Black Slaves Harriet Jacobs and Frederick Douglas Term Paper

Pages: 3 (924 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

Slavery Narratives

Basing their arguments on personal testimony, Harriet Jacobs and Frederick Douglass both argue against the institution of slavery. Both Jacobs' "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" and Douglass' "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass" contain graphic imagery. On a purely emotional level, the two slave narratives offer poignant proof that slavery is an unjustifiable social institution. However, Jacobs and Douglass also rely on logic in their respective arguments. Their rhetoric is clear, pointing out flaws in the apologists' arguments. For example, both authors devote part of their narratives to exposing the hypocrisy of Christianity for condoning and sometimes championing slavery. Their appeal for a consistent religious ethic is the core strength of both Jacobs' and Douglass' narratives. Both authors also refer to American law to show how slavery contradicts the tenets of the Constitution. Because their narratives share similar rhetorical foundations, neither is more effective than the other.

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Harriet Jacobs concentrates more on gender than Douglass does, writing from her perspective as a female slave. Douglass also alludes to the ways sexuality is used as power in the unequal relationship between slave master and slave. He was the illegitimate son of a slave owner. Yet Jacobs' abject fear of Dr. Flint provides a far more compelling testimonial to how gender and power are intertwined. Jacobs illustrates the ways slave women have had to negotiate their bodies and their wombs in ways males will never encounter except by observation.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Black Slaves Harriet Jacobs and Frederick Douglas Assignment

As a male, Douglass has not experienced first hand how the threat of rape adds another dimension to the experience of being a slave. Yet gender does play a strong role in Douglass' "Narrative of the Life." For example, Douglass can physically challenge Covey in ways a women could not do. Douglass also shows how gender segregation affects the lives of slaves, restricting their ability to form social alliances and disrupting families. Thus, even if Douglass does not write from a female perspective he remains keenly aware of how gender and power interplay in the institution of slavery.

Both Jacobs and Douglass discuss the ways the state supports slavery. Laws protect slave owners, preserving their right to beat and kill slaves. Douglass addresses the law in the context of being beaten by a group of whites in Chapter 10. Fighting back would be treated as an affront to the law. The law protects the rights of slave owners to buy, sell, and trade people. Without any legal protection, slaves cannot help but seek subversive means of survival. Jacobs hides in an attic because the law will not protect her right to self-determination. No slave has the right to self-determination under the laws of nineteenth-century America.

Just as Jacobs and Douglass point out the discrepancies in the way slaves are… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Black Slaves Harriet Jacobs and Frederick Douglas.  (2007, November 26).  Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/black-slaves-harriet-jacobs-frederick/6703969

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"Black Slaves Harriet Jacobs and Frederick Douglas."  Essaytown.com.  November 26, 2007.  Accessed December 1, 2021.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/black-slaves-harriet-jacobs-frederick/6703969.