation that slaves lack a family history? Why were slave owners so terrified by the idea of an education?