Warning this post has terminology in it that maybe offensive to the reader. I have recently realized myself that, there is one word in particular that tears me up inside just to hear it spoken in common tongue. It was after reading these two stories that I realized how dirty and disgusting one word can make you feel.
I was assigned Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass, an American Slave and Incidents of a Slave Girl. Through these two Narratives I have learned a lot about the conditions and trials of the African American and were forced to work for little or nothing. To me these stories were heart wrenching and at the same time give me hope in the chaotic times in which we live today.
Mr. Fredrick Douglass and Ms. Linda Brent, I use Mr. and Ms. out of respect for these two courageous souls and their trials, were born into slavery and raised by their grandmothers. They also barely knew their mothers, but for different reasons. Mr. Douglass’s mother was sold to another slave holder when he an infant. Whereas, Ms. Brent’s mother died when she was six years old. Mr. Douglass did not know who his father was. There were rumors that his master was his father, yet no one knew for sure. Ms. Brent knew she was mulatttoe, because her grandmother had “Anglo-Saxon” blood in her. These were the times that were horrible for the black man and even worse for the black women. Yes, the men were whipped and beaten, but these wounds were only physical. The women on the other hand were raped, molested and were thought to be less valuable then the men, who worked in the fields. Ms. Brent was lucky in that respect; she was not raped. Although, she was constantly harassed and advanced upon by her second owner a Dr. Flint, when she was in her teens.
Ms. Brent knew her father he was a free black man, who was a skilled trades man and made money of his own, which was unusual. When Mr. Douglass started learning calk in the ship yard, had to give all the money he earned at first to Master Hugh, in Baltimore. Most and was trying to earn enough to buy his families freedom, but with no such luck. For the better part of her childhood she did not know she was a slave. She was taught how to read and write by her first mistress from age six; until she died when Ms. Brent was twelve. This was when she first realized her life was not really her own and was sent to her mistress’s sisters, whose husband was Dr. Flint. Mr. Douglass on the other hand did not have the luxury of learning how to read and write till he was sent to Baltimore. Then when his new mistress, who had been from the north, tried to teach him was stopped by her husband Mr. Auld. Mr. Auld, who fore bade her from instructing him any further said; “A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master-to do as he is told to do.” To summarize the rest that if you educated a person that they would be miserable and may rise up against his slave holder. This did not stop Mr. Douglass though, he came up with an ingenious plan, I think, and tricked the kids on the street to teach him how to read and write. He did this by telling him he already knew how to read and write, then when he did not get it write they would show him, not knowing that they were teaching him.
Mr. Douglass was raised in Maryland where was thought that they treated their slaves better than below the Mason-Dixon line. Through my reading these narrative, I saw very little difference between the two myself. Ms. Brent Being from South Carolina saw many of the same things going on, as Mr. Douglass. Although, I remember a particular scene in which she described a man being strung up by his chest and having hot lard dripped on him for disobeying his slave holder. I read this and cringed at the thought. How could people be so cruel to another? Later we find out that Ms. Brent passed on her knowledge to an older slave who wanted to know how to read the bible, so he could be closer to God.
Another thing they both witnessed in their lives is when their slave holders found god they, became even more cruel to their slave. The slave holders could find justifications for their treatment of slaves in the bible and strengthened by their religious leaders. Mr. Douglass said: “my master attended a Methodist camp meeting held by the Bay-side, Talbot county and experienced religion…” and continued “It neither made him to be humane to his slaves, nor to emancipate them.” Which he hoped for so dearly it would. Ms. Brent described a similar experience with Dr. Flint. When he found religion is when he stared to be crueler to her and hit her on a couple other occasions. This is something he did not do but once before.
Dr. Flint did not rape Ms. Brent, but this did not stop his unwanted advances toward her. Not only did she not want these advances, this also made his wife jealous of her and whenever Mrs. Flint could she would try and make Ms. Brent’s life miserable. Dr. Flint was obsessed with Ms. Brent to the point where she would try anything to make him not want to have anything to do with her. To this point she ended up having two children with a man she didn’t love, but whom treated her decent. These attempts did not stop his advances to the contrary, these two children gave him leverage over her. In order to save her children, she planned her escape hoping that if she ran, he would sell them. Now, I know this sound bad, but the father of the children was ready to purchase them from Dr. Flint. Though it took quite a while, but eventually Dr. Flint did sell them to a slave trader who unbeknownst to him was sympathetic to Ms. Brent and her family. Dr. Flint did not want to sell them, but because of his obsession with her that he barrowed $500 with interest to go find her in New York where he thought she was. It was this that caused him to be low on money, so he had to sell them. The person he borrowed the money from was harboring Ms. Brent in the attic of her home. After reading about this I laughed so hard, for she had finally gotten the better of him in some way.
Mr. Douglass Had tried to run a way about three times before he finally made it to New York. There he had no friends and did not know who to trust. This was until he met a man by the name of Mr. David Ruggles who helped him to secure passage to New Bedford. Before he left for New Bedford he met a woman who would be his wife Anna. They traveled together to their new home. For Ms. Brent her journey to freedom took a long time. She did not try to escape, but once and it was a long journey. Hiding at one friends home, then she went to another’s hiding in her attic for quite a while. The next place she hid was in the crawl space above her grandmothers shed. In all these situations she had multiple close calls with Dr. Flint. Eventually she made to Philadelphia and then New York and she was a free woman.