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Frederick Douglas

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Fredrick Douglas' autobiography Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglas is considered to be one of the most influential pieces of literature of the 19th century. Douglas reminisces on his upbringing in the slave state of Maryland, sparing no gruesome detail in illustrating his life experiences under the harshness of slavery.

The economic system of slavery as been practiced throughout the history of the world well before the birth of Christ, however since the United States founding in 1776 this form of forced labor was never so rigidly and savagely governed based solely on the color of one's skin as it was on American soil. It was not until the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1865 that slavery was abolished. But how did this inhumane act of human bondage go on for as long as it did in a country founded on the principles of liberty, freedom, and justice? Why did the massive numbers of the oppressed and enslaved never rise up and an openly rebel against their white oppressors, to whom they greatly outnumbered? The slave narrative of runaway slave Fredrick Douglas provide eye witness testimonies that documents his life journey under the brutal lash of slavery into the realm of "freedom," as well as scrupulously examine the moral, mental, physical, and legal aspects that governed a country's people for more than two centuries.

Douglass arrives at Covey's farm on January 1, 1833 where he is forced to work in the fields for the first time. Unlike most slave owners, Covey works in the fields with his slaves and sometimes creeps through the fields in order to catch them resting. Because of this behavior they call him "the snake." His sneakiness and ability to deceive were his strengths to the degree that Douglass thinks Covey may have fooled himself into believing that he was a religious person. Despite his professed religious piety, Covey saw profit in breeding slaves, so he bought a female slave and hired a married man to have sex with her for a year. Douglass acknowledges that witnessing this brutal absolutism may have been the lowest point in his life for he contemplated killing Covey and ending his own life. He is paralyzed by hope and fear. In his first six months with Covey not only is he physically drained and exhausted from punishment but, Douglas loses his desire to learn, his intellect and naturally cheerful spirit.

Douglass then presents his fight with Covey as the turning point in his life. After a 2-hour fight with Covey, Douglas ultimately conquers and is never beaten again. "You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man" (p. 107). The first part of this statement could refer to Covey's inhumane methods, if not to all the owners at whose hands Douglass suffered. The second part refers to the milestone in which Douglass resists the whipping Covey intends to give him for disobeying and ultimately conquers. He claims it "revived within [him] a sense of [his] own manhood." (p. 113)

Covey's house lay near the banks of the Chesapeake Bay, where large



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