Douglass

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Summary of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Chapter I-IV Frederick Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave brings to light many of the injustices that African Americans faced in the 1800s under slavery. Through vivid images of brutality, Douglass presents the story of his life in a way that implicitly critiques the institution of slavery. In the first few chapters of his narrative, Douglass chronicles the barbarity that he witnesses and experiences himself during his childhood at Colonel Lloyd’s plantation, including the separation of families, the whipping of slaves and crimes against slaves.
Douglass introduces his family circumstances in the first part of his Narrative. Because he lacks accurate knowledge of his birthday and age, Douglass notes the place of his birth—“Tuckahoe, near Hillsborough, twelve miles from Easton, in Talbot County, Maryland”—indicating the importance of his birthplace, the only piece of information he possesses about his own identity. He regards his “want of information” about his background as “a source of unhappiness” during his childhood. Moreover, according to Douglass, slaveholders always separate slave children from their mother before the children reach twelve months. Douglass decries the fact that this separation inevitably extinguishes the natural affection of the mother for the child as well as the child’s affection toward his mother. His own reaction after he heard about his mother’s death exemplifies this sentiment: “I received the tidings of her death with much the same emotions I should have probably felt at the death of a stranger.” Lacking any intimation of his father’s identity from his mother, Douglass knows only that his father is a white man; however according to hearsay, his father may be his master Captain Anthony. Douglass explains that slave-owners…...

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