Douglass, King and Legal Justice Nearly 100 Essay

Pages: 3 (846 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 2  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Business - Law

Douglass, King and Legal Justice

Nearly 100 years separated the abolitionist writings of Frederick Douglass from the desegregationist writings of Martin Luther King, Jr. However, the themes the permeate some of their most prominent works are nearly identical. The purpose of this discussion is to demonstrate that theme of resisting unjust laws explicitly stated in King's 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail is more implicitly recognized a century prior in Franklin Douglass' 1845 Narrative of the Life of Franklin Douglass: An American Slave. Both take a highly dignified and articulated approach to deconstructing the irrational nature of the greatest of indignities; the deprivation of a man's freedom.


From the perspective of a freedman writing on his experiences as a slave, Douglass outlines the horrifying details of his life in bondage. The scenario he describes is a legally sanctioned and deeply institutionalized dehumanization of black Americans. As Douglass describes it in his memoirs, slaves were stripped of their humanity and treated as livestock. Douglass details 'feeding time' for instance, in which 'Mush' "was put into a large wooden tray or trough, and set down upon the ground. The children were then called, like so many pigs, and like so many pigs they would come and devour the mush." (Douglass, 64)Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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By depriving them of both freedom and humanity, slavers debased their captives to the extent that they were truly unable to see their own rights. Slaves were forced to accept an inherently unjust situation with such ingrained intensity that they were unable to differentiate between that which was just and that which was unjust. Though Douglass recognized the deplorable treatment that he and his brethren received, the peculiar institution of Southern slavery hardly allowed room for legal scrutiny. Unquestionably, the laws were designed to protect the right of whites to buy, sell and own black Americans like property. Just or unjust, the laws were not seen as a bastion of opportunity for African-Americans. Certainly though, Douglass can be observed in the experience of attempting numerous times and finally succeeding in escaping to have known the importance of resisting the injustice before him.

His education would especially elucidate this reality. For Douglass, the greatest crime of slavery was the degree to which it intentionally robbed man of his own ability to think and grow. Education, his experience tells, was harshly frowned upon by slave traders, who perceived this as a path to rebellion. Accordingly, Douglass remarks, "how accursed is that system, which entombs the godlike mind of man, defaces the divine image, reduces those… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Douglass, King and Legal Justice Nearly 100" Essay in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Douglass, King and Legal Justice Nearly 100.  (2013, June 27).  Retrieved December 1, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Douglass, King and Legal Justice Nearly 100."  27 June 2013.  Web.  1 December 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Douglass, King and Legal Justice Nearly 100."  June 27, 2013.  Accessed December 1, 2021.