I like the depiction of drag in some of our favourite childhood cartoons! who would have thought that bugs bunny dressed up as woman so many times in order to get what he wanted. Its funny that Fudd is attracted to bugs just because he has a blonde wig and large breasts. I like the analysis on gender roles and conforming to these norms. Children are greatly influenced by the media, and think that they have to follow these gender rules or else they will be criticized. Well done Jamie!

Jamie's Blog

The first show that I decided to look at is a very well know cartoon that came out in the early 1940’s called Looney Toons.  This show was directed at a younger audience, however, it contained many gender stereotypes that were instilled into the mind of children through the use of cartoons.  To a child, the naive and perhaps the untrained eye, Bugs Bunny may seem like a harmless, cuddly rabbit, however, with further inspection, one can see that this is definitely not the case.

Bugs Bunny has taken on many different roles over the years, often dressing in women’s clothing and adopting female traits in order to obtain something. Whether it be to distract Elmer Fudd with his womanly charm, or use his femininity to get something that he wants, Bugs is not a stranger to dressing up in female attire. This picture below demonstrates some of the different feminine looks of Bugs Bunny:

bugs-bunny-bugs-bunny-looney-tunes-drag-transvestite-queen-c-demotivational-poster-1249697488

This picture provides a few different examples of when Bugs Bunny…

View original post 449 more words

The Final Post: Oprah and Obama Proud of their Identity

Well you have reached the last post of my blog, and I hope that you have seen the shaping, and embracing of identity of the African American. They have gone from a slave, being reduced to nothing, bought and sold as property to proud of their identity. Some have shaped the Black identity by rising up and becoming abolitionists of slavery such as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, and Harriet Tubman. The African American identity has been embraced by activists such as Malcolm X. First, I will be talking about Oprah Winfrey, one of the most influential, most loved, respected, and valued individuals in television, and in the world. Millions of people tune in to the Oprah Winfrey Show daily, valuing everything she has to say. Oprah was born into poverty in Mississippi in 1954. Her family was divided and she suffered many hardships such as sexual abuse as a child. Being a black woman in society, normally reduced to menial jobs when she was beginning her career, she did not have the greatest chance of success in life. African Americans often had their identities taken from them and their potentials along with it. For Oprah, she made something powerful out of herself and followed her calling. She did not let anyone reduce her to less than she was. Oprah, is a prime modern day example of the African American identity, an identity that has risen out of slavery and out of oppression. In this video clip, on Oprah’s last show in 25 years in television, Oprah is absolutely confident and free to speak her mind, share life lessons and give her opinion and worldview with millions of people to value what she says. On this day, Oprah Winfrey is a leader in America.

This is a portion of Barack Obama’s speech on racism in Philadelphia, during the 2008 campaign. In this speech, Obama acknowledges the roots of African American mistreatment in America. When he speaks of Reverend Wrights caustic comments on the treatment of African Americans by fellow Americans, Obama indicates that the issue of racism has not yet been solved. Reverend Wright, and others of this time, still have memories of the segregated and inferior schools of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Obama goes on to quote William Faulkner who said, “the past is not dead and buried, in fact, it is not even past.” The bitterness of unequal opportunity haunts the black community in America, and fuels racism passed from generation to generation. Though there was much debate on whether the President of the United States should be an African American,  “on January 20 2009, Obama took the oath of office as the forty-fourth president of the United States and, for so many Americans, validated centuries of struggle by African Americans” (Gates 442). Barack Obama was elected into Presidency for his desire for change. To change the economy, change health care, change education, and change the face of racism in America, to name a few.

It is important to note that I have included Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama in my blog not to show that black people have potential to be influential leaders of America, but to show that African American people are proud of their culture and their nationhood. For centuries, society has held the false impression that black people should not have equal rights, and stereotypes and prejudices have been passed down from generation to generation about the black race. The Oprah Winfrey Show inspired so many around the world with discussions such as racism, sexual abuse, validation, and much, much, more. The fact is Oprah is a black woman, proud of her culture, who stands firm in her beliefs and does not let anyone tell her otherwise. She stands firm with who she is, and is not fearful of expressing her opinion. Barack Obama was elected into Presidency for his desire for change. To change the United States economy, change health care, change education, and change the face of racism in America, to name a few. Barack Obama, and Oprah Winfrey, have essentially shaped and definitely embraced their identity as African Americans.

Gates, Henry Louis Jr. “Life Upon These Shores”. Looking at the African American History. Alfred A Knopf. New York: 2011. Print.

Shaping and Embracing the Black Identity

So far we have discussed the changing identity of African American slaves. How they have reached freedom in the North and become abolitionists, leaders of freedom, reformers, and inspiring published narratives. Today I will be continuing the African American Identity during the 20th century and in relation to Frederick Douglass.

In this video trailer, the ‘coloured’ help are segregated from the white American families. They are not even allowed to use the same facilities because the African race was thought to carry diseases that were easily spread to the Americans. This film is significant in the portrayal of the ‘coloured’ community in the 1960’s. Most of the women are too scared to open up about their experiences as maids to the white family, but Skeeter, an intelligent woman and college graduate is determined to get their story out. Though she fights many battles on the way, she ends up publishing the novel on the maids’ personal experiences of segregation and mistreatment. This film is all about segregation, and the control that the white population still has over the inferior, ‘coloured’ help. All of the ‘coloured’ individuals in the movie are maids. They are forced to raise the children of the white families, and do all of the cooking, shopping and cleaning, without complaint or trouble. During the 1960’s, the ‘coloured’ people of the South, were defined by the white American society as merely maids, who should be deprived of equal status amoungst a ‘white’ community. It is not until Skeeter comes into the lives of these ‘coloured’ women, encouraging them to reveal their stories to her, that they would become brave enough to speak out and defend their identity. Skeeter wants their voices to be heard so that Jackson, Mississippi and other Southern states, might view ‘coloured’ people as equals.fountain

This advocating for equality and shaping of identity follows with the 1960’s black activist, Malcolm X.  During the 1960’s, Malcolm X advocated for human rights of black individuals. He was one of the greatest African Americans influencing the integration of black and whites in America organizing the Organization of Afro American Unity. “Malcolm’s embracement of the term Afro American promoted its acceptance among persons in the Black power/Black consciousness movement. In his speeches at this time he used the phrase ‘We are an African people’ to emphasize the relationship of Black people in America to Africa” (Collier-Thomas & Turner). Malcolm truly inspired the people to embrace their identity. Many of Malcolm’s speeches aim to dismantle internal oppression within the Afro Americans, and give them a sense of liberation and personhood. In this video, Malcolm X explains his name to the government desk. He does not want to take the identity that the white people have given him, a “so called Negro.”

Let’s travel back in time over a half-century and recap the identity of Frederick Douglass and how he shaped his identity. Douglass was a slave for the early part of his life, forced into extreme labour and oppression by his slave master Mr. Covey. Douglass always knew that he was more than what the American slave-holder reduced him to. To demonstrate this, he portrayed his masculinity and stood up for himself against the control of Covey. As Paul Gilroy puts it in his book, ‘The Black Atlantic’, “it is the slave rather than the master who emerges from Douglass’s account possessed of “consciousness that exists for itself” (Gilroy 60). This is the point in the narrative in which Douglass takes on his own identity, rather than reducing himself to the oppression and control of his master.  Once Douglass was a free man in the North, he changed his name in order to put his slave history and identity behind him. Thomas and Turner’s article, “Race, Class and Colour: the African American Discourse on Identity” outlines the identity of an African American slave:

“Slavery denied Africans their original identity, leaving them with a sense that they were lacking a fundamental wholeness as human beings. Africans were confronted, not only with a condition of loss of freedom, but with the repudiation of the very legitimacy of their culture and human identification. The institution of slavery promoted efforts to deny the Africans legitimate foundation of the very nature of their being, in a sense to cast them from being to nothingness”  (Collier-Thomas & Turner).

Douglass refused to let this ‘slave’ identity overcome him for the rest of his life because he knew his potential and who he was, an intellectual, strong-willed man. When he arrived in the free North, Douglass wanted no longer to be identified as a fugitive slave. He wanted to be recognized for who he was so he changed his name from Bailey to Douglass in order to keep the daunting past of slavery behind him. His identity became that of a free coloured man living in America as he aimed to establish the ‘New Negro”.

Though in the 1960’s Southern states did not hold coloured people as slaves, they still were under the impression that they were inferior to the white population. Coloured people were greatly segregated from society, making them feel like they were unworthy individuals to the white Americans. Malcolm X advocated for equality amoung the black and white communities in the 1960’s. He encouraged black people to embrace their identity and love who they are in order to be viewed the same way by the white society. Frederick Douglass helped to shape the identity of the African American.

Collier-Thomas, Bettye, Turner, James. “Race, Class and Color: The African American discourse on identity.” Journal of American Ethinic History. 1994. Web.

Douglass, Frederick. “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.” The Modern Library. New York: 2000. p.3-110.

Gilroy, Paul. “The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness.” Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts: 1993. Print.

The Road to Freedom – Tubman, Jacobs, and Douglass.

I have opened with this video as a powerful depiction of Harriet Tubman’s character and strength. This twenty-five minute animated video aired on Discovery, does an excellent job outlining the difficulties of travel for the slaves. Many were too scared to even attempt the escape. Tubman however, continually went back and forth using the Underground Railroad collecting as many slaves as she could, and bringing them safely to the North even though she had a $40 000 reward of capture. This video evokes powerful emotion, even as an animation. Her strength, desire, and trust in God, truly brought her to the ‘Promised Land’.

Larson’s 2012 article “”Racing for freedom” depicts Harriet Tubman as one of the most influential abolitionists of the 19th century. She helped escort many slaves and loved ones to freedom and by “mid-decade her reputation as a daring and resourceful secret conductor of fugitive slaves had spread far and wide in Northern abolition circles and underground networks, prompting William Lloyd Garrison to dub her ‘Moses the deliverer’”(Larson). Harriet Tubman used the Underground Railroad as her pathway to freedom.

The narratives of slaves during their escape are essential for modern day society to have a glimpse at the powerful accounts of their journey. It is not easy for modern day society to fully comprehend the severity and danger of their journey. Sydney Howard Gay, a fellow fugitive in New York City known to Tubman, recorded a detailed journal of the slaves he encountered on his journey to freedom. Gay recorded the stories and personal accounts of “nearly 220 freedom seekers from January 1855 through November 1856, Gay’s meticulous accounting has left us with a treasure trove rich with dramatic real life stories of success and failure along the Underground Railroad” (Larson). The Underground Railroad was truly a lifeline for slaves, and helped many achieve freedom in the North. Many of those who were successful, became well-known abolitionists (such as Frederick Douglass) and helped their loved ones begin their passage to freedom as well (such as Harriet Tubman).

reward for fugitive slavesSlaves were worth a substantial amount of money and investment. As discussed previously, they were the main income and wealth of the Southern states and profit to land-owners. When slaves ran away, their masters were determined to find them and bring them back. The more the slaveholders offered to pay the catchers for the reward and the more description in the advertisements given, the more secretive and fearful of capture the runaway slave had to be.

In Harriet Jacobs’ narrative, “The Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl”, Dr. Flint, her master, is determined to find her. Upon her escape, he posts an advertisement on every corner of nearby towns reading:

$300 REWARD

Ran away from the subscriber, an intelligent, bright, mulatto girl, named Linda, 21 years of age. Five feet four inches high. Dark eyes, and black hair inclined to curl; but it can be made straight. Has a decayed spot on a front tooth. She can read and write, and in all probability will try to get to the Free States. All persons are forbidden, under penalty of the law, to harbour or employ said slave. $150 will be given to whoever takes her in the state, and $300 if taken out of the state and delivered to me, or lodged in jail.

                        Dr. Flint (Jacobs 230).

Jacobs travelled to many places of America forced to trust both white and black men and women to lead her to safety in the North.  With so many slave-catchers looking for her in hopes of collecting the reward, Jacobs was forced to remain in hiding in a loophole for over seven years. Jacobs recounts what she has heard slave-catchers converse, “I’ll catch any nigger for the reward. A man ought to have what belongs to him, if he is damned brute” (253). She lived in this loophole in absolute fear of being found out. She did everything in her power, including using her literacy to trick her master, to remain a secret until she could meet her children in New York.

This map shows the many different routes of the Underground Railroad leading from the Southern states to the free North.

This map shows the many different routes of the Underground Railroad leading from the Southern states to the free North.

Larson points out that “in his first autobiography, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave”, published in 1845, Douglass explained to his readers that he could not reveal the secret network of supporters who populated the Underground Railroad” (Larson 2012). This secret network of supports is the same ticket that Harriet Tubman used to free so many slaves into the North.

Douglass, after making it to the free North writes, “I know come to the part of my life during which I planned, and finally succeeded in making, my escape from slavery. But before narrating any of the peculiar circumstances, I deem it proper to make known my intention not to state all facts connected with the transaction. . . it is not only possible, but quite probable, that others would thereby be involved in the most embarrassing difficulties. I would rather than exculpate myself, and thereby run the hazard of closing the slightest avenue by which a  brother slave might clear himself of the chains and fetters of slavery” (Douglass 95). Douglass goes on the reference the underground railroad as the upperground railroad and honours those who had opened their doors for the escape of slaves (96).

Douglass writes that he has been frequently asked about his situation once he arrived in the free states. Douglass was lonely in the city, and afraid to talk to anyone in fear of being kidnapped back into slavery. He had indeed escaped the ‘lions’ den’ of slavery, but was not yet a free man in this free state. To those who do not understand the hardships of a fugitive slave in New York, Douglass explains, “I say, let him place himself in my situation – without home or friends – without money of credit – wanting shelter, and no one to give it – wanting bread, and no money to buy it, – and at the same time let him feel that he is pursued by merciless men-hunters, and in total darkness as to what to do, where to go, or where to stay, – perfectly helpless both as to the means of defence and means of escape, – in the midst of plenty, yet midst of wild beasts, whose greediness to swallow up the trembling and half-famished fugitive is only equalled by that which the monsters of the deep swallow up the helpless fish upon which they subsist, – [. . . ] not till then, will be fully appreciate the hardships of, and know how to sympathize with, the toil-worn and whip-scarred fugitive slave” (100). This is one of the most powerful passages of Frederick Douglass’ narrative. Throughout the descriptive narrative, the contemporary audience may feel as though they understand the toils,  fears and extreme suffering of Douglass and other slaves, however, Douglass makes it clear, that the struggle does not end with the escape to the North. Once the slaves enter into the North, they are in turn punished with continual despair. They literally have nowhere to go, amoungst a city full of people, houses, food and jobs. They are homeless, scared and alone, beginning a new devastating chapter in their lives.

abolitionistsThe Underground Railroad was an essential network for the slaves seeking freedom in the 19th century. Harriet Tubman changed the way slaves were viewed in American society by bringing so many to freedom. She was dubbed the modern day “Moses” indicating her will to carry on and save her people from slavery using the Underground Railroad. Harriet Jacobs possessed a similar desire to escape her master’s bondage in her narrative. Her motherly love, self-reconciliation and literacy brought her children out of slavery. She travelled to many places of hiding in pursuit of freedom with help from the Underground Railroad and her friends and wrote her narrative to encourage slaves and sentimentalize with the middle class to dismantle oppression. Douglass, like Tubman and Jacobs, travelled the Underground Railroad to free himself and become an avid abolitionist performing the most inspirational speeches and published newspapers.

Douglass, Frederick. “Narrative of the Life and Frederick Douglass, and American Slave.” Modern Libray. New York: 2004. p.4-110.

Jacobs, Harriet.  “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.”  Modern Library. New York: 2004. p.120-350. 

Larson, Kate Clifford. “Racing for freedom: Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad network through New York.” Afro-Americans in New York Life and History. 2012.

Stewart, Anna. “Revising ‘Harriet Jacobs’ for 1865” American Literature. 2010. p701-724.

 

This is an excellent post describing The Underground Railroad, which I will be discussing in my next post. The maps used to demonstrate the underground passages / middle passage are also great to put into context the amount of railroads going from the South to the North. I also reblogged this post because of its reference to the Harriet Jacobs, whose narrative I will also be discussing. This account of Jacobs’ journey outlines the many residencies and hidings she had to undergo in order to free herself and her children. Jacobs was forced to keep moving and travelling toward the North in order to keep herself free of Dr. Flint and reduce the chances of being caught and killed. I like how this blog uses the idea of travel in Jacobs’ narrative to prove that travel was necessary for a slave’s survival.

A Traveler's Guide to American Literature

Once again folks I’d like to redirect your attention, this time to the South.  Currently taking place in the South is a radical change.  There is a secret passage that has been created linking the South to the North and it’s use is to help escaped slaves get to the Free States.  This secret passage exists in different forms–the most well-known being The Underground Railroad.  This railroad is not like the one you fine folks are travelling on, but a large network of people assisting escaped slaves to reach the Free States in the North.  The Underground Railroad was given its name due to the newly emerged steam railroad.  Since the railroad was new, it wouldn’t seem strange for people to be speaking in railroad terms which is one reason for deciding on the name the Underground Railroad.  For example, safe houses were known as “stations”, and run by people…

View original post 953 more words

This blog post explains the end of slavery in the Southern States of America well! The reference to Lincoln and the civil war in this post further explains my post on the economics of slavery, and the war between the states.

Women as Chattel

For this last post, I plan on discussing the ‘ending’ of chattel slavery, and what can be done in today’s society in order to attempt to end the universal sex trade. I will first be discussing Lincolns role in the ‘end’ of chattel slavery.

Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States of America. His goal was to emancipate all slaves from their masters and from the states that were rebelling against the Union. As we have learned through Harriet Jacobs slave narrative, it is clear that even the people who were enslaved knew that the North, meant freedom. When Jacobs arrived North she was technically free, her only fear was the master she ran away from. The people who were apart of this Union, were the slave owners, and they wanted to start their own country, because they were against what Lincoln was doing. this is…

View original post 440 more words

The Economics of Slavery in the South

If any slave resists his master. . . correcting such slave, and shall happen to be killed in such correction. . . the master shall be free of all punishment. . . as if such accident never happened.
– Virginia General Assembly declaration, 1705

Since the beginning of America, slave labour has been an essential commodity for prosperity. As I have touched on in my previous post, Americans were generally conditioned in such a way that made them view slavery as a necessity, and anyone who proclaimed against this, was seen as a threat to the American society and Republic. To the Americans, slavery was essential to social order, and helped many attain millions.
With the rise of Africans being imported to the New World, those who had servants, began to prefer to own slaves instead because a slave held there position permanently. They often invested in female slaves as well because any children they bore followed the condition of the mother. Many Americans began to invest in slaves for this reason. This investment in slaves brought a lifetime of free labor and wealth. Not only that, but the offspring of the slaves were passed down to the next generation of slaveholders where they too would gain profit off of slave labour.
Slavery originally began in America due to the labour shortage in the large fields where landholders grew sugar, coffee, tobacco, rice and cotton – “it assumed enormous proportions in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and helped propel the economic transformation of the leading colonial powers, especially Great Britian.” (Kolchin 5). American land owners could only grow as much commodity as they could afford labourers. The rise of slavery caused the rich to get richer as they exploited the poor. Slavery truly became the “heart of the economic and social system” (27). The slaveholders used whipping and brutal punishment to demand obedience to the slaves, and generation after generation thought it perfectly normal as they were born into this cruel system of slavery. This gave birth to a world where cruelty and misuse of inequality was routine, “in short, it was a world with few ideological constraints against the use of forced labour” (7).

Kolchin’s book, “American Slavery 1619-1877” explains the per capita income of the south due to slavery. The exported goods and services divided by the total population was so high, that it made the southern states in to the “fourth most prosperous nation of the world in 1860” (174). Since there was an abundance of African-American slaves available for labour, many Americans began speculating inland and creating farms and crops out of the wilderness. The Southern states ultimately “produced more by putting more land into cultivation; quantitative growth did not lead to qualitative development” (174). Frederick Law Olmstead, a landscape architect who spent over a year in the South researching for articles for The New York Times, noted that though the South was prosperous in one way, it also has high levels of “illiteracy, ignorance, inefficiency and lethargy in which slavery impeded economic development while corroding everyone’s manner and morals” (174). All of this, as well as neglected roads, town and exhausted soil, is due to the effects of slavery. In 1860, the South began to lag in all other areas of population, education and industrialization.

Once the slaves started to make their way to the city, they had much less supervision and control by their masters. They began to grasp the idea and hope of being free as they often encounter other free black men in the city. The slaves began to have freedom of laborers to contract for wages. Many white slave-holders were then forced to sell their slaves in order to pay off large debts. This opposition to slavery did not follow through very quickly as many saw no place for the black community in a white world. Olmstead records the thoughts from a white southerner, “But it wouldn’t never do to free ‘em and leave ‘em here. I don’t know anybody, hardly, in favor of that. Make ‘em free and leave ‘em here and they’d steal every thing we made. Nobody couldn’t live here then” (181).

Finally, I have included this video on the division of the North and Southern states and the outbreak of the Civil War. This video gives a very interesting summary of the fight between the North and Southern states that provoked the Civil War. The caption for this video explains, “Slavery caused the war, but the war did not begin to free the enslaved. Throughout the 1850s, slavery had kept the free North and the slaveholding South on a collision course that could end in dissolution of the Union or a war to preserve it” (Youtube, An American Turning Point).

Kolchin, Peter. “American Slavery 1619-1877”. Hill and Wang. New York: 1993. Print.

Aside

Frederick Douglass and the African Identity

God speed the year of jubilee
The wide world o’er!
When from their galling chains set free,
Th’ oppress’d shall vilely bend the knee,
And wear the yoke of tyranny
Like brutes no more.
That year will come, and freedom’s reign,
To man his plundered rights again
Restore.

-William Lloyd Garrison

Today I will be discussing the identity of the African-American Slave in regards to Frederick Douglass’ slave narrative. I will be exploring Douglass’ journal in order to show how he was able to gain his identity back through his desire to educate himself, and gain both self-respect and respect from Americans citizens.

When slavery started in the early 1700’s, America shipped almost 300,000 African citizens to the New World to be bought and sold as slaves. The transatlantic slave trade brought over 12.5 million slaves from the year 1501-1866 (Gates 49). To the Americans, the black people were nothing more than animals meant to be put to work with the goal of creating a profit.  Even if an American was a kind-hearted and moral person, they were often socially conditioned and taught to view the slave population on the same level as cattle, with no human rights or dignity. In the journal, ‘Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave’ the white population of America displays extreme bigotry toward the Africans by preventing them from gaining intellect and self-respect.  Together, they formed a nation-wide opinion that slaves should never be entitled to an education or any other human rights. They want to keep the slaves inferior to them in hopes that they will never be anything more than a commodity and profit for themselves, and their country.

Though the American slave Frederick Douglass was robbed of his identity as a human being, he was determined to gain it back as we see in his slave narrative. The first way in which Frederick Douglass establishes his identity is his ability and desire to attain an education. The Americans deprive intellect and education to the black slave population in fear that they might realize their dismal, undeserved conditions and fight against them. Frederick Douglass is bought and sold to many different slaveholders over the course of his life and he does not understand the white man’s power and control over the slaves until his arrival at the Aulds residence. At first, he describes Mrs. Auld to be “a woman of the kindest heart and finest feelings” (Douglass 44). When Mrs. Auld begins to teach Douglass the alphabet, Mr. Auld stops her, telling her that it is “unlawful, as well as unsafe, to teach a slave to read . . . A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master – to do as he is told to do. Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world . . . from that moment, I understood the pathway from slavery to freedom” (44).  Mrs. Auld had a kind heart for the slaves until she was taught and conditioned otherwise. All of her loving and emotional qualities toward the slaves vanished, her heart became of stone and she began to treat Douglass with violence and anger (Douglass, 45).  This is a turning point for Douglass because it was then that he realized his path to freedom. Douglass has realized that in order to overcome the control of the white population, he must learn how to read, write, and educate himself. This is something the Americans have taken away from the slaves, and he was determined to get it back. Frederick then engages in his desire to gain his intellect back and after many years of practicing, he finally succeeds.  Striving to attain a goal on his own, is the foundation of his identity. He no longer is suppressed by the Americans, but is able to rise up and achieve something on his own.  His success in gaining this new found identity within himself proves his ability to rise above the white slaveholders, and overcome their control.

The second way that Douglass is able to overcome his slavery is through his ability to gain self-respect against his toughest slaveholder, Mr. Covey. Douglass suffers countless whippings and beating for minor offenses throughout his life as a slave. Douglass becomes angered with how his master treats him, and he decides to take these harsh punishments and conditions no longer. Douglass writes, “[Mr. Covey] had used me like a brute for six months, and I was determined to be used so no longer” (74). Douglass refuses to have all equality and rights taken away from him. Now that he knows that he is an intellectual human being, capable of knowledge and education, being used and treated as less than an animal was an act that he would no longer submit to.  Douglass acts in violence in order to break free from the masters’ control, being a prominent act in the emancipation of his enslavement as well as a turning point in gaining his own identity.  Here, Douglass realizes that he has to gain confidence, self-respect and masculinity in order to be a free man. After his fight with Covey, Douglass writes:

a man without force is without the essential dignity of humanity . . I was no longer a servile coward, trembling under the frown of a brother worm of the dust, but my long-cowed spirit was roused to an attitude of manly independence. I had reached a point at which I was not afraid to die (93).

Douglass is inspired and has a renewed sense of determination to free himself from the bondage of the American control. This is a turning point for Douglass in becoming a free man because he has now developed inspiration and determination to discover his own identity. He then uses his intellect, motivation and skill to make himself a successful man living in the city of Baltimore.

In the early 19th century, New York and Baltimore had the largest number of free black populations living in the city with more than 10,000 people. Most of the men had work, education, homes and success. Many free black men such as Tarrow Mamout, James Forten and Frederick Douglass began to establish wealth and success in the free cities around the year 1836 (Gates 48). Frederick Douglass developed a publication of his narratives in 1845 which shocked and astonished the white society. They protested that a slave could not write such an intellectual and powerful piece of writing. Frederick Douglass however, did not have an enslaved mind, though he was a slave for most of his life.  Douglass gave the black race an independent voice. His antebellum newspaper the ‘North Star’ read, “right is of no sex – truth is of no colour” (Gates 49).  As Douglass begins to gain respect, relationships and success in the city, he proves his identity as a black man and his ability/desire to be a free, intellectual, and respectful man.

I have included this powerful speech by Frederick Douglass at the Rochester Corinthian Hall on the Fourth of July, 1852. Douglass presented many lectures all over the city and took part in many abolitionist events. This speech was one of the most powerful given by him as he explains the meaning of the 4th of July for the African population in America. Douglass makes it publically known that he and his fellow country-men, do not celebrate with the country, but millions mourn and wail at the jubilee. The American’s try to associate him with their identity, but Douglass will not stand before them in mockery. He will not stand before the Americans in their celebration and pretend to be a part of it when his identity is not American. The Americans have changed his African heritage into the new ‘African-American’ identity. Douglass’ self-respect shines through with his fierce words as he publicly sets himself apart from the triumphs of the celebration. Douglass does not put his opinion forth lightly, but goes on to say that, “There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.” Douglass here establishes his own identity by firmly outlining the reality of the Negro American on this day.

American’s of the 19th century truly saw the black race as not only inferior, but on the same dignity level of a brute. Douglass, however, was determined to gain his own sense of identity, rather than accept the identity that the white population has given to him and millions of other American slaves. He knew that he was more than the menial character he was given and refused to accept these miserable conditions of enslavement. With his capacity to learn and gain knowledge of both the Americans as well himself, he was able to overcome his barriers toward freedom and recreate a determined, intelligent, masculine identity.

Gates, Henry Louis Jr. “Life Upon These Shores”. Looking at the African American History. Alfred A Knopf. New York: 2011. Print.

Douglass, Frederick. “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass an American Slave”. The Modern Library. New York: 2000. Print.