Fredrick Douglass Essay


In writing his “Narrative,” Frederick Douglass hoped to persuade his white Northern readers (he had very few in the South) that slavery was wrong and should be abolished. Through the events he described, he tried to show that the values, practices, and behaviors of slaveholders and slavery were the opposite of Northern values and ideas. He also tried to refute some of the “pro-slavery” arguments being presented by Southern politicians and writers at that time.

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Information about American ideas and attitudes in the 1820’s – 1840’s can be found in American Promise, chapters 11 through 13. The index can help you find particular topics.

You are being asked to discuss some of the incidents Douglass used to make his points about slavery in the eleven chapters (pp. 40-117 in my copy) of the Narrative by answering the questions given below. Contrast the information presented by Douglass with Northern beliefs and values.

Write your paper in essay form, using the third person, past tense. Use only brief direct quotations when necessary, and cite their page numbers in parentheses following the quotation. Examples: (Narrative, p. 50; American Promise, p. 300) Your paper should be about 3 pages long, typed and double-spaced.

A. B.




F. G.

Be sure to do all sections of the assignment!

Introduction: What was Douglass trying to accomplish by writing the Narrative ? (5 pts)

Ideas about women, family and home were sentimentalized as a “separate sphere,” in which women were nurturing, kind, and morally pure. Contrast those ideas with any two of the following: (10 pts)

Douglass’s relationship with his mother.

The treatment of his grandmother

The care and treatment of slave children

A religious revival movement, the “Second Great Awakening,” swept the country, creating renewed evangelism and interest in reform causes. Discuss an example of slaveholders’ behavior Douglass described that would offend someone in the North who (select one) (5 pts)

Held sincere religious beliefs

Supported the temperance movement

Give an example that Douglass used to show that his experiences as a slave were contrary to Northern “Free Labor” ideals. Select one to discuss. (5 pts)

That the workman is entitled to the fruits of his labor (his wages, for example)

That hard work will lead to the worker’s economic success

What examples did Douglass present to show that these statements used by southern pro-slavery spokesmen were false? (Select two) (10 pts)

That slavery was a “civilizing” influence on slaves.

That slave owners were “fatherly” and treated slaves well.

That slaves were incapable of and uninterested in learning.

That slaves were content with their lives, because they seldom tried to escape

That slaves told anyone who asked that their owners treated them well

Discuss one example Douglass used to show that slavery was harmful to the slave owner. (5 pts) Conclusion: Discuss your personal assessment of Douglass’s ability to persuade his readers. How effective would his Narrative have been? (5 pts) ***Presentation: grammar, sentence structure, language usage, etc (5 pts)

(Note: Do not call Frederick Douglass “Frederick.” Use his full name, or just Douglass.)

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