Frederick Douglass and Slavery

Frederick Douglass in black and white.

February 26, 2020

Frederick Douglass did not hold back in Narrative of the Life in regards to how he felt about slavery. The treatment of slaves was a direct violation of the slaveholders’ Christian beliefs and Douglass recorded all of these experiences with slaveholders from a first person point of view. Specifically, Douglass spoke of Mr. Freeland, who had zero Christian values. This is where the contrast between Mr. Freeland and most other slave owners comes into play. Mr. Freeland treated his slaves more like humans than most owners. His slaves were given meals and were allowed breaks. His slaves were given tools and had a reasonable work schedule. Douglass compared Mr. Freeland specifically to Mr. Covery. Mr. Covery treated his slaves inhumanely but justified it through his religion. He also compared Mr. Freeland to Mr. Weeden, who would whip his slaves. Through these comparisons to Christian slaveholders, Douglass is able to show readers how being Christian doesn’t automatically make you better than anyone else and it doesn’t excuse your poor choices. Douglass also makes it painfully obvious through these comparisons that he feels contempt for religion and Christianity in general. It might be surprising for most that it would be the slaveholders with Christian values that were “the bad ones,” but there are many different works that also show how terrible people can be to use their religion for their own personal gain.

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