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Jake Levi

Explaining Slavery in the United States using: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
The system of slavery in the United States abused slaves with regards to their legal and human
rights. They were treated as subhuman, and were refused any non-essential privileges, unless
they kept them in happiness regarding their situation. The abolitionist movement worked to
change that, by means such as publishing anti-slavery newspapers, or creating the Underground
Railroad to help fugitive slaves.
Slaves in the southern parts of the USA were regarded as less than human. They were treated in
such a way as to dehumanize them, to stop them from realizing their potential to rebel. This is
shown by the way in which the young Frederick Douglass was fed The children were then
called, like so many pigs, and like so many pigs they would come and devour the mushnone
with spoons few left the trough satisfied. (30). The children were given [boiled] coarse cornmeal in a trough, and were left to eat as animals. They were often tricked by their masters, one
such example is cited by Douglass, whereupon a slave is asked how he is treated by his master,
by a passer-by. The slave replies with the truth, unbeknownst to him, he is speaking with his
master, Colonel Lloyd. Weeks pass, and the slave was sold to another slaver. All of this
treatment shows how inhumanely slaves were treated.
The slaves were often subject to unjust punishment, and were whipped mercilessly Does a
slave look dissatisfied? It is said, he has the devil in him, and it must be whipped out. Does he
speak loudly when spoken to by his master? Then he is getting high-minded, and should be taken
down a button-hole lower. Does he forget to pull off his hat at the approach of a white person?
Then he is wanting in reverence, and should be whipped for it.(67). This was in reference to the
Rev. Rigby Hopkins; he was treating his slaves in this way in order to scare them from doing

Jake Levi
something worse; an abhorrent practice. At the opening of the book, Douglass recounts his
experience watching his aunt being bloodily whipped for a great period of time.
Dred Scott was an African-American slave in 1830, when he was taken to the free state of
Illinois. When his master died, some years later, he sued for his freedom. The Supreme Court
declared that since no African-American was, or had ever been, a citizen of the United States of
America, they had no right to sue as a citizen would. This affected all free and enslaved AfricanAmericans living throughout the USA; it also undid much of the work that had been done in the
progression of rights for African-Americans, as it meant that
However, there were people fighting for the freedom of all slaves; the members of the
Abolitionist movement. William Lloyd Garrison, an active abolitionist reformer, and a friend of
Douglass, was the founder of the newspaper named The Liberator, a virulently anti-slavery
publication. It promoted the rights of African-Americans, and brought the possibility much
nearer to completion. Another form of written word which also helped the abolitionist cause was
a book by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Toms Cabin. It make a huge impact largely due to the
fact that it was said to be entirely true. The abhorrent practices mentioned earlier in this essay
were described in detail to hundreds of thousands of readers in the USA and elsewhere in the
world. It made it impossible for the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, which required citizens of Free
states to return escaped slaves, to be enforced, as no citizen could bring themselves to return
another human into slavery. The Underground Railroad was a network of people, all working
together to aid fugitive slaves in their escape. It was not a centrally run organization, rather a
collection of local areas who helped slaves individually. It was a huge help to all slaves who
were attempting to escape, as they could rarely else find someone in whom they could invest the
trust that was afforded to the Underground Railroad.

Jake Levi
Slaves were treated in an abhorrent manner by the Slave-holders of the South, and the work of
Abolitionists gave them hope of escape. Eventually, the issue of slavery would be solved during
the reconstruction period, after the civil war. However, racial prejudices would live on, well into
the 20th Century, with social reformers such as Martin Luther King and Malcom X.