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Slavery was perhaps one of the most appalling tragedies in the history of The United States of America. To tell the people of the terrible facts, runaway slaves wrote their accounts of slavery down on paper and published it for the nation to read. Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs were just two of the many slaves who did this. Each of the slaves had different experiences with slavery, but they all had one thing in common: they tell of the abominable institution of slavery and how greatly it affected their lives. When Douglass was seven years old, he was sent to a new master and mistress, Hugh and Sophia Auld. Sophia was a very kind and affectionate woman, probably one of the nicest people Douglass had encountered in his early childhood life.
Heres what Douglass had to say about his new mistress: Her face was made of heavenly smiles and her voice of tranquil music (Douglas 41). This caused Douglass to view the whites differently than before. His previous owners were cruel and corrupt who often whipped and beat their slaves in agony. But not Mrs. Auld; Douglass was astonished at her kind heart. She treated Douglass and other black slaves like human beings.
She even began to teach him how to read and write. This led Douglass to believe that his own race could be treated like humans instead of savages by the whites and that the white race could have the capabilities of acting like human beings towards the blacks (Douglass 42). But when Sophia's husband discovered about the private lessons, he ordered her to stop. He told her that teaching Douglass to read would ruin him forever as a slave.
Hearing this affected Douglass values of having an education greatly; he became determined to read at all costs. Reading became everything and was his journey to freedom. This was a very important first step because he both learned of the world around him and the world outside of slavery. It was then that he became aware of his current status: a lowly slave that was considered to be a chattel. And it was then that he wanted his freedom.
Meanwhile, the venom slave owner began to poison Sophia's kind nature. Sadly, Douglass was once again a piece of meat and he no longer viewed the black race as one of the whites. Also, his views for white slave owners changed similarly; his heart was filled with abhorrence for them (Douglass 42). There were many times when Douglass thought about running away to become a free man, but there were few times when he was really determined to fulfill the risky and dangerous task. One of the few times came during the year when he worked for Edward Covey. Douglass became a field hand for the first time in his life.
It was one of the few times he felt like a slave. He was not skilled in the backbreaking work required of him. Covey was a harsh and brutal slaveholder. Mr. Covey made his slaves work in all weathers.
It was never too hot or too cold; it could never rain, blow, hail, or snow, too hard in the field (Douglass 66). And if it wasnt work, work, work, it was beatings, beatings, and beatings. Douglass was often whipped and battered for not working hard enough. Under Covey, Douglass and the other slaves were treated as the lowlifes of society, as low as horses and pigs.
After six months under Covey, Douglass lost interest in reading and the spirited character he once had in him extinguished. He was so sick of working for Covey and being a slave that he finally couldnt take it anymore, and wanted to be set loose from his shackles of doom (Douglass 63 - 72). Douglass wished he could swim so he could swim to his freedom or fly like a bird toward a new and better life. He desired for Gods help and asked him to set him free (Douglass 67). Douglass was so sick of being a slave that he even preferred death over bondage (Douglass 82).
Throughout Douglass life, he encountered many different people. But one proved to be a true friend, Sandy Jenkins, a slave who was married to a free woman. Sandy taught him a value of life that is probably one of the most important values - the value of friendship. One day, when Mr.
Covey was on another rampage of his, Douglass managed to escape but had no where to go. But luckily, he met Sandy and told him how Mr. Covey was going to get hold of him and Sandy kindly welcomed him to his house. Sandy, as a loyal friend, give Douglass guidance as to what procedure it was best for him to follow (Douglass 70). Also, he let Douglass on a secret about a certain root which if he carried on his right side, it would make it impossible for him to get a beating from any white man (Douglass 71). Surprisingly, the root worked at first.
But later, the luck of the root wore out and Mr. Covey began to beat Douglass as usual. Covey nearly broke him, but then Douglass defeated him while wearing the root, which strengthened Douglass resolve to resist Coveys violence. Harriet Jacobs was one of many slaves. Like Douglass, her life and perception of life were intensely affected by others.
In Jacobs narrative, she wrote about her desire for freedom and her views on the different races. She also demonstrated many points in her narrative that illustrated how her relationships with others influenced her values. Jacobs early childhood was probably one of the best times she had due to the person that owned her which was the ideal mistress that every slave would have desired. Jacobs was cared for by Mistress after her mother died. Unlike most other slaveholders who were harsh on slave children, Mistress was like a second mother to Jacobs. My mistress was so kind to me that I was always glad to do her bidding, and proud to labor for her as much as my young years would permit Those were happy days (Jacobs 119).
Under the ownership of this kind-hearted mistress, Jacobs was as free as an eagle. She could wander about to play and gather berries or flowers to decorate Mistress room. She decorated Mistress room because she truly loved her. Jacobs was a very lucky girl to have such a wonderful childhood with a pleasant white owner.
In fact, Jacobs was so happy with Mistress that she didnt even know she was a slave until she was six years old. She truly believed that whites were nice. But that would all change when Jacobs was twelve years old (Jacobs 199). Mistress became ill and died. During her sickness, Jacobs prayed that Mistress would get better and live.
Unfortunately, her prayers were not answered. Jacobs loved Mistress very much and that love caused her to mourn Mistress death. Jacobs first mistress was so nice that even the nearby children thought that upon her death, she would let Jacobs be free. But that was not the case; in the will of Mistress, it was ordered that her sisters daughter would acquire Jacobs (Jacobs 199 - 120). A persons childhood is the time when they learn the most. And in the case of Jacobs, she learned the goodness of whites at an early age.
As any other child who was treated kindly, Jacobs expected to be treated with kindness in her new home. Since her new owner, Emily Flint, was still too young to make decisions, her father, Dr. Flint, took control of Jacobs. Dr. Flint harassed and forbid Harriet to love anyone other than him. He told Jacobs that she must be subject to his will in all things (Jacobs 131 - 132).
Dr. Flint constantly made many efforts to force Jacobs to submit sexually to him. Her days with Dr. Flint were filled with misery. I had always been kindly treated, and tenderly cared for, until I came into the hands of Dr. Flint.
I had never wished for freedom till then (Jacobs 221). Jacobs had another fear besides being sexually harassed and that fear was being separated from her children. To Jacobs, freedom meant that she could free her own children and be united as a family with her as a loving mother (Appiah 15 - 16). But Jacobs knew that Dr. Flint would never let that happen so the only option for Jacobs was to run away. Her opportunity came when Jacobs rejected Dr.
Flints offer to become his concubine for the last time. As a punishment, he sent her out to do fieldwork on the plantation, leaving her children in the care of her grandmother (Jacobs 184). Also, Dr. Flint planned to send the kids to work on the plantation as well and upon learning this, she decided to run away (Jacobs 195 - 197). Jacobs assumed, correctly, as it turned out, that Dr.
Flint would sell her children if she fled (Jacobs 193). Jacobs's white lover, Mr. Sands, sent a speculator to Dr. Flint to purchase her children, and Dr. Flint sold them without knowing for whom the speculator was working (Jacobs 209 - 211). Secure in the belief that her children were safe, Jacobs spent the next seven years of her life hidden in a tiny room over a storeroom in her grandmother's house (Jacobs 249).
Jacobs had finally escaped from bondage so her children could escape from bondage. In later years after going through some other obstacles, Jacobs and her two children finally united and formed a family she had always yearned for. During the several years Jacobs stayed with the Flint family, she was very much isolated. Throughout the book, Dr. Flint wanted Jacobs all to himself.
One time when Jacobs went to a small party, Dr. Flint found out and became enraged. He told Jacobs that she didnt belong at the party. What he meant by that was Jacobs belonged at his home to serve him. Then he asked Jacobs if she was allowed to visit such people. And by this, Dr.
Flint implied that Jacobs could not go out to see other people or make any friends (Jacobs 183 - 184). Also, when Jacobs was hiding from Dr. Flint in the tiny room for seven years, there was no way possible for her to make any companions (Jacobs 249). Thus, Jacobs didnt have many friends. After years of seclusion in the secret room, the time came for Jacobs to escape to the north.
On the escape vessel, Jacobs met her old friend Fanny. Jacobs had been isolated from the outside world for seven years and now was the perfect time for her to form a special bond with another person of the same race who experienced similar sufferings. In the vessel, Fanny renewed Jacobs value of friendship. There, they escaped from slavery and comforted each other and became even greater friends (Jacobs 259 - 261).
These narratives are just two of many stories told by the slaves of America. Douglass and Jacobs were both writing as an unselfish act. They both wrote for the slaves whose voices were silenced and could not write or speak out on their own (Appiah 9). They wished to free their fellow slaves down in the south who were less fortunate and unable to escape.
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Research essay sample on Harriet Jacobs Early Childhood