Slave Narratives Essay

A common theme among the narratives of Olaudah Equiano and Frederick Douglass, and David Walker’s “Appeal” is the slave’s wretchedness. However, there is a significant difference in the way each of these authors present their own personal perspective, to make the case about and against the slave system. Equiano’s autobiography is a direct and diplomatic plea to the royal class in England for the abolition of slavery.

In a letter directed to the Parliament of Great Britain he writes “May the God of Heavens inspire your hearts with peculiar benevolence on that important day when the question of Abolition is to be discussed, when thousands in consequence of your determination, are to look for happiness or misery! ” (The Classic Slave Narratives, page 18). Douglass, on the other hand, through his autobiography, takes a sharp political position to expose the slave’s mental and physical struggles under Christian slaveholders which, he believes, they [the slaves] have to overcome to free themselves from slavery.

Douglass decision to fight back against Covey’s brutal beatings, for him as a slave, is the turning point “It was a glorious resurrection, from the tomb of slavery, to the heaven of freedom” he writes (Page 395). Finally, Walker’s Appeal is a treatise against slavery. It depicts the most despicable form of oppression that any human being could exert against another human being. Walker’s “Appeal” is the foundation for Martin Luther King ‘call to resist injustice by civil disobedience’ and Malcolm X assertion of ‘the right to self defense’.

Walker, while defending his work from slaveholders and many freed blacks, whom he calls ignorant for aiding the slaveholders, writes “I appeal to Heaven for my motive in writing-who knows that my object is, if possible to awaken in the breasts of my afflicted, degraded and slumbering brethren, a spirit of inquiry and investigation respecting our miseries and wretchedness in this REPUBLICAN LAND OF LIBERTY!!!!!! ” (David Walker’s Appeal, page 22) This, no doubt, is Walker’s political call for a coherent and collective effort among abolitionist.

I fund, Douglass and Walker clearly pointing out that the lack of education and the submissive attitude of slaves towards their master’s abuses perpetuated slavery. And even thought they both expressly criticized Christian ministers and Northerners for their indifference toward many inhuman crimes committed against slaves by slaveholders, I find Frederick Douglas political underline interest of his account, assuming that that was the reason for him to write the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas as an American Slave, my favorite story.

Frederick Douglas through his narrative provides a detail description of barbaric and outrages abuses that slaveholders, claiming a Christian self giving right to slavery—which under the U. S. government it was protected, committed against other human beings. By describing his own experiences as slave, he conveys the mental and emotional bondage as well as the physical suffering that slaveholders inflicted not just upon him but upon all Africans and African-Americans, who where held as a slaves in this country. He clearly demonstrates how slaves were made.

He begins by telling us where he was born, “I was born in Tuckahoe, near Hillsborough, and about twelve miles from Easton, in Talbot country, Maryland. ” (Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, page 339), and this introduction is important, it has no date of birth. Here, he illustrates one of the much mental bondage that slave owners had over their slaves, the privilege of knowing the date of birth was an exclusive right of white children, and for Douglass, this was a source of mental unhappiness during his childhood.

Douglass writes “slave children were separated during their first twelve months of live from their mothers. ” According to him, the intention of this action by salve owners was to further striped slaves of their identity from any possibility of loyalty toward other slave or slaves that this natural and emotional bond elicits. Douglass so poignantly writes, “Never having enjoyed, to any considerable extent, her soothing presence, her tender and watchful care, I received the tidings of her death with much the same emotions I should have probably felt at the death of a stranger. (Page 341) this passage clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of the emotional bondage and psychological damage of the slave system. In this case, he obviously was victim of his master who, perhaps, was his father! The tactics of incessant work and constant brutal punishment that that Douglass point up throughout his narrative shows how slaves were made and control. The following quote illustrates how slavery subjugated the mind and spirit of the slaves “My natural elasticity was crushed, my intellect languished, the disposition to read departed, the cheerful spark that lingered about my eye died; the dark night of slavery losed in upon me; and behold a man transformed into a brute! ” (Page 387) This quotation shows that humanity, reason, and knowledge were no longer part of Douglass fundamental nature. Mr. Covey succeeded. Douglas was transformed and dehumanized! Summarizing, Douglass narrative is the story of a slave becoming free, but it is also the story of how men are made into slaves. This juxtaposition, as the structural center for Douglass account, made it my favorite slave narrative.

However, I find that David Walker’s pamphlet “Appeal”, which uses as a literary device Scripture and the Declaration of Independence against Christian Americans and slaveholders, is a very effective as well as logical and rational approach against slavery. To the bloody-minded slaveholders, Walker’s pamphlet was a keen call for the immediate and unconditional emancipation of slaves around the world, but more specifically, of those living in the United States.