Frederick Douglass the most successful abolitionist who changed America’s views of slavery through his writings and actions. Frederick Douglass had many achievements throughout his life. His Life as a slave had a great impact on his writings. His great oratory skills left the largest impact on Civil War time period literature. All in all he was the best black speaker and writer ever.
Douglass was born a slave in 1817, in Maryland. He educated himself and became determined to escape the horror of slavery. He attempted to escape slavery once, but failed. He later made a successful escape in 1838.
Frederick’s life as a slave had the greatest impact on his writings. Through slavery, he was able to develop the necessary emotion and experiences for him to become a successful abolitionist writer. He grew up as a slave, experiencing all of the hardships that are included, such as whippings, scarce meals, and other harsh treatment. His thirst for freedom , and his burning hatred of slavery caused him to write Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass, and other similar biographies. In his Narrative, he wrote the complete story of his miserable life as a slave and his strife to obtain freedom. The main motivational force behind his character (himself) was to make it through another day so that someday he might see freedom. The well written books that he produced were all based on his life. They all started with Douglass coping with slavery. He had a reason to write these works. As a die-hard abolitionist, He wanted to show the world how bad slavery really was.
“He did this really well, because he made people understand the unknown, and made abolitionists out of many people. This man had a cause, as well as a story to tell” (Schomp, 25). Douglass, as a former slave, single-handedly redefined American Civil War literature, simply by redefining how antislavery writings were viewed.
Frederick Douglass is well known for many of his literary achievements. He is best known, now, as a writer. “As a writer, Frederick Douglass shined. As a speaker, he was the best. There was no abolitionist, black or white, that was more for his speaking skills.” (McFeely, 206)
“So impressive were Frederick Douglass’s oratorical and intellectual abilities that opponents refused to believe that he had been a slave and alleged that he was a impostor brought up on the public by the abolitionists. In reply, Douglass wrote Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (1845), which he revised in later years: in final form, it appeared in 1882 under the title Life and Times Of Frederick Douglass.” (Graves, 52 )
Frederick’s oratory skills left the largest impact on Civil War time period literature. Douglass’s most significant autobiographical works include: Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave: My Bondage And My Freedom: and Life And Times Of Frederick Douglass. These three books are about the same person, and share a similar message, but are written by Frederick at different times of his life, looking at the past in different ways.
In Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass, Douglass used a simple, yet educated way to show how he felt as a slave growing up in Maryland. He describes in the Narrative “I have often been so pinched with hunger as to dispute with old “Nep,” the dog, for the crumbs which fell from the kitchen table.” (Douglass, 34) Douglass’s Narrative was known as being a brief, descriptive (like his statement in the above lines), and easy to read piece of literature. It showed the hardships of slavery as seen by a real slave. “I remember thinking that God was angry with the white people because of their slave holding wickedness, and therefore his judgments were abroad in the land” (Douglass, 89) Douglass became educated through his own means. Knowledge was truly a blessing for Frederick. Without knowledge, he never would have achieved freedom. With knowledge, he realized the importance of freedom. This gave him desire and a goal, but most of all, hope. Without knowledge, he would never have been the man he was when he was free. He could express the problems and the solutions of slavery in a convincing, educated manner. This made him more than a cheap source of labor in the North. Learning to read and write was a challenge simply because the resources were not there. He used wit and good natured cunning to trick local school boys into teaching him the alphabet. If he had never sought knowledge, he would never been able to write any of his autobiographies which live on even today as important accounts of slavery. Also, without knowledge, he would not have become an American legend like he is today.
After writing his Narrative he wrote another biography in 1855, My Bondage And My Freedom. This autobiography had quite a bit more content than the Narrative. It is a look at slavery from Douglass, both more mature as a person, and as a writer. Also, he reflects on his life as a slave in more detail. My Bondage And My Freedom also gives readers an update to Narrative that includes Douglass’s life as a free man.
In 1881, Life And Times Of Frederick Douglass was published. This was Douglass’s final autobiography with the expectation of a larger edition that was issued in 1892. It is the life and times, as the title suggests, of Douglass’s entire life. Many people found it to be the same material as the other two, and less enjoyable to read. “Its time had passed-or so thought the public, which did not buy it” (McFeely, 311). This book included Frederick’s life as a slave, as well as a free man, well known speaker, and respected diplomat.
The book’s real message—which few people received—was that the story of slavery should not be purged from the nation’s memory. White America wanted to hear no more of the subject; emancipation had been taken care of. Many black Americans, reacting to this weariness, had become almost apologetic about their slave past. (Herschler 105)
Frederick also had another abolitionist publication, North Star. Rather than a book, North Star was an abolitionist newspaper. He edited the antislavery newspaper for sixteen years. After the abolition of slavery, the paper became less important and eventually stopped being published.
Frederick Douglass played a major role in the redefinition of American literature in the Civil War time period. Abolitionism was a very important thing in many people’s lives, and not only ex-slaves. But, with Douglass having been a slave, he had a very good reason to fight for the abolitionist movement. “In the South, abolitionists were as common as snow, and did not affect the literature or lifestyles of those people very much. In the north, however it was more of a standard of practice.” (Schomp, 78) after all, the north was where slaves dreamed to escape to. The antislavery campaign was a popular subject for successful writers of this time period.
Frederick was the best black speaker and writer ever. His success came from his fight against slavery. Being a former slave, he had a very good reason to participate in the antislavery movement. He wrote three significant autobiographies that helped define the way literature developed during the Civil War time period. These three autobiographies: Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave; My Bondage And My Freedom; and Life And Times Of Frederick Douglass, are the works that are seen to express a nation’s disappointment for the treatment of slaves in the south. The works document the rise of a slave to a free man, to a respected speaker, to a famous writer and politician. These works do not stand alone, though. Frederick also was famous for his abolitionist speeches. He successfully published an abolitionist newsletter, the North Star. All of Douglass’s achievements combines with his great literature to redefine the writings of the time. After reading any of his works, one might realize just how important Frederick Douglass was to the abolitionist movement. He changed many people’s lives, and helped to earn the respect of African American’s, as well as whites today. He most definitely has my respect and will live on in my mind as the most successful abolitionist ever.
Douglass, Frederick. Escape From Slavery, Alfred A. Knopf, 1994
Douglass, Frederick. Life And Times Of Frederick Douglass, Rowell-Collier Company, 1892
Graves, Charles P. Frederick Douglass, Longmans Canada Limited, 1970
Herschler, Mildred. Frederick Douglass, Follett Publishing Company, 1969
McFeely, William S. Frederick Douglass, W.W. Norton And Company, 1991