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There were a number of ways that resistance was made against slavery. They were: intellectual, direct/physical, and cultural. Examples of these types of resistance are portrayed throughout the narrative of Frederick Douglass. This essay will discuss the three types of resistance citing examples from the narrative of Frederick Douglas. Such examples of resistances were effective and meaningful in different ways and ultimately contributed to the acknowledgment and recognition of the poor treatment of slaves. In the narrative these examples of resistance enabled Douglass and other slaves he alas about to resist their slave holders.

Intellectual resistance was one way in which Frederick Douglass resisted slavery. By becoming literate, he was resisting slavery as he was learning to read and write, which was not allowed among slaves. Reading allowed slaves to gain knowledge that their treatment was wrong, and writing was a means for them to voice their concerns and opinions regarding their treatment as slaves, which became a threat to the slave-owners. 1 For example, in the Narrative Douglass describes a conversation that took place between his slave-owner to his wife, after she is aught teaching Douglass to read. If you give a Niger an inch, he will take an ell. A Niger should know nothing but to obey his master-to do as he is told to do. Learning would spoil the best Niger in the world. 2″ This quote reflects the threat felt by slave owners. Reading would allow ‘naggers’ (sic) the ability to gain knowledge to question the status quo and not to just do as they were told by their slave owners. Though he was forbidden from learning to read and write Douglass continued to do so in secret. Douglass continued learning y gaining help from the children of the white lower class, who were as poor as he was but were gaining an education. He would exchange bread from his master’s house for this precious knowledge from the white neighborhood children. 4 This exchange proved to be beneficial for him as well as the children, as the children were gaining food to eat, whilst he was continuing to better himself by learning. Douglass learnt how to write while he was working in a ship-yard, where he learnt to recognize and then later identify the lettering on pieces of timber which he then preceded to copy and memorize. 6 He then furthered his writing skills by copying out of spelling books and practicing on his masters copy-book.

Learning to read and write enabled Douglass to convey his thoughts and feelings into words and onto paper. This is significant because Douglass’ writings have subsequently provided later generations with an insight in his plight as a slave and also how he resisted. Direct/physical resistance was another form of resistance used by Frederick Douglass. An example of this was when Douglass retaliated against Mr. Covey by physically beating him. This occurred after having endured six long months of hard labor and abuse at the hands of Mr. Covey. The incident was also a turning point for Douglass, because it gave him a new found confidence and reawakened his desire to be free, and also his desire to continue reading and writing. Towards the end of the Narrative, Douglass runs away from Mr. Laud. This can be seen as a direct/physical resistance because rather than stay and conform to the slave-master relation, his will to be free is stronger and he decides to outwardly resist by running away-10 Both of the incidents highlighted above are effective in that it monstrance a point at which Douglass is making a stand for what he believes and resolves to work towards that.

He desired to be free and to do so he needed to continue learning. His running away can be seen as his ultimate resistance and challenge of slavery and what it comes with. Cultural resistance for Douglass came in the form of songs that were sung by the slaves. Singing was often a big part of slave life. Slaves would often sing whilst they were working. The messages behind these songs were ones of anguish and dismay at the way they were being treated, and also a protest against their owners and slavery. 1 The true meaning of these songs would only have been known by the slaves, whereas their owners and outsiders had a misconception that these songs portrayed their “contentment and happiness”. 12 The fact that slave owners as well as outsiders were not aware Of the true meaning behind these songs made this form Of resistance even more effective. Based on the accounts of Douglass, strong family ties appear to be yet another form of cultural resistance towards slavery. Often children of slaves would be separated from their mothers before they reached a year old.

They would be hired out to another farm a long distance away and would be placed under the care of one of the older woman slaves too old for labor 13. Douglass was separated from his mother in this way. 14 Family as a form of resistance is seen when Douglass’ mother, after a long hard day of intensive labor, journeys from the farm that she was hired at, to where he was staying as a child. She would then make the long and arduous journey back to her place of work in time for sunrise. 5 By going to visit him every night, she was resisting the slave owners who had separated her from her on, trying to hinder and break their mother-son bond 16. Douglass’ mother defies and resists her slave owners by ensuring that that the ties between herself and her son are not severed by visiting her son even after a full day’s work. Think that the intellectual resistance, learning to read and write, was the most effective and meaningful form of resistance. This is because through the process of learning to read and write, Douglass was no longer ignorant of the dismal life that he had as a slave. 7 This simple act of becoming literate penned his eyes to reality and awakened a yearning to be free, and was also the foundation for the other forms of resistance, direct/physical and cultural, to occur. Douglass becomes well aware of the gruesome nature of slavery and the many injustices towards the slaves. 1 8 His newfound knowledge enables him to stand up to Mr. Covey, after being mistreated for far too long. 19 It also allows him to eventually save up money and run away from the life of slavery. Intellectual resistance ultimately enables him to write a narrative of his life and experiences as a slave to be published and read by any.

All of these resistances are effective and meaningful to some extent, some more so than the others. The intellectual resistance of learning to read and write, and then later putting these skills to use, is the most meaningful and effective because it was the catalyst to Douglass’ desire to be free.

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