The Power of Education in the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Essay – Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass 

After reading Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass you will be required to write a three to four pages essay. 

Essay Prompt: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is a primary source that provides a thorough and personal look into the life of slavery. In your essay, you will need to examine several different aspects of slavery. 

1. Choose two or three of Douglass masters/overseers. Compare the differing relationships Douglass has with them. 
o Make sure to address the varying living conditions and discipline techniques used by masters.
2. Compare and contrast rural vs. urban slavery as seen through Douglass’ experience.
3. Discuss education. How did, Douglass learn to read and write, how did he teach others? Why did masters think educated slaves were problematic? How did his education spur his desire for freedom?

Your paper should have an introduction with a strong thesis statement. The body of the essay should address the three categories above, and have a separate conclusion. Use specific example and details from the book to provide evidence and support your claims. 

General Essay Guidelines:
– This is an essay, not a book review
– Simple single spaced heading (name & class time)
– Essay must be 3 pages min, 4 pages max 
– Double-spaced with 1-inch margins. 
– Font must be 12 pt. Times New Roman
– Be sure to use specific examples from the text  
– Include at least 3 direct quotes from the text to support your argument. 
– You do not need to include a bibliography unless you include a source other than Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.
– Cite your evidence from the book with footnotes, (any style – this includes paraphrasing and exact quotes). 
– Essay must be a well-written, clear essay. 
– Spelling and grammar will count. Please proofread!

The narrative unfolds life events of slaves as narrated by Frederick Douglass who was also a slave. Douglass is separated from Harriet Bailey, his mother, after birth and taken by Captain Anthony who he believed was his father. Slaves spend most of their day on the farm where they are overworked, exhausted and given little food and no beds. Breaking the rules called for severe whipping or beating and at times the overseers shot the slaves[1]. Douglass, however, was lucky to work in the household where conditions were less harsh than the in the fields. He eventually escaped to New Bedford after saving some money while working at the shipyards and became an abolitionist. The narrative uses the life stories of slaves to show education is a source of intellectual ideas that can bring power and freedom to the oppressed.

Hugh Auld was one of Douglass’ masters while working a slave. Douglass had a good relationship with Sophia Hugh at first who was kind to her slave as she had never owned one earlier. She even began teaching Douglass to read and write until she was stopped by her husband claiming he will become unmanageable. Douglass says “Very soon after I went to live with Mr. and Mrs. Auld, she very kindly commenced to teach me the A, B, C. After I had learned this, she assisted me in learning to spell words of three or four letters (33).[2]” Her kindness eventually turned to the negative mentality of owning slave; thus, lost her sympathy towards Douglass. Nevertheless, Douglass still liked Baltimore even when his owners became cruel towards him[3]. Although Sophia had turned cruel, she still had sympathy for her slave. When Douglass got into a fight with his white apprentices, Sophia felt pity and decided to attend to his wound on the left eye until it healed.

Douglass’ relationship with master Auld was also good. Although he had the negative perception about slaves, he is seen helping Douglass several times. For instance, after the beating by white apprentices, Master Hugh is sympathetic about the situation and does not let Douglass go back to the shipyard.[4] He even attempts to find him a lawyer, but none accepts to represent him because Douglass was not a white person. Master Hugh’s kindness is also portrayed when he found Douglass a job as a caller though he forced him to give him all his wages. Hugh Auld also eventually allowed Douglass to hire his free time, which helped him save some money that he later used to escape to New Bedford with his lover Anna Murray. The other master was Mr. Edward Covey, a cruel master who accepted to take in Douglass for a year after Thomas Auld claimed that he was unmanageable. At first, Douglass was happy with Covey because he fed slaves better than at his previous Master Thomas but later began whipping them severely for minor mistakes. Mr. Covey was notorious for breaking the spirit of the slaves. As a result, his spirit of finding freedom began to end as he spent most of the time resting from exhaustion and injuries. The relationship of Douglass and Mr. Covey was not good, and this is seen when the master beats Douglass for simple mistakes such as mishandling oxen that nearly killed him[5]. Mr. Convey also whipped Douglass every week for six months. He at times sneaked in the farms to catch slaves that loafed and punish them. Mr. Covey’s hatred towards Douglass, a slave, is mainly portrayed when he severely beats him when he became sick and could not perform well. Even after complaining to his master Thomas Auld…

[1] Blight, David W. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, Written by Himself. Macmillan Higher Education, 2016.

[2]Douglas, Frederick. Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglas. Xist Publishing, 2015.

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid


[5] Douglas, Frederick. Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglas. Xist Publishing, 2015.

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