Douglass and Jacobs

Douglass and Jacobs - Joseph Henry September 20th, 2007...

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Word Count: 1305 Joseph Henry September 20 th , 2007 Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs: The Shared and Unique Experiences of Two Enslaved African-Americans Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl reveal a special truth about slavery that is often overlooked. Many studies of slavery concede that the institution had a negative effect over those it enslaved, but fail to recognize that not every enslaved African-American had the same formulaic cotton-picking plantation experience. In reality, experiences in slavery varied in ways as unique as every enslaved African-American, and had every one written his or her own narrative, those texts would have reflected not only common sentiments but also distinct experiences just as those of Douglass and Jacobs do. Besides this blaring truth, these narratives furthermore help illustrate other sides of slavery beyond the often thought-of cowhide crack and supper-bell summons. Indeed, both Douglass and Jacobs parallel each other in much of their experiences as enslaved African-Americans, but also provide distinct accounts of the effects of slavery on masters, literacy, and gender-specific experiences in slavery, and in doing so, help to quash the mass pigeonholing that enslaved so many African-Americans in the first place. By illuminating the effects of slavery on masters, Douglass and Jacobs help quell the notion that slavery only harmed the enslaved. Douglass explains how the institution threatened the structure of the slave-holding family. Often, a master would have children with his female enslaved African-Americans, who for the mistress would be a constant tangible reminder of her
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Henry 2 husband’s indiscretion. Mistresses would express their feelings of betrayal in the form of contempt for the children, and masters would look on as the children he had with his wife punished their half-siblings. Slavery, as Douglass observed, thus had the potential to destroy the very fabric of the American slave-holding family. Douglass also highlights the religious
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Douglass and Jacobs - Joseph Henry September 20th, 2007...

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