Classic Slave Naratives, A comparison of the accounts of Gustavus Vassa and Frederick Douglass.

Essay by ecestanyCollege, UndergraduateA-, May 2003

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The stories told by Gustavus Vassa and Fredrick Douglass are very different. Even though both men were slaves, and their experiences were sometimes similar, fate played different roles in their lives. This contrast began at their births. Vassa was born a native African whereas Douglass was born into slavery in the southern United States. Vassa' family was prominent in his tribe. His father was a chieftain and he was to grow up into this position as well. Only by chance, he was kidnapped and made a slave. Douglass on the other hand had been a slave from birth and had seen black people only as slaves for most of his youth. His mother was a slave and his children would have become slave if he had not become a free man.

One thing they had in common was the desire of freedom from enslavement. Most of their daily thoughts dwelled upon this subject.

Vassa dreamed of freedom and wrote," Where slaves are free, and men oppress no more. Fool that I was, injur'd so long to pain, To trust to hope, or dream of joy again!" Though he had been enslaved since his earliest memories, Douglass also craved the freedom he had never known. " Freedom now appeared, to disappear no more forever. It was heard in every sound, and seen in every thing. It was ever present to torment me with a sense of my wretched condition."

Both men were quite intelligent and learned to read and write the English language in their youths. This would prove very useful to them throughout their lives. Fredrick Douglass learned to read and write in secret. Later he held a makeshift school to teach the other slaves literacy unknown to their masters. Douglass wrote, "They were great days to my soul. The...