By: Tiger Zhang, Edie Zhou, Henry Wang, Gahwon Lee
The Legacy of Fredrick Douglass
Douglass was born to an unknown white master and a slave mother in Maryland of 1818, the lowest of births that he could have received. Despite this, Douglass would fiercely fight for his and other slaves freedom.
By the time he was seven, Douglass’s mother had died leaving him basically orphaned. Despite the uncertain circumstances and his witness of the degradations of slavery, Douglass persevered on.
Sent out to Baltimore at a young age, Douglass taught himself how to read where he learned about the words of Abolitionists, inspiring him to escape to freedom and help others do so as well.
Through his knowledge of ships and sailor talk, Douglass disguised himself as a seaman and convinced a train conductor in his daring escape to freedom. Had the conductor not believed his story or simply looked closer at Douglass papers, douglass would never have achieved freedom.
By the 1840s, Douglass was completely free in the north, but despite his own personal freedom, Douglass continued to work hard for the freedom and equality of everyone by publishing the abolitionist newspaper North Star and giving speeches for the abolition of slavery.
Douglass’s voice has been very active the past several decades, calling for freedom of all slaves and exposing the mistreatment of them in his autobiographies, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, My Bondage and My Freedom, and The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. These works have inspired countless others to also raise their voice against the inhumane practice of slavery.
Douglass has worked well with many other reformers of his time, William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Owen Lovejoy, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, and Susan B. Anthony come to mind.
Douglass was called by Abraham Lincoln “the most meritorious man of the nineteenth century, acting as high consul to Haiti and advisor to the president.
At the outbreak of the Civil War, blacks still were not allowed to serve in regiments even in the north. Douglass convinced Lincoln to change this and then begun active recruiting of blacks to the Union Army.
- Once the Civil War ended, Douglass continued to remain active in the political climate by advocating for more reforms. He strongly opposed Jim Crow Laws and lynching and tried desperately to give blacks and women the rights they deserved.
Uncle Tom's Cabin
Harriet Beecher Stowe was a female abolitionist who wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Harriet Beecher Stowe received an education normally reserved for boys that was more enriched than that of a normal girl at the time. Equipped with her enriched knowledge, Beecher Stowe wrote a novel that depicted the harsh conditions of African slaves which garnered support among abolitionists in the North but angered the slaveowners of the South. While the book established stereotypes of African Americans for years to come, the book also opened the eyes of many people in the United States to the reality of slavery.
3. Uncle Tom’s Cabin presents the harsh treatment of faith and the underlying nobility of the common man in a very profound manner to illustrate slaves as normal people with values just as noble as the common man who happen to suffer from extremely harsh treatment. The book also describes how people who had committed bad deeds could become reformed people and end up as better people with wholesome morals.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin begins with the story of a farmer in Kentucky named Arthur Shelby and his wife, Emily Shelby. After accruing debts that threatened them with the loss of his farm, Arthur Shelby decides to sell two of his slaves to raise funds to sustain his farm: Uncle Tom and Harry: the son of Emily Shelby’s maid, Eliza. Fearing for the fate of her only surviving child, Eliza decides to flee the farm upon hearing Arthur and Emily Shelby discussing plans to sell Harry, leaving only Tom to be sold. Tom ends up befriending a girl named Eva St. Clare after being sold to a slave trader and is subsequently purchased by Eva’s father. Tom and Eva are able to relate each other due to the Christian faith they both shared.
At this point, the book shifts to Eliza. During Eliza’s escape, she meets with her previously escaped husband, George Harris, and they both decide to run to Canada with their son. However, they are followed by a slave tracker named Tom Loker who eventually tracks down the trio. Loker is pushed off a cliff by George Harris but is saved by Eliza, who convinces George to leave Loker at a Quaker settlement to receive medical treatment.
The book then shifts back to Tom’s life with Eva and the other St. Clares in New Orleans. Tom lives with the St. Clares for two years during which Eva dies and describes a vision of heaven. Eva’s death and vision causes many changes in the those close to her, namely her father deciding to free Tom. However, before Eva’s father has a chance to free Tom, Eva’s father is stabbed outside a tavern and dies. Eva’s mother goes back on the promise Eva’s father made and Tom is sold to a plantation owner named Simon Legree. Legree takes Tom to rural Louisiana to work on his plantation. Legree begins to hate Tom when Tom refuses to whip a fellow slave so Legree vows to destroy Tom’s faith in god and begins to treat Tom cruelly. Even in light of Legree’s cruel treatment, Tom remains staunch in his faith keeps reading his bible and comforting other slaves. While at the plantation, Tom also meets a slave named Cassy on Legree’s plantation.
The story then shifts to Loker, who is shown to have been reformed after being healed by the Quakers and also reports the success of Eliza’s escape with her son and husband to Canada.
Meanwhile in Louisiana, Tom nearly succumbs to the cruelty of Legree but has visions of Eva and Jesus which reinforce Tom’s face even in the face of death. Tom encourages his fellow slave Cassy to escape during which she also takes a slave named Emmeline with her. Tom remains behind and refuses to tell Legree where Cassy and Emmeline had run off to. Tom is then beaten to death by Legree’s overseers but he forgives them right before his own death. Tom’s words has a profound effect on the overseers, who become Christians themselves.
Cassy and Emmeline then meet George Harris’s sister and accompanies her to Canada. While meeting George Harris, she discovers that his wife is actually her lost daughter. The group travels to France and Liberia as a reunited family.
Shortly after Tom’s death, the son of Arthur and Emily Shelby, George Shelby, shows up to rescue Tom by purchasing him but finds out that Tom had already been killed. George Shelby returns to his farm. George Shelby is dismayed by Tom’s death and orders that all his slaves be freed. George tells everybody to remember Tom’s sacrifice and Tom’s staunch faith in the true meaning of Christianity.
4. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book inspired many to see the evils of slavery and inspired many to speak out against slavery in an effort to redeem themselves for having turned a blind eye to slavery.
Sketch of the Life of Mr. Lewis Charlton, and Reminiscences of Slavery
Lewis Charlton was a former African American slave who later fought against inequalities faced by blacks in comparison to whites. He was born to a father and mother who left him at a young age, sold into slavery. He was raised by the master’s wife, who he described as coldhearted and tyrannical and compared her to the demon. After he truend seven, he worked on the plantations. Throughout his childhood, he was sold to different masters multiple times. Sometimes, his master was actually kindhearted and nice, but other times he described the masters as mean and demonic who “feared neither God, man, or Satan”. After he obtained his freedom, he lived with other men but faced unfair treatment. Once, a man named Gladding never paid him $235 that he owed Charleton. When he went to the court to argue, he was discriminated against and didn’t earn anything. Later, he acquired funds to establish a church/school where teachers could instruct colored youth. However, the school was later closed due to the hatred against it and insufficient funds.
Charlton had in depth described how he switched from many masters and emphasized the terrible and cold-hearted masters through the detailed descriptions of his whippings and how he worked endless hours night and day. He describes his childhood of how his masters expected much work out of him. He also emphasizes the cold-heartedness of his masters by acknowledging that some of the masters before had actually been nice and kindhearted. After he was liberated, Charlton talks about how he was discriminated and unpaid using a very powerful narrative voice. His frustrations and anger were illuminated on paper as clearly as in a speech. Through his struggles to build a schoolhouse for colored youth, Charleton communicated to the public that granting slaves freedom isn’t enough to solve the main problem.
Charlton was inspired by the idea of the immense cruelty and poor treatment of both enslaved and liberated African Americans because he felt it was quite unfair, especially with how the masters expected him to accomplish an expectation beyond his capability, especially at the young age. He was motivated to share his story because he wanted to spread the inequalities experienced by them.
Charlton’s narrative proved that education for non-whites was possible. Society should not ignore the problem of uneducated but free African Americans since “we sustain relations to the whole human family; we are children of one common parent, we are the heirs of one common inheritance”. He wanted people in the north to realize that just granting slaves freedom is not enough to solve the problem. Every human beings, no matter what race or class, should be treated equally and fairly.