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Mistreatment of Slaves in America - An Essay Example

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Boston College
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Slavery is the darkest moment in the American history. Basing on the life of Fredrick Douglas, it indicates the pain and suffering the slaves underwent in the hands of masters of slaves. Douglas as a vibrant black man did not have a chance to trace his origin nor his parents because they were forced into slavery at a younger age. As a slave, it is difficult to have an individual identity because it was difficult to inquire about personal family background information. "I was not allowed to make any inquiries of my master concerning it" (p.19) according to Douglass; he was denied a chance to know about his exact age. The similar problem was familiar with the other slaves when they met during special occasions such as planting time, harvest time and spring-time. The slaves could not tell their ages due to infringement of the right to information. It is a contrary situation when it comes to white children because they can vividly say their age. Restriction to have access to relevant information is a violation that was pertinent to slavery. The Douglas inquiry was deemed indecorous and disrespectful; it is an element of prejudice and indiscrimination committed against slaves to maintain their ignorance for exploitation. Separation from a child from a mother at a tentative age is a destruction of the family formation and dislocation of family links. When an infant lacks affection from the parents leads to poor child development. According to Maslow, affection needs are basing needs that a child need for proper development, failure to satisfy such requirements affects an individual personality in the future. It is an evident scenario in Douglas stages of development because he was separated away from her mother at an early stage.

In American slavery life, they underwent cruelty, abuse, and colder murder. Douglas says, "Mr.Plummer was a miserable drunkard," "a profane swearer," and "a savage monster" (p.22). As a slaveholder, he found joy in slaying women's head and whipping was the order of the day as the penalty for not attending to the plantation. His aunt and mother were beaten until their bodies were covered with blood. Punishment by death and whipping is an extreme atrocity against humanity. The slave masters and together with their families lacked a shred of humanity. Additionally, the slaves were denied freedom of movement; one could only go out after getting permission from the slaveholder. The masters sexually assaulted women. For instance, Douglas recalls his aunt Hester going out without consent she was molested and stripped naked. It is a lack of morality to strip-naked a woman against her consent even if she is on the wrong side. The slaveholders' strict rules were unconventional because they aimed at serving their selfish interest. Quitting a job or any attempt to flee the plantation amounted to severe punishment such as whipping and trade into other farms.

The discrimination of the slaves also based on the material wealth. Colonel Lloyd, a successful slave owner at that time owned vast plantation leading in the number of slave personnel. Douglas says, "Colonel Lloyd owned so many that he did not know them when he saw them" (p.33). Implies that the slave impoverish status continued to deteriorate while the rich status of the slaveholders improved significantly. As slaves were living in furnished houses, the slaves were living in the farmyards. The slaves also had access to basic needs such clothing and bedding during the allowance day which took a very long period to the next allowance day. The material gains were given to slaves as gifts rather than a necessary demand. Douglas accounts for horrible experience while staying at Colonel Farm. He went hungry and felt cold because there was no food, no clothing, trousers, no jackets nor stocking during winter. The slave children were fed like pigs without spoons. Douglas, while earning $ 1.5 it was taken away by Master Hugh because he had power and influence, he could not spend a shilling of what he has made.

Furthermore, slaves were denied a chance to read and learn because to the slaveholder it is against the law; education was offered to base on the race. Douglas recalls a short-term kindness he received from the Mrs. Auld. The mistress had started teaching him alphabetical letters and how to read, but upon realization by Mr. Auld, the exercise of enlightenment was stopped. The slaveholders fear that once the slaves get educated, will become more intelligent and resist enslavement. Education is provided based on color, in fact, the black person is not entitled to school because they hold a bias that an educated black person will be exploited in the world. Ironically, an educated person explores the world and knows what is wrong and right. The fear of losing slaves and managing is a motive behind no education to a black person. It is also the only way the Whiteman could retain the power of control over the slaves.

However, Douglas managed to escape from slavery through his determined spirit to read and learn, most of the books he read were about breaking the chain of slavery such as The Liberator. It is this knowledge and skills to work the empowered and fueled his escape. More so, the sold murder of slaves and punitive actions taken against them prompted the escape from slavery. The other slaves did not run away from their slave masters and chose to stay behind because of the shadow of ignorance vested upon them. Thus, they are contented with whatever little their master gave them.

David Walker, an abolitionist of slavery, calls for the African American who is made slave by the white slaveholder to stand up and fight against enslavement. He holds a view that we are all made in the image of God and God is our only master. Therefore, slaves should not bow down to the white slave master. He also holds a view that a slave is as good as his master. The hope to free form the bondage of slavery is high. Freedom is what a slave deserves as a human being and not a laborious animal. The fear and prejudices of masters of the slave can be avoided, and all human race can live in harmony. However, denial of freedom leads to civil wars against oppression. Walker reiterates, "For what is the use of living, when in fact I am dead" (p.2), following this statement, he believes living under oppression is same as a being dead. There will be no freedom of expression, movement nor the right to education. Similarly to white abolitionist, William Lloyd, in 1831, advocated for freedom from chains of slavery.


From the life of Fredrick Douglas as a son of a slave to white and African American abolitionists, Walker and David, it is clear that slavery was a cold-hearted activity in the American history. Individual's enjoyed privileges depending on color and prejudices. Education and better living belonged to the slave masters and their families while impoverish life was the order of the day for slaves and their families. It is also factual that through education and rise of abolitionist groups, slavery is ended. Morality is also crucial as human beings; it is, therefore, important to realize that we are all made by one God, and we live under him. According to Machiavelli, a philosopher determines that freedom of people should be regulated to prevent exploitation of others on selfish grounds. The ability of one person to enjoy his liberty should not be the basis to infringe the rights of others.


Works Cited

Douglass, Frederick. "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. 1845." The Classic Slave Narratives (1995): 243-331.

Walker, David. David Walker's appeal. Macmillan, 1995.


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