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Frederick Douglass

.. gh to eat. Douglass repeatedly mentions how often he “(felt) the gnawing pains of hunger.” (31) His masters had more than an adequate supply of food but would rather it “lay moldering” (31) than give it to the slaves. Not only is this more evidence as to the cruel and selfish nature of slaveholders, but it shows how animals were treated better than slaves. To know that animals were treated better than certain human beings in the south would hit a nerve with Douglasss targeted audience.

Imaging themselves to be treated so worthlessly by another human being, literate northern whites would feel divided from southern slave owners. To force his audience to feel further alienated, Douglass elaborates on the treatment of slaves as animals in his description of the slaves sleeping conditions. Masters did not give the slaves a bed to sleep on, only a “coarse blanket.” (6) So at the end of the day, slaves “old and young, male and female, married and single (would) drop down side by side, on one common bed- the cold damp floor.” (6) Douglass was aware that some of his northern readers could relate to the slaves situation because they too had once endured similar circumstances of poor living conditions or even homelessness. But, northern society made it possible for a person to overcome such hardships while the slave masters denied their slaves a better existence. The institution of slavery held each successive generation in poverty, which is an affront to the dream that many northerners held of prosperity in the new world.

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Douglass hoped that the Northerners would sympathize with the slaves oppression while becoming enraged with the slaveholders who held them there. Douglass also wanted his northern audience to be enraged by how slaveholders punished slaves. A northerner with any sense of justice would be furious that it was not considered wrong to whip a slave”till (they were) literally covered with blood” (4) nor was it considered a crime to kill a slave. Masters and overseers justified severely whipping their slaves because “it (was) the duty of a master..to whip a slave, to remind him of his masters authority.” (46) Slaves were whipped for the “smallest offences to prevent the commission of larger ones.” (46) If a slave became”unmanageable” (14). He was killed to avert other slaves from “copying the example.” (14) Douglass detailed these horrific examples of punishment to infuriate the northern white reader that a person was punished in advance of any wrongdoing, was whipped almost to the brink of death, and was murdered without it being “treated as a crime by the courts or community.” (14) Treatment of one person by another in these ways was not tolerated in the north. This”fiendish barbarity” (46) would appall the northern reader and would lead them to share Douglasss opinion that southern slave holders were truly the”most wicked of men.” (24) To further demonstrate the wickedness of southern slave masters, Douglass wanted his readers to know how religion was used as a”mere covering for the most horrid crimes..a dark shelter under which the darkest, foulest, grossest and most infernal deeds of slave holders (found) the strongest protection.” (46) Masters would beat their slaves and then defend their actions with quotes from the bible such as “He that knoweth his masters will and doeth it not shall be beaten with many stripes.” (33) Northerners with any religious background would know that this quote and others like it did not translate into justification for inflicting physical harm on a slave when they did not obey their master.

Douglass wanted to show his readers how slave owners misused the teachings of the bible to strengthen their own power and how they basically saw themselves as God to their slaves. The reader would know the later was blasphemy, one of the seven deadly sins. As a result, the readers would detest their southern brethren because religious slave holders “(were) the worst..meanest and basest, the most cruel and cowardly of all others.” (46) Combining all the ways that Douglass sought to affect his northern audiences opinion of southern slaveholders, he hoped to give his readers a glimpse into the true character of southern slaveholders and the institution of slavery itself. Douglass realized that racism was also prevalent in the north and so his intent was not trying to achieve equal rights but basic human rights. Douglass hoped to gain compassion for those still held in slavery by relating experiences such as being separated from his mother when he was an infant and not knowing whom his father was, how slaves were treated as if they had less value than an animal, and the fact that slaves were brutally beaten and sometimes killed without it being considered a crime. Douglass also hoped to tarnish his northern white readers view of southern slave holders and their practices by illustrating how they had adulterous and interracial affairs with their salves whom they considered to be less than human, how they abhorrently and unjustly mistreated and punished their slaves, and how they used religion as a crutch for legitimizing their actions.

“Slavery was a most painful situation; and, to understand it, one must experience it, or imagine himself in similar circumstances..then, and not till then, will he fully appreciate the hardships of, and know how to sympathize with, the toil worn and whipped-scarred ..slave.” (64) These are Douglasss own words that are meant as a plea for his readers to imagine themselves in his situation to better understand the hardships he and other slaves endured. Through the use of propaganda disguised as The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, this man sought to alter the relationship between two groups of people. Family values, basic human rights, and religion were topics used to persuade the northern white audience toward the cause of abolition. Douglass hoped that his readers would in some way share his”hate (for) the corrupt, slave holding, woman-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of (the southern slave holders).” (71). Slavery does not exist in todays society so obviously Douglasss effort was able to help advance the cause of abolition.

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