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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Primary Analysis: Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman

Please review these letters from Frederick Douglass  & Harriet Tubman regarding slavery, the underground railroad, and abolition.  Students should comment with analysis of the letter and its relevance to course content.

20 comments:

Mike said...

What a vast amount of literature stored upon that link above! I just skimmed it and read the second letter so I'll comment on that. While skimming I noticed a distaste for this Cpt Thomas Auld, even though Douglass says that he has nothing against him. I find that a lie because face it, that was his master. I'd hate my master too.. But Douglass also mentions how he plans to use Auld for a weapon against slavery, which would pit Auld in a terrible spot. Also, I like how at the end he says "Your fellow man, but not your slave." It shows he knows his place and is basically a big screw you to Auld. As for the letter with Harriet that I actually said I was going to comment on, it actually warms my heart to read such a letter. It is great how these two former slaves could communicate and have Douglass commending greatly, the amount of effort that Harriet Tubman had put forth and the success that came out of it. I assume when Harriet had read this, it made her feel extroadinary that she was being recognized. Also, Douglass says the only thing Harriet could truly go on with were the "God Bless You's" that the people gave, and this just makes her all the stronger of a woman. I actually enjoyed reading that letter. This is really long I think, oh well. -Mike Espinell

mike51095 said...

After skimming through the letter from Frederick Douglas to his former master, Capt. Auld it seems to me that Frederick Douglas is almost saying to Auld, "Ha, who has the last laugh now!" The reason I get this impression is because of the way in which Frederick Douglas is speaking to his former Master. All throughout the letter Frederick Douglas speaks in a very bold, yet respectful, manner and it seems like Frederick Douglas has no fear of his former master. I have tremendous respect for Frederick Douglas because he does not speak cowardly to the man who used to treat him badly. If I was writing this letter I do not think I would have spoken as boldly and fearlessly as Frederick Douglas did. Also, I totally agree with Mike E about the closing line of the letter,” Your fellow man, but not your slave." It gives this letter such an epic feel to it. In regards to Douglas's letter to Harriet Tubman, I like how he commends Tubman for doing what she does even though she isn't getting the kind of public recognition that he is. This letter was a very thoughtful thing for Frederick Douglas to do. -Mike Signore

jessalves10 said...

It seems like Douglas (from what i skimmed)is sort of rubbing it in the face of his old master just how successful he has become. he talks about his wife and how his old master used to treat him and his family. What really must have made his old master feel bad was when Douglas talks about how Auld treated Douglas's grandmother and how he tossed her to the woods. He says that she shouldnt be much of a slave now since she was about eighty then. If I were Douglas I would have added some more about how much of a jerk his master was.
In the second letter, from Douglas to Harriet, I can see just how much Douglas appreciates all that Harriet has done. Even though Harriet couldn't read or write, she was still able to free many many slaves through the underground railroad. From this letter, I would guess that Douglas and Harriet were close friends, both fighting very hard to save others. Since Harriet had to stay a secret when it came to her identity, not many, besides the slaves she led, would know of her bravery. Douglas was one of the ones who knew and let her know how appreciated she was and how much he admired her bravery and conviction. I wonder if Harriet ever had this letter read to her??

Diana said...

When reading through this letter, it is obvious that Douglass mistreated by his owner, thus making him escape to Massachusetts. When he writes this letter to his ex - slave owner, he talks about the many things he had accomplished after being a free man. Both of these letters written by Douglass reflects upon the idea of what we have been covering in class, which was reformers, to be specific, abolitionists. Where both Douglass and Tubman were both strong supporters of this cause to end slavery. I felt that Douglass wanted to prove to his old master that after leaving slavery, he had become one of the most successful African American abolitionist supporter and he wanted to.
With the letter that Douglass wrote to Harriet Tubman, I think that Douglass is overwhelmed and appreciative of the efforts that Harriet has accomplished through fighting slavery with the underground railroad and what a success it was. I agree with Jess that Douglass and Harriet were most likely were friends since many abolitionists stuck with each other at thattime.

Krista said...

Surprisingly I took the time to read the entire letter from Douglass to Auld,and I was left feeling that although Douglas was severely mistreated by his former maters he didn't hold it against him personally. It seems like he blamed the over all idea of slavery, no the individual slave owners. Douglas also sounds like he is going to use his bad experiences to fight slavery and to expose the neglect slaves are faced with; it is supported when he says to Auld, "I intend to make use of you as a weapon with which to assail the the system of slavery". When I read the letter Douglass wrote to Harriet Tubman the gratitude he felt for her really came through. He talked about how what she did was even harder than what he accomplished. He had the praise and support of the public, but all she got was a "God bless you" from the slave she secretly led to freedom. I think both of them were very brave, caring, and strong people.

mrowl12345 said...

This letter really shows me how people of this time were true ready for a change. Slavery had gone on long enough and now it seems like people are finally starting to do something about it. I find inspirational the way that these African American slaves were able to not only escape from slavery, but then go on to make a life for themselves in a world where they were hardly accepted, and not only that, continue to make progress for their people by going back and helping others to safety the way Harriet Tubman did, which to me was extremely heroic, to go back to the awful place where she escaped in order to help others. It seems like she had some sort of moral obligation to free more slaves to freedom the way she had done. And as for Fedrick Douglas, i was quite suprised to the way he reacted in his letter to his former master Thomas Auld. I feel like if i had been in Douglas's postition i would have been more hatefull to my former master, but douglas sounds more forgiving than anything else. He explains to Auld how wrong slavery was, but in a civil way. But the thing that struck me most from douglas's letter was the way he sighned it at the end, "i am your fellow man, but not your slave" which complettely summed up everything douglas had to say in his letter. If i had been in Aulds position i would have felt complettely terrible, having one of my former slaves escape and then after several years seak contact with me, but not even sound angry, but more disipointed. The letter must have struck Auld in some way because he ended up caring for Douglas's grandmother, he had seen the error of his ways, and the error that lies in all of slavery.

BigBri said...

I believe that Auld deserved the letter from Douglas in that auld was a real jerk to Douglas. He was a terrible master, and like someone said above, he kicked his grandmother to the curb because she was old and could not be used for Auld's assistance. Auld was dishing everything out to Douglas when he was his master and Douglas giving it right back to him. Auld is all deserving in everthing that Douglas has said. I feel that when Douglas said that I am your fellow man, not your slave he is truelly correct. (question:how come whites were always classified as better than blacks and not the other way around? This question always ponders in my mind when we talk about slaves). Douglas was a genuine man, he finds that great acts such as tubmans deserve acknowledgement. Douglas tells Tubman of how great she was and her bravery through the underground railroad and freeing Negroes from slavery. At this time, I do not understand that if you have escaped slavery, why would you risk going back in for others?, if you got out by yourself so can the next. But that is just my opinion. I truly believe that Douglas was a real and genuine man that was thankful for Tubman and open about his feelings to others.

matthew said...

I find it surprising that Douglas was able to escape to Massachusetts, and be brave enough to write back to his original owner. I am also suprised that he was able to keep calm throughout his letters. Peronally, I know that I would write back angry after all of the torture I was put through. This relates to class because we talked somewhat about slavery and people trying to abolish it, like Harriet Tubman. She helped slaves like Douglas escape to the North, where there was no slavery at all.
Also, if I were Auld, I would feel bad because I would have more slaves, that are not free. So, I would be neglecting them of oppurtonites that everyone has, and that free slaves like Douglas get.

C.Slotter said...

Frederick Douglas's escape from slavery shows how African Americans were beginning to take control of their own lives, and work to gain their freedom. This inevitably led to the Civil War. It seems that Douglas is writing to his former master, Auld, to rub it in that he is now free and has a better life. I think Douglas also wrote the letter so that it would be published and all African Americans could be convinced to fight for freedom. I especially like Douglas's quote, "You are a man, and so am I. God created both and made us separate beings. I am not by nature land to you or anyone else." It's inspiring that Douglas still has his faith, and that he is able to tell Auld that they are equals. One thing that surprised me was when Douglas mentioned that he and the other free slave would prefer to move back to south if slaves were liberated. I had thought that the African Americans wouldn't want to go back to the place where so much suffering had occurred.
I couldn't get the Harriet Tubman letter to open, but from reading other comments, I can tell that Douglas was congratulating Tubman on helping to free slaves. I think it was important for these leaders to keep in touch, because it helped keep the cause alive.

smurftastic44 said...

Like Krista, I took the time to read the letter from Frederick Douglass to his former master. I found that while his tone was quite civilized, it was obvious that he never forgave Auld for destroying his childhood and depriving his family of the life they should have had. While this was expected, I was actually surprised when he talked about how he would return to Maryland if the slaves were emancipated in the South. I had never really thought about whether the slaves would return to their birthplace or not, so I found this quite interesting. Once I read the paragraph between the two letters, I had more respect for Auld since he listened to Douglass and took care of his grandmother. However, this doesn't make up for everything that he did.
Like Mike E said, the second letter was very heartwarming. The fact that Douglass feels that Harriet did more and deserved more than him showed what a good man he was. I also agree with Krista,while Harriet Tubman's only thanks was a "God Bless you" from the slaves that she helped, both Tubman and Douglass were good, courageous people. They both deserved all of the glory given to them, if not more.

cvalenti2 said...

First off,one of the letters would not open, but I read most of Douglass's letter to his previous master, Capt. Thomas Auld, and after reading the letter I really admire Frederick Douglass for all that he has endured and accomplished, like teaching himself to read and write on his own, escaping from his ex-slave owner, and later writing to him! and also for his work against slavery. I am interested to know Auld's immediate reaction to this letter as well. One part that particularly caught my attention was when he claimed, "I was not satisfied with this theory, which made God responsible for slavery..." because this shows that Douglass was very intelligent due to the fact that he had the ability to understand that God didn't make blacks to serve as slaves for whites, and he knew that God did not make slavery- this in turn reminded me of what was said in the story Marigolds in english class because the girl, Lizabeth, realized that she was not meant to be poor- like Douglass realized he was not meant to be a slave, and in the story Lizabeth described this feeling as a flamingo trapped in a cage but it new that it was not meant to be that way, it knew deep down that it was made to fly away.
In addition, what was said in this letter pertains to what we are learning in class because Frederick Douglass is an abolitionist- which we learned is against slavery, and he was one of many who was part of slaves that were beginning to escape from their enslavement.
This brings me to the part at the end of the Frederick Douglass letter where he writes to Harriet Tubman; I again admire Douglass by that he wrote this to Tubman because it was kind of him to show appreciation for Harriet that she could not recieve constantly like his recieved support because she worked in secret and at night to help the transporting of slaves over the Underground Railroad.
One other part that I enjoyed was the ending of Frederick Douglass's letter to his ex-master because it says, "I am your fellow-man, but not your slave"-he there really put his point across, that slaves and masters are equals and no less than eachother and no more better than one another- thereby promoting his abolitionist views of ending slavery.

Ross said...

The first letter from Douglas to Auld truly conveys a sickening hatred for slavery and almost shows how everyone had grown tired of slavery, it seems that Douglas is really 'sticking it to the man' in his first letter. Showing his former owner respect, and i believe Auld deserves every last bit of it. From the sounds of the letter Auld was a typical slave owner, but that still doesnt justify his actions towards Douglas and his family and Douglas let him know that. This letter also made me wonder how the whites at the time could feel that it was even remotely okay to own a slave, even though slavery had gone on for a while i would imagine that people would come to their senses and stop the madness. Moving on to the second letter, it was very nice of Douglas to commend and really pull Tubman into the spotlight regarding the rescuing of slaves. He tells her that even though he is being publicly recognized for his deeds that she is the one that deserves this recognition because she is doing the real, behind the scenes labor. As a unit these letters gave me a first hand look on the issue of slavery, from how it was being stopped, to what a typical slave's life is like with his master. The issue of slavery always disgusted me as an american and most of all a human. I never fully comprehended how the principle of one man owning another could seem right to slave owners.

michellepleban said...

I think Fredirck Douglass wrote this letter to his former master as closure. Douglass wanted to express his feelings of torment when he was a slave. He wanted Auld to relive what he had been through in his eyes. Also, Douglass wants to show how he has had enough strength to live through it. Now he is a free man, living a better life. Douglass makes a point that he is made by God just as Auld, so there is no difference between them.
To his letter to Harriet, Douglass is saying how even though he has been more influetial because he's been publicized more, he needs her. He looks up to her for inspiration to keep fighting for equal rights and freedom for African Americans.

Jeanette said...

I like how mature Frederick Douglass is in his letter to Capt. Thomas Auld. He says to him, "I will not therefore manifest ill temper, by calling you hard names." This shows that even though Douglass was put through so many hardships as a slave, he will treat his ex-master respectfully. I agree with Sarah, with the point she brought up about how Douglass knew he was not meant to be a slave, and that God made all men equal.
I like how in the second letter, Douglass shows much appreciation to Harriet Tubman. He puts her secret task in a good way; that she took care of trembling men and women during a long journey, and only got a "God bless you" as a reward. This shows how much respect he has for her.
Overall, Douglass was a very courteous person.

by the way, Sarah Elizabeth Valenti, stop being so thorough with your answers. -.- you're making the rest of us look bad. :o

C said...

I agree with Matt, when he stated, "I find it surprising that Douglas was able to escape to Massachusetts, and be brave enough to write back to his original owner. I am also suprised that he was able to keep calm throughout his letters." Especially with the calmness. I don't think he's rubbing anything in anyone's face, however, he has every right, considering the conditions of slavery. It's like BigBri said, "...Auld deserved the letter from Douglas in that auld was a real jerk to Douglas. He was a terrible master..." Perhaps Michelle is right on, when she said it was about closure.

Finally, SV, keep doing what you're doing...Jeannette, c'mon ;-)

Becky said...

I think that any slave has the right to write a letter to their former owner, because no matter how "nice" or "mean" they were they still thought it was ok to own another human being. I think Michelle was completely right about Douglas writingt this for closure, but i do think it's weird that he talks about how he loves Maryland... why does that matter? he does not love Maryland less, but he loves freedom more. Honestly I hope so. I swear there are other states with fertile soil. All the slaves love the south so much... That reminds me of the Native Americans not wanting to leave their home lands because they want to be burried with their ancestors or something. I don't understand why if it would just be easier to move they wouldn't want to.
And basically I feel like his letter to Harriet Tubman is just saying keep up the good work so she knows he thinks what she is doing is worth something which is always nice to hear.

sukhmeetkohli said...

In the letter from Douglas to Auld, douglas talks about his hatred for slavery. He shows courage by being able to stand up to his slaveowner, and talk about the torture he put him through. Douglas also describes his accomplishments as a free man. In the letter to tubman, Douglas is thanking her for leading him to freedom.

C said...

Imagine the ramifications of a slave letting his location be known...

amanda said...

Ah, the classic story of the master getting outdone. Not sure why but this whole situation reminded me of a lot of present day teen vs parent stories.

Of course from what Brian said, it seemed that Auld had it coming to him...

Anyways, It's refreshing to hear support for anti-slavery, a cause that should have received more attention at the time.

I do agree that these letters are perhaps about closure for Douglass. After going through a slave experience, we can only imagine his emotions towards this man... All men are equal, it's nice to know some slaves realized this fact.

Jeanette, I could not have said it better myself.

Caitlin said...

I really enjoyed reading the letter of Douglas to his former master because it was such a slap in the face, but in a good way. It felt so great to read about his freedom and the life is was currently living. Then he was able to tell his master how he felt that whole time. The fear he was instilled with. Everyone always dreams of telling people what is actually on their mind and for many slaves, they died on their plantation before emancipation or never got the opportunity to. The way Douglas is able to finally express his feelings and tell of his great success in life after 10 years is wonderful.
The Harriet Tubman letter wouldn't open for me but from what i read from other comments, it seemed like Tubman was a very humble woman who wanted to help people just for the sake of their own lives. She seemed like a very inspiring and courageous woman who Douglas continued to look up to his whole life to find strength.