Close-Reading Assignment (US History I – To 1877): Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Essay Sample)
US History I – To 1877
In this paper, you will do a close reading of two texts: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave by Frederick Douglass, and the excerpt of Cannibals All by George Fitzhugh. Douglass and Fitzhugh were contemporaries, but one was a slave and the other a slave owner.
You will write a 3-4 page paper using only these sources in which you compare and contrast their arguments on slavery. For example, you may think of these two writers as being in dialogue or debate over the issue of slavery in order to analyze their arguments and their rhetoric – that is, how they make their arguments. You will be expected to dig quite a bit deeper than simply a superficial exposition of their points.
Some things to consider might include: Who are these writers, and where are they coming from socially and intellectually? Who is the intended audience for each text? How do they justify their opinions on slavery? What kind of language, symbolism and rhetoric do they use? How do their arguments relate to social, cultural or economic conditions in the United States?
The issue of slavery is one that has been a thorny element in the American culture. There are mixed reactions towards the topic, as different factions illicit different opinions on the topic, relative to the different social and cultural significance the element of slavery played on the American culture development (Williams). The different opinions are drawn from the fact that that there is a faction of the people that believed in slavery and those that were opposed to slavery (Fitzhugh). There are literally material to paint the picture of the debate between those that supported slavery and those that were against it. In this paper the debate is largely based on the voice of a slave and that of a proslavery activist. Frederick Douglass had been a slave and voices the struggles and the point of view of the people that have had to endure the horrors of being a slave (Douglass). On the other hand George Fitzhugh was a slave master a staunch advocate of the slavery practices and therefore gives voice to people that supported the practice (Fitzhugh).
Fitzhugh had been born of a family that was experiencing financial downtime, in Virginia. Although Fitzhugh had been sent to the local primary school, he had been largely self-educated. In his adult life, he became a staunch advocate of the slavery trade and forced labor in the south (Fitzhugh). His book Cannibals All! Or, Slaves without Masters, is largely directed at people that supported the slave trade and the ideology that having the African Americans under slavery was doing them justice. The book is based on a skewed sense of justice and white supremacy, which largely discriminated the African Americans. It deemed them as lower human beings (Fitzhugh).
In the justification of the practices, Fitzhugh referenced various classical examples where forced labor brought about productivity, such as, the Bible, Irish peasants as oppressed by capitalism, Gypsy people and poor working condition in factories England. In his argument, the elements of slavery in the south were economically justifiable and even socially superior that what took place in the north, where slaves were held under free labor mechanisms (Fitzhugh). The rhetoric in his argument, the forced labor in the south was more humane than the free labor in the north, as the slaves working in the south experienced more happiness and freedom. He felt that slaves in the north were oppressed as they had to go back to their families after the labor hours were over and would now be tortured by the needs of their families. Relative to the evils of capitalism, Fitzhugh felt that, it made poor people poorer, unlike the element of slavery that capitalized the profits, offered the slaves necessities, comfort and supportive community and a support system. In ...
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