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My Bondage, My Freedom Fredrick Douglass Essay

“It was not color, but crime, not God, but man that afforded the true explanation of the existence of slavery; nor was I long in finding out another important truth, what man can make, man can unmake” (Douglass 59). In My Bondage and My Freedom, Fredrick Douglass explains in detail the harsh and cruel realties of slavery and how slavery was an institution that victimized not only slaves, but slave holders, and non-slave holding whites.

Fredrick Douglass could not have been more right with his observation of slavery. In my opinion, slavery is not only an institution, but is a prime example of a corrupt business model that thrives on free labor, ultimate control, and wealth. “A business is only as good as its workers. ” It’s a common saying in modern day America. That saying would hold true during slavery, however slaves were not considered workers. Workers have rights and wages; Slaves on the other hand had no rights as human beings and no wages.

Slaves were considered a property, no more useful than a mule or cattle. Slaves were apart of a system and in that system they were dehumanized to the point that they became an expendable commodity. Slaves were stripped of there individuality. Fredrick Douglass recalls not the date, month, or year when he was born. He also stated that the institution of slavery did away with the concept of family. Douglass had neither recollection of a father nor any account of his existence.

Further more, Douglass had only a handful of encounters with his mother before her death and had become nothing more than a stranger to his brothers and sisters. “It had made my brothers and sisters strangers to me; it converted the mother that bore me, into a myth, it shrouded my father in mystery, and left me without an intelligible beginning in the world” (Douglass 39). “In 1840, 20 years before the Civil War, 60% of American exports were cotton and was produced mainly by slaves” (Shaping America: Lesson 16).

Therefore, the business of slavery favored the slave holders, who were capitalizing on free labor to produce and distribute products across the world. Greed is the undertone upon which Douglass states that slavery “corrupted souls” and “turned good people into bad people. ” The institution of slavery was based on the ultimate control and power over a human to whom he is stripped of all of his identity and becomes sub-human. Consequently, the institution forces slave holders had to buy into this concept in order to justify any and all cruelty toward slaves.

Douglas states “Slave holders resort to all kinds of cruelty” and later describes various ways of torture and punishment “all are in requisition to keep the slave in his condition as a slave in the United States” (Douglass 272). Slave holders showed no mercy when reprimanding slaves. The brutality and cruelty of these punishments were more of a statement of power and control and often times the punishment was worse than the offense. “Racism was used aggressively to divide poor white southerners from slaves.

The relationship between the wealthy and the poor was aggressively exploited by the rich white slave holder to ensure the poor whites non-slave holder that they had a similar cause” (Shaping America: Lesson 16). This caused non-slave holding whites to have a similar view as latter. Non-slave holding whites were in direct competition with slaves and more often than not were forced out of work due to the free labor slavery had offered. In conclusion, “Slavery is always slavery; always the same foul, haggard, and damning scourge, whether found in the eastern or in the western hemisphere” (Douglass 294).

Fredrick Douglass could not have been more right with his observation of slavery. Slavery is a cruel and punishing way to oppress any human. “The slave is a human being, divested of all rights reduced to the level of a brute, a mere “chattel” in the eye of the law placed beyond the circle of human brotherhood cut off from his kind his name, which the “recording angel” may have enrolled in heaven, among the blest, is impiously inserted in a master’s ledger, with horses, sheep, and swine” (Douglass 293).

The business aspect of slavery is even more disheartening. However, All parties involved (slaves, slave holders, and non-slave holders) were all affected by the institution of slavery and in the mist of all the hardships that he endured for over twenty years of his life Fredrick Douglass became a free man.


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