The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery

The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery - The Dehumanizing...

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The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery ________
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When one is born into slavery, his conception of happiness and sorrow is distorted. Slaves were inured to sorrow, their souls in chains, so any bit of happiness was magnified for them a thousand-fold. Slavery as described by Frederick Douglass, was a terrible and dehumanizing institution. Slave masters and overseers felt that slaves were inferior beings, not humans on the same level as themselves. They often withheld from slaves such basic knowledge as one’s birthday, parents, and age. Knowing how to read or write was punishable by death. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Angelina Grimké Weld's speech at Pennsylvania Hall offer insights that illustrate slave life was designed by their masters and overseers to be repressed and subordinate, continually fearful and ignorant, eliminating the thought of escape. The lifestyle and treatment of the slaves make blacks think of themselves as less than human and inferior to whites. Slaves commonly don’t know their own name, age and who their parents are. Frederick Douglass recounts how he did not know his age until his master made a comment about his being seventeen. He still did not know his birthday, but had to approximate his age. Slaves were often beaten and killed for the slightest of infractions. Female slaves were often raped by their masters, and having to give birth to their master’s children. They lived in squalor and constant hunger. Douglass tells the story of how slaves were fed a mushy cornmeal from a large, communal trough, where they ate on their hands and knees like pigs or cows: “Our food was coarse corn meal boiled. This was called mush . It was put into a large wooden tray or trough, and set down upon the ground. The children were then called like so many pigs…He that ate fastest got most; he that was strongest secured the best place; and few left the through satisfied” (Page 359). Douglass’s bluntness about the adversity he suffers as a young slave secures his narrative’s authenticity. He maintains the forthright tone during his account.
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One of the ways that slave owners debased and dehumanized slaves was splitting up families. This separation “is a common custom…to part children from their mothers at
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This document was uploaded on 04/07/2008.

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The Dehumanizing Effects of Slavery - The Dehumanizing...

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