The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery as seen in The autobiography of Frederick Douglass.

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Cindy Cardona


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The Beastly Consequences of Slavery as an Institution

American history is marked with discrimination against minorities, both in the law, and in everyday life. Slavery is a historically telling example of a government sanctioned oppression and torture by condemning victimization through racism. The indoctrination of slavery among the American people made for a general environment of barbaric and inhumane behavior that would affect both slaves and slave owners. The behavior did not come about by accident however; as the South purposely went to great lengths to dehumanize their slaves in order to keep the caste system of the south intact. Frederick Douglass chronicles this experience, through his bold autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave. He recounts painful and brutal episodes of violence inflicted upon him and others by slaveholders. As a young man, Douglass is sent to Baltimore, an event that would change his life permanently, apart from freeing him from the cruel conditions of the plantation.

While in Baltimore, he teaches himself to read and write and begins his journey towards mental freedom. While his narrative focuses primarily on the evils of slavery and its dehumanizing effects on Black people, he also unambiguously acknowledges the moral and mental damage that enforcing this social system has on the slave owners themselves. Using imagery, Douglass is eloquently able to illustrate the dehumanizing effects the institution of slavery imposes on both slaves and slaveholders.

The degradation process of slaves results from a deliberate attempt among slaveholders to deny slaves familial bonds, education, and fundamental liberties in an effort to "darken his moral and mental vision" (Douglass 415). Beginning with a slave's birth, this cruel process leads to a continuous cycle of abuse, neglect, and inhumane...