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Frederick Douglass Essay

Frederick Douglass is one of the most cultivating figures in African American history due to his trailblazing path of unapologetic truth. He is at the forefront of a lineage of historically significant figures. People today learn from and use it for accuracy when describing being a black man during slave times. Frederick Douglass’s escape helped disprove the stereotypes of enslaved people singing and African Americans being incapable of being literate. Douglass’s freedom and the story are essential for us to know about today because this teaches us about accurate descriptions of slavery and helps us learn how privileged we are in society today (Douglass, 1962). Lastly, knowledge of Douglass’s escape mattered during the enslavement because it gave other enslaved people hope and faith in a future where blacks could be free, empowering people.

When Frederick Douglass was able to write his book, one of the points he spoke on that defeated one of the stereotypes that faced blacks during these horrible times was singing. It was thought in the North that singing was a positive thing and that enslaved people were singing because they were happy to be enslaved and doing whatever their master told them to do. In the documentary Ethnic Notions, the character “Mammy” was often portrayed singing when doing a task around the house.

This is one example of propaganda that led northerners to think blacks were happy. However, Douglass states in his book, “I have often been utterly astonished, since I came to the North, to find persons who could speak of the singing, among enslaved people, as evidence of their contentment and happiness. It is impossible to conceive of a greater mistake”(Douglass, 1962). This shows that equating slave singing with happiness is a false notion.

This stereotype was put on blacks to make it seem as if they were no reason to vote against slavery because they were content doing what they were doing. The other stereotype Frederick Douglass disproved was “zip coon” by showing he was capable of reading, writing, and being a freeman in the North. In Ethnic Notions, “zip coon” was a stereotype white performers used to mock enslaved Black people who wanted independence and literacy (Notions, 1986). “Zip Coon” showed blacks in a dark light and displayed blacks not being able to handle themselves in a free society. Douglas tackles this stereotype easily by writing his book and demonstrating his skills with other literate free men doing the same.

Douglass’s freedom and story are so important today because they can help us navigate life by showing us how blessed we are no matter what race. We can use accurate descriptions from Douglass’s story and compare them to life now, which is priceless. We need knowledge of the past to have a direction for the future. Douglass providing details into the beatings he received from Mr Covey, painted a picture of life for us in these times. “Mr. Covey took up the hickory slat with which Hughes had been striking off the half-bushel measure, and gave me a heavy blow upon the head (Douglass, 1962).” With such vivid memories and stories, Douglass helps our youth and adults live in the present and appreciate life for what it is.

We can all make our own decisions and choices without immediate physical punishment. However, what Douglass provides is accurate descriptions of these times, and this allows for the people who speak on slavery with no background history to go gain some knowledge on how horrible mentally, physically, and spiritually it was for enslaved people. For example, Kanye West says, “When you hear about slavery for 400 years … For 400 years? That sounds like a choice.”(Kaur, 2018). This book and what Frederick Douglass provides to modern-day readers with his legacy can give him valuable knowledge on what it was to be enslaved and insight into how his comments line up with the accurate historical context.

During slave times, Douglass’s escape should have met a great deal with other enslaved people still in captivity because it should have registered as a beacon of hope. Seeing someone who comes from what you come from be free and tell his story should inspire you to push forward and believe in freedom. When Douglass is asked how it feels to be a free man, he says, “it was a moment of the highest excitement I ever experienced” (Douglass, 1962). This response is something someone enslaved at that time could use for hope, so they could keep believing in better days.

In conclusion, Frederick Douglass left an astonishing legacy for today’s world and the past. A single essay or article cannot measure his leadership and courage. Hopefully, we will continue to speak his name and story and, most importantly, live every day, taking advantage of an ideal he helped put in place for us today.


Douglass, F. (1962). Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave (p. 54). Random House, Incorporated.

Kaur, H. (2018). Kanye West just said 400 years of slavery was a choice. CNN Entertainment.

Notions, E. (1986). Marlon Riggs. California Newsreel.


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