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Published: 30-09-2019

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Comparison of Douglass and Jacobs from Perspective of Concepts of Gender and Freedom

The word “freedom” in early American history was 1 with innumerable meanings, depending on who was hearing it. To a white male in the 19th century, freedom was prosperity by means of land-owning and wealth. However, to a slave in the Antebellum period, freedom was undefinable and out of reach. In the circumstances of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, as evidenced by their autobiographies, gaining freedom from their masters was just the starting of their liberation as human beings in a rapidly altering society. Both of these outspoken, intelligent abolitionist writers paved a way for themselves, and thousands of other African-Americans, via the power of their words. Freedom to a slave was not only physical, but psychological, and the transition from enslavement to empowerment was one defined by individual willpower and endurance. Frederick Douglass, in his narrative, details the horrors of southern slavery and its violations on the human mind and body Harriet Jacobs is able to fill in the gaps, as a female slave, by describing the sexual exploitation and emotional torment females and families were forced to encounter for the duration of slavery. Slave narratives are the clearest insight historians have into the everyday reality of slavery each Douglass and Jacobs show by way of their individual accounts that the complex institution of slavery could be effectively combatted by means of morality, literacy, passion, and by turning personal travesties into a hope that all individuals could knowledge the intricately complex present of freedom. In the words of Harriet Jacobs, “Reader, be assured this narrative is no fiction” .

Unsure of his birth year, Frederick Douglass was born in Maryland in what historians have guessed to be the 1818. It wasn’t uncommon for a slave to be uncertain of the exact date on which he or she was born- it was also likely that slaves had to seek the advice of their owners for this information, as households have been frequently separated. Household separation was 1 of the countless hardships that a slave had to endure throughout his time as a slave (which, in some situations, would be their entire lives). Frederick Douglass’s biography specifics these horrors not only to invoke sympathy, but to reveal the ugly truths of slavery in hopes that change would be brought about. 1 of the most strikingly horrific scenes in his narrative depicts a single of his cruel masters, Caption Anthony, whipping one particular of his slaves, an aunt of Frederick Douglass, in the middle of the night. He would frequently wake up to the sound of “heart-rending shrieks” as the slaveowner barbarically beat the lady whilst she was naked and tied to a post. Douglass remarks that “no words, no tears, no prayers, from his gory victim, seemed to move his iron heart from its bloody purpose” . These incidents would come about frequently, in addition to the every day stressors a slave would endure, like hunger, sickness, exhaustion, and a lack of appropriate clothes. Female slaves also had to worry the sexual exploitation of their bodies by their masters, a topic Harriet Jacobs discusses in her own individual narrative, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.

Frederick Douglass’s narrative was made not only to recount the atrocities of his life as a slave, but also to create discomfort amongst white individuals of society by way of the sheer rawness of his story. The Antebellum period was characterized by a sturdy presence of Christianity that influenced considerably of society, and even reached slave communities. Frederick Douglass had an understanding of what it meant to be a Christian even though he grew up enslaved. In his early 20s, Douglass was the slave of a Baltimore resident named Thomas Auld. Douglass reports that his master attended Methodist solutions, and he “indulged a faint hope that his conversion would lead him to emancipate his slaves” and “make him a lot more kind and humane”, although he was “disappointed in both these respects” . In the eyes of the oppressed, a churchgoing man that was capable of treating his slaves with severe cruelty had a huge moral incongruity Frederick Douglass pointed out in his narrative that society seemed unable to recognize this discrepancy. The concepts integrated in the Declaration of Independence- liberty, freedom, and organic rights- are equally ingrained in the Christian religion, yet somehow this doesn’t trigger the upper class to reject the immorality of slavery below a religious inclination. Later in his biography, he addresses his criticism of religion, saying “to be the friend of one particular [Christianity] is to be the enemy of the other. I enjoy the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I consequently hate the corrupt, slaveholding, females-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land” . This hypocrisy is what inspired a lot of of Douglass’s arguments in his later career as an abolitionist and writer. Editor and history professor David W. Blight comments on his efforts, saying that if “the hearts and minds of the American people have been initial to be persuaded of the evil of slavery, then the laws and political structure would change” . If Douglass could point out this contradiction to the basic public, then maybe their guilt could pave a way for structural adjust.

Like Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs also published a private narrative that provided insight into the wide range of atrocities a slave experienced in their lifetime. Both authors created a robust literate mind that would assist them to turn into cost-free, not only in the physical sense, but spiritually and in each and every other sense of the word. A essential difference among the lives of these two fugitive slaves turned reformers is primarily based on a single minor however significant detail- their gender. Editor Jennifer Fleischner, in her introduction of Jacobs’s narrative, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, comments that “although Harriet’s story is an instance of the power of an person to struggle against persecution, it is also the example of the significance of a robust family members network and a supportive neighborhood in battling oppression” . Harriet Jacobs effectively introduces a female slave’s quest for liberation by beginning her story with a reflection on the innocence of her adolescence. Jacobs was “born a slave but never ever knew it till six years of satisfied childhood had passed away” . Her discovery that, to the whole white population, she and her complete family members were regarded as home, was an extremely jarring one particular, and she started to knowledge things that only a female slave would endure. Harriet Jacobs brought two mixed-race young children into the world with a cost-free white man that her master forbade her to marry. A single of these youngsters was a female. Jacobs stated, in light of the birth of her daughter, “slavery is terrible for males but it is far much more terrible to women” . Even the joys of motherhood had been inhibited by the gross institution of slavery. Jacobs also had to knowledge firsthand the sexual advances of a lustful slaveowner, even though she was fortunate sufficient that he in no way forced himself upon her. This, by no indicates, meant he never physically harmed her. Upon hearing the news of her pregnancy, he reduce off all her hair in a match of rage and struck her when she tried to protest. The harm was so so severe that she was bedridden for days afterwards. Sexism is a pressing situation in society even these days. For a woman in the 19th century that was legally regarded as house, objectification was an extreme problem that left substantial emotional harm on Harriet Jacobs, but inspired her to perform towards freedom for all, particularly households that were complex by the situation of slavery.

The struggles Harriet Jacobs had to endure to attain a spot of empowerment is a story that is nonetheless relevant to ladies nowadays, who are continuously objectified. Harriet Jacobs lived her whole life, as each a slave and a totally free woman, oppressed on two accounts- her race and her gender. This is why she committed so significantly of her later life to abolition work by way of her writing, as a way to “assert her humanity against the inhumanity of slavery” . Like Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs recognized the hypocrisy in a society that valued religion, human rights, and domesticity, yet felt comfy enslaving an complete race of folks and subjecting their women and kids to sexual harassment, abuse, and neglect. In letters to a trusted pal, Jacobs comments on her reasoning behind documenting her life story, and expresses her desires that the effects of her narrative would benefit girls and children nonetheless suffering as slaves. Jacobs writes, “[I] come to you just as I am a poor slave Mother- not to tell you what I have heard but what I have observed- and what I have suffered- and if there is any sympathy to give- let it be offered to the thousands- of… Slave Mothers that are nonetheless in bondage- suffering far a lot more than I have… for their helpless Young children that they could get pleasure from the same liberties that my Young children now enjoy” . Harriet Jacobs sought a really certain emotional reaction from society following the publication of her narrative. Although she wrote utilizing pseudonyms, she did not attempt to hide her identity as an author during her career as an abolitionist. Her words as an author could be clearly linked to her motives as a reformer. Harriet Jacobs strategically utilised her brand as an African-American female to break down a society that was intended to function against her, generating her a excellent example of self-created liberation.

Slavery was disgusting. It was cruel, unconstitutional, immoral, brutal, sexist, and racist. Any slave narrative, like these of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, will express the very same sentiment. The words written in these slave narratives, both at the time of publication and even nevertheless nowadays, leave a profound impact on the reader, causing them to question their own values and reflect on their own experiences. As painful as it was for Douglass and Jacobs to recall their experiences as slaves via writing, firsthand documentation of slavery was needed to the advancement of society and the eventual abolition of slavery. When analyzed collectively, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl give a shocking illustration of the reality of slavery, each as a whole, and for individual guys, ladies, and children. Their lives as fugitive slaves, writers, abolitionists, and critical political figures helped to inspire societal change and market the message that accurate and complete liberation is a journey with a destination that is much more of a state of getting than a physical location. Freedom is identified via willpower, literacy, and a passion that drives even the most damaged and oppressed individuals to fight for what is appropriate.
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