188 Matching Annotations
  1. Apr 2024
    1. There is a reason that the abolitionist Frederick Douglass said that between the Christianity of this land (America) and the Christianity of Christ, he recognized the “widest possible difference.”

      specific quote? direct source?

  2. Sep 2018
  3. instructure-uploads.s3.amazonaws.com instructure-uploads.s3.amazonaws.com
    1. oneconsistinginthementionofactualpastfacts,theotherintheinventionoffactsbythespeaker.()fthelatter.again,therearetwovan'eties,theillustrativeparalle

      Douglass draws an illustrative parallel to facts of the past when he references the decline of Babylon and uses this parallel to invoke empathy by demonstrating that the celebratory moment of the Fourth of July is built on the suffering of many. Douglass says, “Fellow-citizens; above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them.” Although, some may dispute that the Biblical reference is an actual event (that is an entirely different discussion), for Douglass this parallel is effective because it also appeals to the religious beliefs of the free Americans. It demonstrates the hypocrisy of the actions by the very white men who have invited him to speak to them. On one hand, the freemen appear to be inclusive of slaves because they invited Douglass to speak; on the other hand, they must not forget that this extraordinary jubilee does not include the speaker himself. This inductive technique must lead the freemen to reevaluate their own beliefs and should lead to recognition of how they are a shame before all men and before God.

  4. Feb 2018
    1. choke, for heavenly union.

      violent double entendre

    2. the memorable Darg case
    3. He would read his hymn, and nod at me to commence. I would at times do so; at others, I would not. My non-compliance would almost always produce much confusion. To show himself independent of me, he would start and stagger through with his hymn in the most discordant manner.

      FD finds a method of revolt in humiliating Mr. Covey in his religious procedures.

    4. t neither made him to be humane to his slaves, nor to emancipate them. If it had any effect on his character, it made him more cruel and hateful in all his ways; for I believe him to have been a much worse man after his conversion than before. Prior to his conversion, he relied upon his own depravity to shield and sustain him in his savage barbarity; but after his conversion, he found religious sanction and support for his slaveholding cruelty. He made the greatest pretensions to piety. His house was the house of prayer. He prayed morning, noon, and night.

      Rings familiar to this day, particularly with many of the voices in American politics right now.

    5. when the beginning and ending of human existence meet, and helpless infancy and painful old age combine together

      heart-wrenching comment on how the arc of a human's life bends back in on itself

    6. having outlived my old master and all his children, having seen the beginning and end of all of them, and her present owners finding she was of but little value, her frame already racked with the pains of old age, and complete helplessness fast stealing over her once active limbs, they took her to the woods, built her a little hut, put up a little mud-chimney, and then made her welcome to the privilege of supporting herself there in perfect loneliness;

      A really filmic bit of language, almost like watching a movie reel roll in fast motion and sputter out when it reaches its end.

    7. he fruit of abolition.

      This phrase and the use of italics imply that this phrase is new and not fully understood by Douglass. The italics seem like an oratory cue to a specific vocal inflection.

    8. died away for want of utterance

      The difficulty of not being able to "get it out."

    9. She finally became even more violent in her opposition than her husband himself. She was not satisfied with simply doing as well as he had commanded; she seemed anxious to do better.

      The virulent reality of slave ownership and accompanying violence also play out in the marital realm.

    10. I must hold on to that, to preserve a sense of my identity

      A stark contrast to enslaved peoples who were stripped of all senses of identity and individuality.

    11. For of all slaveholders with whom I have ever met, religious slaveholders are the worst.

      So ironic

    12. The days between Christmas and New Year’s day are allowed as holidays; and, accordingly, we were not required to perform any labor, more than to feed and take care of the stock

      This is the first time I've ever heard about this "break".

    13. That reputation was at stake; and had he sent me—a boy about sixteen years old—to the public whipping-post, his reputation would have been lost; so, to save his reputation, he suffered me to go unpunished.

      Again, slaveholders only did certain things to uphold their image amongst their peers. Often times, their reputation was the most important thing.

    14. career as a slave

      The use of the word career here bothers me. When I think of one's career I think of their calling. It is usually something they enjoy, where there's room for growth an advancement. While it bothers me, it also makes sense that he uses it because most people spent their entire lives as slaves. Slavery was literally their lifetime career.

    15. Here was a recently-converted man, holding on upon the mother, and at the same time turning out her helpless child, to starve and die!

      They didn't see the hypocrisy because they didn't view the enslaved as actual people.

    16. he would quote this passage of Scripture—”He that knoweth his master’s will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes.”

      Slaveholders often conveniently used the Bible to justify slavery

    17. and of all men, adopted slaveholders are the worst

      Slaveholder version of the Napoleon complex? They feel the need to prove themselves because they are not authentic in terms of their peers

    18. A single word from the white men was enough—against all our wishes, prayers, and entreaties—to sunder forever the dearest friends, dearest kindred, and strongest ties known to human beings.

      To the slave masters and traders, they were not human beings but merely property. Family ties and bonds don't matter when you aren't even seen as being human.

    19. The whole six months afterwards, that I spent with Mr. Covey, he never laid the weight of his finger upon me in anger. He would occasionally say, he didn’t want to get hold of me again. “No,” thought I, “you need not; for you will come off worse than you did before.”

      At the end, it seems like Mr. Covey was the one to break and not Douglass.

    20. I was now, for the first time in my life, a field hand. In my new employment, I found myself even more awkward than a country boy appeared to be in a large city. I had been at my new home but one week before Mr. Covey gave me a very severe whipping, cutting my back, causing the blood to run, and raising ridges on my flesh as large as my little finger.

      After observing slaves being whipped, he is now being whipped, and marked.

    21. power of truth

      Truth being the primary tool against the deception used by slaveholders to control enslaved peoples.

    22. I seldom had much to say at the meetings, because what I wanted to say was said so much better by others.

      Funny, considering he became a master orator.

    23. I must leave unexplained, for the reasons before mentioned.

      By writing his own narrative and controlling his story, he is thus able to remove and exclude parts of his tale as he sees fit.

    24. I have never approved of the very public manner in which some of our western friends have conducted what they call the underground railroad, but which I think, by their open declarations, has been made most emphatically the upper-ground railroad.

      The publicizing of something innately private and secret for the sake of what? Their own ego? The prestige of supporting abolitionism?

    25. Their reason for this, as alleged, was, that if free colored carpenters were encouraged, they would soon take the trade into their own hands, and poor white men would be thrown out of employment.

      This echoes the fear that enslaved peoples will overturn the hegemony and enslave white people.

    26. They came because they wished to learn. Their minds had been starved by their cruel masters. They had been shut up in mental darkness.

      The need to learn/reason being the condition for humanity.

    27. So, when the holidays ended, we staggered up from the filth of our wallowing, took a long breath, and marched to the field,—feeling, upon the whole, rather glad to go, from what our master had deceived us into a belief was freedom, back to the arms of slavery.

      Depression and hypocrisy once again tools to reinforce the institution of slavery.

    28. The truth was, that he had not whipped me at all.

      The altering of truth to preserve the ego.

    29. O, why was I born a man, of whom to make a brute!

      The direct comparison of enslaved peoples to animals once again.

    30. breeder

      Like an animal.

    31. He seemed to think himself equal to deceiving the Almighty.

      Pointing out the hypocrisy of religion.

    32. He was under every tree, behind every stump, in every bush, and at every window, on the plantation.

      The traumatic stress of constantly being watched, being inscribed upon by a master's gaze.

    33. When we were at work in the cornfield, he would sometimes crawl on his hands and knees to avoid detection, and all at once he would rise nearly in our midst, and scream out,

      The joy of cruelty.

    34. breaking young slaves

      This "breaking" of young slaves, right after the mention of horses has to be intentional. Is this gross comparison of humans to horses, to animals, supposed to make the breaking of a person's will more palatable?

    35. he found religious sanction and support for his slaveholding cruelty. He made the greatest pretensions to piety. His house was the house of prayer. He prayed morning, noon, and night. He very soon distinguished himself among his brethren, and was soon made a class-leader and exhorter.

      The hypocrisy of religion and religious texts used to excuse and support the antithesis of its many teachings are thus made clear.

    36. The rule is, no matter how coarse the food, only let there be enough of it.

      The word 'coarse' appears here again, synonymous to slavery and enslavement.

    37. She stands—she sits—she staggers—she falls—she groans—she dies—and there are none of her children or grandchildren present, to wipe from her wrinkled brow the cold sweat of death, or to place beneath the sod her fallen remains

      The deliberate irony here between the grandmother's death and her former master's is tragic.

    38. she had peopled his plantation with slaves;

      bodies and people are thus equated to property

    39. Not a slave was left free. All remained slaves, from the youngest to the oldest.

      and all remained property

    40. I had known what it was to be kindly treated; they had known nothing of the kind.

      The notion that kindness can "spoil" or cause more damage than cruelty is striking.

    41. A single word from the white men was enough—against all our wishes, prayers, and entreaties—to sunder forever the dearest friends, dearest kindred, and strongest ties known to human beings.

      A single uttered word vs. a muted silence

    42. we had no more voice in that decision than the brutes among whom we were ranked.

      Lack of control over their own narrative

    43. I, however, remembered the place very well. I was only about five years old when I left it, to go and live with my old master on Colonel Lloyd’s plantation; so that I was now between ten and eleven years old.

      age based entirely upon the 'master'

    44. I then had to regret that I did not at least make the attempt to carry out my resolution to run away; for the chances of success are tenfold greater from the city than from the country.

      The blame upon the self.

    45. Their joy at my return equalled their sorrow at my departure.

      Douglass is "valued" in Baltimored

    46. I had known what it was to be kindly treated; they had known nothing of the kind. They had seen little or nothing of the world. They were in very deed men and women of sorrow, and acquainted with grief. Their backs had been made familiar with the bloody lash, so that they had become callous; mine was yet tender;

      The other slaves have physical marks in their backs of their experience as slaves, their experience or story is told through their callous back. Douglass back is tender which would indicate that he can see the sorrow and grief of his fellow-slaves but he hasn't experience it like they have and his tender back tells a different story. Also, he is able to tell his experience or story in this narrative.

    47. took my little brother by the throat, threw him on the ground, and with the heel of his boot stamped upon his head till the blood gushed from his nose and ears—was well calculated to make me anxious as to my fate. After he had committed this savage outrage upon my brother

      The savagery of a slave holder. Also, he is seeing the savage act happening.

    48. the brutalizing effects of slavery upon both slave and slaveholder

      It is interesting that he notes that slavery has brutalizing effects on the slaveholder as well.

    49. A PARODY

      Could this parody be an example of a sort of agitprop? His recreation of a southern hymn is an exposure of hypocrisy, and thus a call to arms.

    50. slaveholding religion

      This term "slaveholding religion" is powerful, not just in distinguishing christianity from the practices of slave-holders, but of identifying a specific culture and re-naming the structure of slavery.

    51. I spoke but a few moments, when I felt a degree of freedom, and said what I desired with considerable ease

      The power of community on agency - the ease with which he can speak when he knows he is being heard.

    52. But in spite of him, and even in spite of myself, I continued to think

      Thought as a weapon for freedom and the means of escape

    53. I deem it proper to make known my intention not to state all the facts connected with the transaction

      Inscriptive power means to him, the ability to not share certain information. In not telling everything, he denies those who may want to do wrong to those involved the information to do so - almost like pleading the fifth amendment, in staying silent for this reason he does not comply with the demands of persecutors.

    54. among the more ignorant slaves

      interesting that FD makes a clear distinction between him and the "ignorant" slave like Sandy. In a narrative seeking to argue for the abolishment of slavery and the equality of races, he others another slave. Is this counter intuitive? It reminds me of respectability politics today.

    55. It would astonish one, unaccustomed to a slaveholding life

      It seems that FD here addresses his audience here, specifically those who either are unaware of slavery or those who are apathetic to what goes on within it. It is persuasive, it clues in the outsider to the "accustomed" misery of the slave.

    56. master had deceived us into a belief was freedom, back to the arms of slavery

      Again the idea of deception

    57. deceived himself into the solemn belief

      The idea of deception, the idea that one can deceive himself into believing one thing or another, or deceive others into trusting such beliefs, is strong, because it questions the basis of morals within the white power structure.

    58. Ha, ha! Come, come! Dash on, dash on!

      Douglass, yet again inserts quiet irony to subvert our ideas of power. Covey's behavior and rhetoric is almost childish or playful. "Ha, ha!" and "dash on!" sound more like cries of a kids game than of a figure of authority. Furthermore, they are and far less articulate than Douglass' words.

    59. lashed me till he had worn out his switches, cutting me so savagely as to leave the marks visible for a long time after. This whipping was the first of a number just like it, and for similar offences.

      For the first time, he is inscribed upon through whipping.

    60. “nigger-breaker.”

      Dehumanizing in every way. The dual-meaning of "breaking" references training animals (horses specifically) as well as the act of physically (or symbolically) damaging something.

    61. he would quote this passage of Scripture—”He that knoweth his master’s will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes.”

      Again, the literal application of scripture to justify abuse.

    62. stupid as we were, we had the sagacity to see it.

      Interesting choice of words - it seems that he is calling himself and the other slaves stupid ironically, to present the (incorrect) assumptions of the master and ministers. It also calls into question what qualifies as intelligence; emotional awareness? literacy? piety?

    63. he found religious sanction and support for his slaveholding cruelty. He made the greatest pretensions to piety. His house was the house of prayer. He prayed morning, noon, and night. He very soon distinguished himself among his brethren, and was soon made a class-leader and exhorter.

      Without presenting himself as being anti-religion, Douglass exposes the hypocrisy of Christianity as the master practices it to reaffirm his treatment of slaves as opposed to using it to be Good. This goes back to the question of agency - who has the power to ascribe meaning to something as culturally imbedded as the bible? And what happens when the bible is inscribed on by evil people?

    64. I have now reached a period of my life when I can give dates

      It is significant that he has control of his own timeline moving forward, as opposed to going off of the time as he could figure it out from white masters.

    65. by the most heart-rending shrieks of an own aunt of mine

      this incident is the topic of Fred Moten's essay "Resistance of the Object."

    66. darken their minds

      As Addison Gayle Jr. brings to bear in "Cultural Strangulation: Black Literature and the White Aesthetic," the "systematic aesthetic" of Western/Greek culture has long featured the codified binary of black/white. In this instance, even though "darken their minds" is a metaphor about illumination and knowledge (rooted in Platonic thought), it still reifies this racially charged linguistic prejudice.

    67. Who can read that passage, and be insensible to its pathos and sublimity? Compressed into it is a whole Alexandrian library of thought, feeling, and sentiment—all that can, all that need be urged, in the form of expostulation, entreaty, rebuke, against that crime of crimes,—making man the property of his fellow-man!

      More of the Greek background. Funny, ultimately, to recall that the center of the Hellenistic world was placed upon a heart of African civilization.

    68. An American sailor, who was cast away on the shore of Africa, where he was kept in slavery for three years, was, at the expiration of that period, found to be imbruted and stultified—he had lost all reasoning power; and having forgotten his native language, could only utter some savage gibberish between Arabic and English, which nobody could understand, and which even he himself found difficulty in pronouncing. So much for the humanizing influence of The Domestic Institution!”

      Though the author is condemning slavery here, he cannot do it without a recourse to othering. Even to an abolitionist, the opposite of possessing "reasoning power" is utterance of "savage gibberish" reminiscent of Arabic.

    69. debase their moral nature

      more coded language out of the fount of liberal thought

    70. without being gratified with the small privilege of a single word

      After using her life to care for this family, his grandmother isn't afforded the agency of a single word.

    71. They seemed to realize the impossibility of touching tar without being defiled.

      "Tar baby" used to be an insult used against Black people, often times darker skinned Black people in particular. The same way touching tar is defiling, to some, so is touching Black people. Our skin is viewed as being contagiously dirty.

    72. The singing of a man cast away upon a desolate island might be as appropriately considered as evidence of contentment and happiness, as the singing of a slave; the songs of the one and of the other are prompted by the same emotion.

      No one is really listening.

    73. He was called by the slaves a good overseer.

      Can there be such a thing?

    74. as a warning to the slaves remaining.

      This scare tactic was common practice to remind the slaves that they could be "worse off." It was simply another way to keep them enslaved.

    75. I do not remember to have ever met a slave who could tell of his birthday

      Stripped of identity. Forced to create their own

    76. You remember the old fable of “The Man and the Lion,” where the lion complained that he should not be so misrepresented “when the lions wrote history.”

      Only one side is told when the winners are recounting what occurred. This reminds me of the way in which Europeans painted Africans as savages and claimed to be helping them by enslaving them. In reality, the Africans taught the Europeans how to do simple things like bathe and eat with utensils.

    77. It may, perhaps, be fairly questioned, whether any other portion of the population of the earth could have endured the privations, sufferings and horrors of slavery,

      Black people are always perceived as being "strong" with children often being viewed as adults. No other race has had to go through all the hardships Black people have faced in America.

    78. It was committed in the presence of slaves, and they of course could neither institute a suit, nor testify against him

      Laws created to protect the whites from their crimes.

    79. and in an instant poor Demby was no more

      I wonder if Demby preferred death than continue living as a slave who gets constantly punished (tortured). Can his death be viewed as a suicide?

    80. He seemed to take pleasure in manifesting his fiendish barbarity

      The slave owners and their overseers are being portrayed as barbaric. The overseers are like the "apparatus" in Kafka's text.

    81. The master is frequently compelled to sell this class of his slaves

      Douglass is from a different "class" of slave since he is biracial. Also, he only has half of his racial identity since he is being rejected by his white side, his father.

    82. They gave tongue to interesting thoughts of my own soul, which had frequently flashed through my mind, and died away for want of utterance

      Shows how reading of a different culture's emancipation gave agency to him for his own

    83. We were all ranked together at the valuation. Men and women, old and young, married and single, were ranked with horses, sheep, and swine.

      Like objects and animals, dehumanized and objectified.

    84. He is a desperate slaveholder, who will shock the humanity of his non-slaveholding neighbors with the cries of his lacerated slave. Few are willing to incur the odium attaching to the reputation of being a cruel master;

      Interesting how the idea fo reputation and decency within society affects the narratives urban slave-owners will portray of themselves. The yelling and noise of whipping a slave is not undone in the city because they are morally righteous, but because the noise tells a story. It gives humanity to the brutalized slave and paints the slave holder (rightfully) as a monster.

    85. I often found myself regretting my own existence, and wishing myself dead; and but for the hope of being free, I have no doubt but that I should have killed myself, or done something for which I should have been killed.

      To be or not to be that is the question.

    86. As I writhed under it, I would at times feel that learning to read had been a curse rather than a blessing. It had given me a view of my wretched condition, without the remedy. It opened my eyes to the horrible pit, but to no ladder upon which to get out.

      The double-edged sword. Reflects Du Bois's act of choosing to turn a curse into a gift and vice versa.

    87. Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world.

      The hegemony's control over knowledge.

    88. marked my life

      Here he is inscribed upon

    89. The fatal poison of irresponsible power was already in her hands, and soon commenced its infernal work. That cheerful eye, under the influence of slavery, soon became red with rage; that voice, made all of sweet accord, changed to one of harsh and horrid discord; and that angelic face gave place to that of a demon.

      Power corrupts.

    90. Narrative

      Narrative with a capital. His own story, his own tale.

    91. the freedom of the slaves, and the enslavement of the whites.

      Reminiscent of Trump's America and the term "reverse racism." There has been no reversal. If they fear being treated the way they treat another race, their guilt is clear.

    92. It is partly in consequence of such facts, that slaves, when inquired of as to their condition and the character of their masters, almost universally say they are contented, and that their masters are kind.

      The racist myth of the "kind master" and the "happy slave" is born.

    93. When he spoke, a slave must stand, listen, and tremble

      Dehumanized in the very literal sense, unable to respond/react.

    94. if the colonel only suspected any want of attention to his horses

      The colonel cares more for animals than his slaves.

    95. Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears.

      Even when they sing songs that are supposedly happy.

    96. Every tone was a testimony against slavery, and a prayer to God for deliverance from chains.

      A testimony and prayer that was echoed by those of enslaved peoples around them and heard by nobody else?

    97. They would compose and sing as they went along, consulting neither time nor tune

      Composing a community.

    98. coarse negro cloth

      "coarse nego cloth" I am curious about this description. Is the coarseness of the cloth, cheaper to make and more available perhaps inherently equated to the enslaved man due to a slave owner's unwillingness to spend more on cloth? Is this to set up a dichotomy wherein we are supposed to assume there be a "soft/fine white cloth"?

    99. bloody transaction

      Torturous economics, "blood transaction," an exchange of inscription and payment.

    100. for a man to sell his own children to human flesh-mongers, it is often the dictate of humanity for him to do so; for, unless he does this, he must not only whip them himself, but must stand by and see one white son tie up his brother, of but few shades darker complexion than himself, and ply the gory lash to his naked back; and if he lisp one word of disapproval, it is set down to his parental partiality, and only makes a bad matter worse, both for himself and the slave whom he would protect and defend.

      Du Bois's double consciousness is present here in the form of a literal bi-racial identity. This is its curse.

    101. and make a gratification of their wicked desires profitable as well as pleasurable;

      Reinforcing the hegemonic patriarchy, both as the executor of the peculiar institution and as a White man.

    102. Frequently, before the child has reached its twelfth month, its mother is taken from it, and hired out on some farm a considerable distance off, and the child is placed under the care of an old woman, too old for field labor

      Morrison's Beloved describes this. Sethe, a former slave, never knew her mother.

    103. I do not recollect of ever seeing my mother by the light of day.

      Forbidden, hidden in the night. Reminiscent of Du Bois's term "sons of night."

    104. to part children from their mothers at a very early age.

      Like chattel.

    105. The white children could tell their ages.

      They are individualized; their sense of time and their lives are framed only by themselves and no one else.

    106. They seldom come nearer to it than planting-time, harvest-time, cherry-time, spring-time, or fall-time.

      Their sense of time is framed entirely by the work that they are forced to do, by their masters' wants/needs. Their own sense of time (their birthday) is lost/overwritten.

    107. it is the wish of most masters within my knowledge to keep their slaves thus ignorant

      Same sentiment echoed by Du Bois with the "suicide of a race."

    108. as horses know of theirs

      Reflects how enslaved peoples were frequently compared to animals and beasts by slavers.

    109. The colonel also kept a splendid riding equipage. His stable and carriage-house presented the appearance of some of our large city livery establishments. His horses were of the finest form and noblest blood. His carriage-house contained three splendid coaches, three or four gigs, besides dearborns and barouches of the most fashionable style.

      I am wondering if anyone has ideas as to the importance of this passage, and as to why it is contained in its own paragraph. It seems that form would reflect content, but I'm not sure I'm seeing the significance? Perhaps it is to juxtapose his treatment of animals over that of slaves?

    110. This garden was probably the greatest attraction of the place. During the summer months, people came from far and near—from Baltimore, Easton, and Annapolis—to see it. It abounded in fruits of almost every description, from the hardy apple of the north to the delicate orange of the south. This garden was not the least source of trouble on the plantation. Its excellent fruit was quite a temptation

      This passage seems to go along with the sort of theme that in writing, Douglass is inscribing his own creation. The discussion of the garden can be read as an allusion to Eden.

    111. revealing at once the highest joy and the deepest sadness. They would compose and sing as they went along, consulting neither time nor tune. The thought that came up, came out—if not in the word, in the sound;—and as frequently in the one as in the other. They would sometimes sing the most pathetic sentiment in the most rapturous tone, and the most rapturous sentiment in the most pathetic tone.

      This instance is the first where the slaves have inscriptive power, to tell their own stories through song and in a group untainted by the white power's influence.

    112. His course was characterized by no extraordinary demonstrations of cruelty. He whipped, but seemed to take no pleasure in it. He was called by the slaves a good overseer.

      The internalization of their enslavement is evident in believing that because he is not extraordinarily evil, he is "good."

    113. I had therefore been, until now, out of the way of the bloody scenes that often occurred on the plantation.

      This begs us to question how the sense of peripheries and otherness affect narrative and agency. Douglass, up until now, is on the outskirts of conflict because of physical location, age, and race.

    114. copying the following portrait of the religion of the south

      Again, I think of Foucault's "genealogical" history, which is "effective" insofar as it "cuts" at the pretensions of consensus narratives via parody and other forms of ironization.

    115. I, however, finally became a subscriber to it. The paper came, and I read it from week to week with such feelings as it would be quite idle for me to attempt to describe. The paper became my meat and my drink. My soul was set all on fire. Its sympathy for my brethren in bonds—its scathing denunciations of slaveholders—its faithful exposures of slavery—and its powerful attacks upon the upholders of the institution—sent a thrill of joy through my soul, such as I had never felt before!

      Douglass is thus not just a reader, but a subscriber: he's joined to a large, lateral body of readers linked by the periodical press to broader political issues/beliefs/feelings.

    116. Mr. Johnson had just been reading the “Lady of the Lake,” and at once suggested that my name be “Douglass.” From that time until now I have been called “Frederick Douglass;” and as I am more widely known by that name than by either of the others, I shall continue to use it as my own.

      Author himself becomes a blank, erasable/inscribable surface: no patronym, no stable name, name taken from literary tradition. The name comes from a poem by Walter Scott) that's drenched with nostalgia for an idealized Scottish past and (in a deep irony) gave rise to the KKKs tradition of burning crosses.

    117. But I remained firm, and, according to my resolution, on the third day of September, 1838, I left my chains, and succeeded in reaching New York without the slightest interruption of any kind. How I did so,—what means I adopted,—what direction I travelled, and by what mode of conveyance,—I must leave unexplained, for the reasons before mentioned.

      Complex dialectic linking the freedom of the writer before the blank page with the enslavement sanctioned by the law: the latter writes, as it were, a void into the former in this space.

    118. Of course, it was impossible to get any white man to volunteer his testimony in my behalf, and against the white young men

      Issue of race and testimony resonates throughout the book: whose testimony carries what authority in what contexts?

    119. wrote several protections, one for each of us.

      What is writing for? Within the acts of framing the text as credible, as typical, as the product of a "prodigy," and so on, the notion that writing is also forgery, deception, masking up.

    120. I kept up my school nearly the whole year I lived with Mr. Freeland; and, beside my Sabbath school, I devoted three evenings in the week, during the winter, to teaching the slaves at home. And I have the happiness to know, that several of those who came to Sabbath school learned how to read; and that one, at least, is now free through my agency.

      Literacy, as before, depicted as a social activity: just as the scrappy Baltimore lads help FD gain literacy, here he aids in the viral spread of reading within the slave community.

    121. This battle with Mr. Covey was the turning-point in my career as a slave. It rekindled the few expiring embers of freedom, and revived within me a sense of my own manhood.

      Almost fable-like feeling here. A literalization of Hegel's narrative of the master-slave dialectic, whereby FD gets recognition as an equal via his physical conquest of the master

    122. I would then make the letters which I had been so fortunate as to learn, and ask him to beat that. In this way I got a good many lessons in writing, which it is quite possible I should never have gotten in any other way. During this time, my copy-book was the board fence, brick wall, and pavement; my pen and ink was a lump of chalk. With these, I learned mainly how to write. I then commenced and continued copying the Italics in Webster’s Spelling Book, until I could make them all without looking on the book. By this time, my little Master Thomas had gone to school, and learned how to write, and had written over a number of copy-books. These had been brought home, and shown to some of our near neighbors, and then laid aside. My mistress used to go to class meeting at the Wilk Street meetinghouse every Monday afternoon, and leave me to take care of the house. When left thus, I used to spend the time in writing in the spaces left in Master Thomas’s copy-book, copying what he had written. I continued to do this until I could write a hand very similar to that of Master Thomas. Thus, after a long, tedious effort for years, I finally succeeded in learning how to write.

      Moving focus on the material side of writing: scarcity of writing materials, including "white space," in which to develop expressive potential.

    123. The idea as to how I might learn to write was suggested to me by being in Durgin and Bailey’s ship-yard, and frequently seeing the ship carpenters, after hewing, and getting a piece of timber ready for use, write on the timber the name of that part of the ship for which it was intended.

      We think of "literacy" as being a unitary thing, and indeed most of us are fortunate enough to learn to speak/read/write simultaneously via an articulated curriculum. But note the distinctness with which the receptive/expressive dimensions of language are confronted here. For a long time, FD can consume texts but not produce them. And we realize that each of these practical skills has its inner "spiritual" dimension, impinging on the development and functioning of the subject in different ways.

    124. a book entitled “The Columbian Orator.”

      Here it is. This is the first time FD has found his life reflected, in some sense, in print.

    125. These words used to trouble them; they would express for me the liveliest sympathy, and console me with the hope that something would occur by which I might be free.

      Political economy of the slave system cracks a bit here to allow space for a counter-economy, one based on gift exchanges: FD gives bread to poor whites; they give language and sympathy.

    126. She at first lacked the depravity indispensable to shutting me up in mental darkness. It was at least necessary for her to have some training in the exercise of irresponsible power, to make her equal to the task of treating me as though I were a brute.

      You could cut the irony with a knife here. Elegant comment on the idea that education "ruins" the enslaved.

    127. In learning to read, I owe almost as much to the bitter opposition of my master, as to the kindly aid of my mistress. I acknowledge the benefit of both.

      This moment resonates broadly throughout the text: reading, among the most basic preconditions of bringing enslaved experience into print, is illegal, making it a very tight bottleneck to pass through.

    128. Though conscious of the difficulty of learning without a teacher, I set out with high hope, and a fixed purpose, at whatever cost of trouble, to learn how to read

      As Foucault puts it, "wherever there is power, there is resistance": here, the very prohibition on reading elevates the drive to learn it in FDs mind.

    129. My home was charmless; it was not home to me; on parting from it, I could not feel that I was leaving any thing which I could have enjoyed by staying

      We feel the pressure of the norms of 19thC sentiment here: FD has the burden of explaining why he must narrate this leave-taking without the customary tears.

    130. I had no bed. I must have perished with cold, but that, the coldest nights, I used to steal a bag which was used for carrying corn to the mill. I would crawl into this bag, and there sleep on the cold, damp, clay floor, with my head in and feet out. My feet have been so cracked with the frost, that the pen with which I am writing might be laid in the gashes.

      Surreal image of the pen of the author being laid in the cracked feet of the enslaved boy he once was. This poetic images makes us ask, "what are the material conditions for getting experience into print?" And "what kind of discourse issues from cracked, whipped, damaged bodies?"

    131. The mere recurrence to those songs, even now, afflicts me; and while I am writing these lines, an expression of feeling has already found its way down my cheek. To those songs I trace my first glimmering conception of the dehumanizing character of slavery. I can never get rid of that conception. Those songs still follow me, to deepen my hatred of slavery, and quicken my sympathies for my brethren in bonds. If any one wishes to be impressed with the soul-killing effects of slavery, let him go to Colonel Lloyd’s plantation, and, on allowance-day, place himself in the deep pine woods, and there let him, in silence, analyze the sounds that shall pass through the chambers of his soul,—and if he is not thus impressed, it will only be because “there is no flesh in his obdurate heart.”

      Strange space-time of writing: the Sorrow Songs, Douglass's tears at remembering them, and the dispersed set of readers' imaginations are all present, in some sense, in the synthetic space of print.

    132. This they would sing, as a chorus, to words which to many would seem unmeaning jargon, but which, nevertheless, were full of meaning to themselves. I have sometimes thought that the mere hearing of those songs would do more to impress some minds with the horrible character of slavery, than the reading of whole volumes of philosophy on the subject could do.

      Crucial passage: note the elements of what Mikhael Baktihn calls "polyphony": different discourses joining together in the same discursive space. Here, we have the meaningful but opaque song of the slaves, Douglass's own narration, and the overseer's barbaric curses, curses that disorient the white supremacist hierarchies of "proper" and "improper" English.

    133. It struck me with awful force. It was the blood-stained gate, the entrance to the hell of slavery, through which I was about to pass. It was a most terrible spectacle. I wish I could commit to paper the feelings with which I beheld it.

      Interplay of material/spiritual, literal/metaphorical: the sight "strikes" with traumatic force, the traces of the beating are too vicious to be captured in the traces of words.

    134. I never saw my mother, to know her as such, more than four or five times in my life; and each of these times was very short in duration, and at night.

      Think about Foucault's arguments about "progressive" narratives from origins v. "effective" history that's written by "cutting." FD narrates the absence of origins and the parody his life makes of bourgeois narratives of "Bildung" or "development."

    135. I have no accurate knowledge of my age, never having seen any authentic record containing it.

      FD establishes himself as writing himself into existence right from the start!

    136. He was such an impressive orator that numerous persons doubted if he had ever been a slave, so he wrote Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass.

      Note the paradox of being an enslaved writer: the very fact of eloquence/articulateness casts doubt on the authenticity of the expression. We'll have to unpack this!

    137. You, too, publish your declaration of freedom with danger compassing you around. In all the broad lands which the Constitution of the United States overshadows, there is no single spot,—however narrow or desolate,—where a fugitive slave can plant himself and say, “I am safe.” The whole armory of Northern Law has no shield for you. I am free to say that, in your place, I should throw the MS. into the fire.

      Metacomment on the various meanings of translating slavery into writing. Among other things, it's a magnet for the Law.

    138. I was glad to learn, in your story, how early the most neglected of God’s children waken to a sense of their rights, and of the injustice done them. Experience is a keen teacher; and long before you had mastered your A B C, or knew where the “white sails” of the Chesapeake were bound, you began, I see, to gauge the wretchedness of the slave, not by his hunger and want, not by his lashes and toil, but by the cruel and blighting death which gathers over his soul.

      Interesting use of 2nd person here: intimate mode of address

    139. his case may be regarded as a very fair specimen of the treatment of slaves in Maryland

      Again, the question of typicality v. extraordinariness.

    140. There stood one, in physical proportion and stature commanding and exact—in intellect richly endowed—in natural eloquence a prodigy—in soul manifestly “created but a little lower than the angels”—yet a slave, ay, a fugitive slave,—trembling for his safety, hardly daring to believe that on the American soil, a single white person could be found who would befriend him at all hazards, for the love of God and humanity!

      What does it mean that FD is so extraordinary? How would circumstances be different if he were just a "meh" speaker/specimen/writer, a bit lower than the angels?

    141. his first speech

      We might track the relationship between the spontaneity of speech and the belatedness of writing here: Garrison emphasizes the particular feelings that flow from feeling FDs live presence. How does this relate to the written text that follows?

    142. PREFACE

      Need to think about what the very existence of this preface means, in this slave narrative and many others. What are the unstated assumptions baked into the act of prefacing Douglass's works within this act of framing? How does this paratext to Douglass's narrative interact with Du Bois's argument?

    1. On attempting to take a seat in the omnibus to that place, I was told by the driver (and I never shall forget his fiendish hate). “I don’t allow niggers in here!”

      there are racial problems and discrimination towards Douglass despite being in a "true abolitionists" setting.

    2. The insult was keenly felt by my white friends, but to me, it was common, expected, and therefore, a thing of no great consequence,

      While this should not be the case, being Black (especially at this time) means that racism is to be expected. His white friends being offended just illustrates that they come from two different worlds. Douglass sees through the veil and is used and expects this treatment.

    3. In thinking of America, I sometimes find myself admiring her bright blue sky, her grand old woods, her fertile fields, her beautiful rivers, her mighty lakes, and star-crowned mountains.

      Despite having gone through slavery, his first thoughts are not of the institution when thinking of America. Is this a defense mechanism or just another example of a Black person making the best of a situation as we often do?

    4. the people

      Which people? Were Black voices validated without the backing of white ones?

    5. apologize for slavery

      The church of Scotland in part upholds this believe in order to politically side with Britain's historic occupation, oppression, and enslavement of the Irish. (My family is from the boarder of the Republic and Northern Ireland and there is a long established grudge against the Scotch Presbyterians for this matter.)

    6. Free Church of Scotland

      Interesting anecdote to compare/contrast to Douglass' view of the American religious institution

    7. In a letter to Mr. Greeley, of the New York Tribune, written while abroad, I said:

      Douglass inserts letters he has written to others within his writing, seems significant in that it rids the passages of a mono-tonality and reminds us that what Douglass is saying is part of a larger discourse.

    8. “I don’t allow niggers in here!”

      Repetition here with noted tonal difference employs a level of humor to the injustice of this rejection. Douglass' candor reflects the confidence he gains from the humanity with which he is treated in Ireland and the UK.

    9. he must prove himself equal to the mass of those who oppress him

      Connects to Gates' idea that Black people are forced in their writing and by the practice of writing itself to constantly prove their humanity

    10. The life of Frederick Douglass, recorded in the pages which follow, is not merely an example of self-elevation under the most adverse circumstances; it is, moreover, a noble vindication of the highest aims of the American anti-slavery movement. The real object of that movement is not only to disenthrall, it is, also, to bestow upon the Negro the exercise of all those rights, from the possession of which he has been so long debarred.

      The goal of the writing, is, in short, to give rightful inscriptive power

    11. who, despite the depressing influences surrounding his birth, youth and manhood, has risen, from a dark and almost absolute obscurity

      This is often a dangerous train of logic—it simultaneously displays Douglass as an extraordinary person who beat all the odds, while leaving it open to demand why other enslaved people cannot do the same.

    12. I asked William Whipper, of Pennsylvania, the gentleman alluded to above, whether he thought Mr. Douglass’s power inherited from the Negroid, or from what is called the Caucasian side of his make up? After some reflection, he frankly answered, “I must admit, although sorry to do so, that the Caucasian predominates.” At that time, I almost agreed with him; but, facts narrated in the first part of this work, throw a different light on this interesting question.

      Note how "ethnological" theories of race and racial heritage are unavoidable in this time period, no matter how committed a given writer is to abolition or antiracist politics.

    13. while Heaven lends me ability, to use my voice, my pen, or my vote, to advocate the great and primary work of the universal and unconditional emancipation of my entire race.

      The possessive is vital here, marking the change from possessed to possessor.

    14. I took my stand on the high ground of human brotherhood, and spoke to Englishmen as men, in behalf of men. Slavery is a crime, not against Englishmen, but against God, and all the members of the human family; and it belongs to the whole human family to seek its suppression.

      in behalf of men in itself reclaims his own humanity and manhood. Not only is Douglass an ambassador of sorts for enslaved peoples, but also as an american, and as a man.

    15. To this, however, I could not consent. I felt that I had a duty to perform—and that was, to labor and suffer with the oppressed in my native land.

      The return to his 'roots'.

    16. “I don’t allow niggers in here!”

      The repetition of this line compounds its effect on the reader.

    17. America will not allow her children to love her.

      I love this line. Pertinent in 2018 as well.

    18. But my rapture is soon checked, my joy is soon turned to mourning. When I remember that all is cursed with the infernal spirit of slaveholding, robbery, and wrong; when I remember that with the waters of her noblest rivers, the tears of my brethren are borne to the ocean, disregarded and forgotten, and that her most fertile fields drink daily of the warm blood of my outraged sisters; I am filled with unutterable loathing, and led to reproach myself that anything could fall from my lips in praise of such a land.

      The notion of the land being tainted and corrupted by slavery is fascinating, especially considering the treatment of Native Americans/colonization of both lands and peoples.

    19. securing me an audience

      Douglass thus has an audience for his own narrative/story!

    20. so that the idea of a HUMAN BEING, necessarily excludes the idea of PROPERTY IN THAT BEING.

      A human being thus being inherently separate and opposite of a possession/object.

    21. Heaven lends me ability, to use my voice, my pen, or my vote, to advocate the great and primary work of the universal and unconditional emancipation of my entire race.

      Closes with linkage of these different expressive modalities: what are the differences between these ways of translating will into communications? What are the channels? Who is the author of each and who are the readers?

    22. But for the responsibility of conducting a public journal, and the necessity imposed upon me of meeting opposite views from abolitionists in this state, I should in all probability have remained as firm in my disunion views as any other disciple of William Lloyd Garrison.

      The social relationships necessitated by the production of the news changes FD: so print is not just the passive expression of inner "ideas" and "character" but a network, in which the production changes the producers even as the producers shape the production.

    23. a slavish adoration

      If you read carefully, FD is kind of hilarious.

    24. I found them very earnestly opposed to the idea of my starting a paper, and for several reasons. First, the paper was not needed; secondly, it would interfere with my usefulness as a lecturer; thirdly, I was better fitted to speak than to write; fourthly, the paper could not succeed.

      Whole set of thorny questions here: relative political value of speaking, editing, and writing compared (with subcomparisons between the relatively prestigious and durable publishing of books like the one we're reading v. the more ephemeral but wider-reaching publication in the periodical press). The question of financial capital: how to start up a publication written/edited/read by African Americans when that population is starved of capital?

    25. On their own motion, without any solicitation from me (Mrs. Henry Richardson, a clever lady, remarkable for her devotion to every good work, taking the lead), they raised a fund sufficient to purchase my freedom, and actually paid it over, and placed the papers 8 of my manumission in my hands, before [291] they would tolerate the idea of my returning to this, my native country. To this commercial transaction I owe my exemption from the democratic operation of the Fugitive Slave Bill of 1850. But for this, I might at any time become a victim of this most cruel and scandalous enactment, and be doomed to end my life, as I began it, a slave. The sum paid for my freedom was one hundred and fifty pounds sterling.

      Remarkable example of bodily inscription, in that FD must reckon with what his body means, how it reads in public as a "free" body v. as an "enslaved" body. Moreover, he must think about how much he is worth, literally and figuratively, in these different states.

    26. in the language of the LAW, “held, taken, reputed, and adjudged to be a chattel in the hands of my owners and possessors, and their executors, administrators, and assigns, to all intents, constructions, and purposes whatsoever.” (Brev. Digest, 224).

      Classic example of bodily inscription, as we've seen in Kafka and Foucault.

    27. An end was put to the melee, by the captain’s calling the ship’s company to put the salt water mobocrats in irons. At this determined order, the gentlemen of the lash scampered, and for the rest of the voyage conducted themselves very decorously.

      Note how the ship becomes part of what Paul Guilroy famously called the "Black Atlantic," an indeterminate space between national boundaries in which identities and ideas of legality and social propriety get renegotiated.


      Smith has a fascinating biography himself: here's a thumbnail sketch.

    29. If, as has been stated, his intellection is slow, when unexcited, it is most prompt and rapid when he is thoroughly aroused.[17]

      The clinical tone regarding FDs capacities speaks eloquently to how much pressure black writers are under, in ways that anticipate Du Bois's arguments from 50 years later, to account for themselves, both their "outsides" and their "insides," so to speak.

    30. twelve thousand dollars of his own hard earned money,

      That's a lot of money in the 1850s. Underscores the way cultural capital and financial capital intersect, when you think about the challenges of building a black press (and a black cultural infrastructure more broadly).

    31. Yet, these gentlemen, although proud of Frederick Douglass, failed to fathom, and bring out to the light of day, the highest qualities of his mind; the force of their own education stood in their own way: they did not delve into the mind of a colored man for capacities which the pride of race led them to believe to be restricted to their own Saxon blood. Bitter and vindictive sarcasm, irresistible mimicry, and a pathetic narrative of his own experiences of slavery, were the intellectual manifestations which they encouraged him to exhibit on the platform or in the lecture desk.

      Note the gesture to fissures within the abolitionist movement which, in the 1850s, was splintering into a) a hard-core wing, bent on nothing short of total, federal abolition; b) a nascent Republican party growing out of the "free soil" movement to allow slavery in the South but keep all new territory free; and c) a colonization movement that wanted to repatriate enslaved people in Africa.

    32. The reader is, therefore, assured, with all due promptitude, that his attention is not invited to a work of ART, but to a work of FACTS—Facts, terrible and almost incredible, it may be yet FACTS, nevertheless

      Important tension, as with the 1845 LIFE: how to respect Douglass as a writer without losing focus on the documentary aspect, the facticity and typicality of the experiences related here.


      Smith was a notable abolitionist and filthy rich real estate mogul who supported Douglass in various ways: perhaps most relevantly in the founding of Douglass's newspaper, the North Star. Learn more here and there if you're interested.

  5. Apr 2017
    1. joy

      Her description of the writing process reminds of Douglass' recounting of when he first learned to read. Reading was painful for him at first, because he realized the extent of his oppression, but it becomes a tool for liberation.

  6. Mar 2017
    1. attempt to overcome language.

      Speaking as an attempt to overcome the obstacle of language...but what if something else is obstructing expression besides language? Thinking back here to Douglass, and how his identity as a black man and former slave inhibited his ability to be received as a "legitimate" speaker...in fact, he turned to writing as a way of legitimacy.

    1. apply it to all forms of language use.

      This is an ambitious task as it raises questions about the relationship between the different forms that rhetoric can take. This ambition reminds me of Whateley's extremely confident assertion that "...most of the rules of Speaking are of course applicable to Writing." In a similar manner, Burke's piece seems to be predicated on the idea that the rules of one rhetorical form can "of course" be applied to another. As discussed by @em_bley and @sophist_monster on the Whateley piece, there are obviously unique characteristics of each rhetoric form, the role of audience being one. The unique role of the audience in writing and speaking is also discussed at length by Douglass (also discussed by @em_bley) when he writes about how audiences reacted to him as a black rhetorician.

  7. Feb 2017
    1. Hunger is not simply a tf.-l, ,·5 HUbE physiological fact, the same in all cases, but is interpreted by the hungry person in .:¥,. ( "'~ .~ c. ...... + the context or a system of social meanings
    2. inventing not only the matter of their texts, but appropriate personae to deliver thcm.

      Although this particular quote is about women rhetors, this ties us back to our discussion of Douglass' choice of carefully-tailored personae during his lecture circuits.

    1. Willard was a dynamic platform speaker, not flamboyant but utterly sincere and able to convince her hear· crs that she cared deeply about them even when the audience was large

      I think we see here how she was thoughtful and successful in creating her public persona, just as Douglass was.

    2. it may be reasonably claimed that men's hopes of hea~en will be im-measurnbly increased

      This reminds me of Douglass' argument that slavery was dangerous to whites as well as blacks because it corrupted even the most tender-hearted mistress. These sorts of appeals remind us that these rhetors are always thinking about the make up of their audience.

    1. He suggcsL,; that if the work of the classic~I a~-thors strikes us as especially rhetorical in this sense, it may be because of their on· cntation to oral discourse and ours to written discourse, a difference that shows up in the highly developed rhythms of the classical authors' prose, compared with the relative flatness of ours.

      This implicit differentiation between the rhetorical form of writing and speaking is a curious rebuttal to Whateley's implicit suggestion that the rules of Speaking can be fairly applied to Writing ("...most of the rules for Speaking are of course applicable equally to Writing"). Whateley's controversial assertion here is also rebutted by Douglass when he discusses the role of immediacy and identity in speaking. This connection was discussed at length by @em_bley on the Whateley post last week so I won't spend too much time on it here.

    1. the lime has now come when ignorance will involve guilt;

      Nathaniel has drawn our attention to the phrase "ignorance will involve guilt," which I think is significant, but I also want to reflect on the idea that chiding for the wrongs of the past is not necessary because it was born of ignorance and that it is only the time (that is, the moment in which she was writing) which moves us from forgiveness to guilt in the audience. This seems like a similar move to Douglass when he posited that his mistress had been a good, tender-hearted person before she was poisoned by slavery. He called out slavery as a threat to white slave owners, just as Palmer here decries oppression of women will soon lead to a corruption of the souls of men who go on participating in it, once they have been stripped of their ignorance.