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Nov 8, 2017 in Analysis

Compare and Contrast: Frederick Douglass and Olaudah Equiano

Abstract

Olaudah Equiano and Fredrick Douglass were both slaves in the US during their youth and later gained freedom from slavery. Although they lived in different times, their narratives about their life in slavery and freedom have common interests. The two men were fighting against slavery joining the abolitionist movements that were campaigning for the humanity of the slaves. They did write of their life in slavery and the inhuman treatment. They believed that knowledge was the key to freedom as their freedom was cultivated by them knowing to read and write.

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Fight against Slavery

Frederick Douglass is described to be one of the most brilliant authors, an orator, and an organizer in the nineteenth century. He was the most famous as he was the first fugitive to declare out publicly against slavery. He is describing his life in bondage with power, as he is asking his audience whether it has been listening to a thing, a piece of property, or a man. He is described as a prince in his wrath and indignation that he described the slavery bitterness and humiliation. He fought for equality irrespective of a person’s race. In his review, Sekora notes that:

“Like black soldiers during the war, black anti-slavery agents did not receive as much pay as White, and Douglass was rebuffed when he asked Maria Weston Chapman, who as secretary handled finances, for equality of salary or conditions” (Sekora 611).

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Douglass had been taught to read by the mistress of his master, which prompted the master to declare that learning was to spoil the best slave in the world. This led to Douglass buying a book that enlightened him and inspired his oratorical skills. Douglass no more did he endured abuse as he resulted to defend himself and this earned him respect as he was no longer punished. The relative freedom that Douglas earned from his master the privilege of wages made him live independently and this enabled him to escape. Douglass lectured tirelessly against slavery as his main cause was the struggle against slavery and discrimination of the slaves. He even raised a fund that was used to help fugitive slaves.

He lobbied the president during the civil war to make the slaves being freed and organize the black regiment, as he declared that liberty won by whites was lacking half its luster, thus recruiting troops for the union army. He never wavered for commitment to equal rights by use of the federal power to safeguard the freemen rights. He advised the young generation to continue agitating as he never stopped agitating (Doherty 193-198).

Olaudah Equiano was also a prominent African that fought toward the abolition of the slave trade with the British. Despite his enslavement, he had earned his freedom and did work as an author; he wrote his autobiography that depicted the horrors of the slave trade this helped the lawmakers to abolish the slave trade. Equiano had been kidnapped and sold to the European slave traders and was transported among others to the British colony of Virginia.

His narrative depicted the cruelty of the slaves in slave-owners homes. They suffered the iron gag used around the mouth to remain silent, thus unable to speak or eat.

Equiano's dedication is deeply ironic, Wilfred Samuels asks how a nation of "liberal sentiments," "humanity," and "glorious freedom" can justify involvement in a slave trade that tears individuals from their families (Marren 95).

He conveyed the fear of his new environment as he thought the portrait eye followed him and the ticking clock could tell all to his master. He was shocked by his culture such that he used to wash his face to change his color. He received training in seamanship as he was a naval slave and was sent to school to learn and read. Equiano had known to read, and his new master had guided him along the path of religion, he even allowed him to trade profitably on his own on behalf of his master, which earned him his freedom in his twenties. Equiano traveled to Britain where he joined the abolitionists who encouraged him to write where he published his life story. Ito, in his review about Olaudah Equiano, notes that:

“Although many historians have identified his seminal role as an eighteenth-century abolitionist…most omit this luminary writer of Black life or fail to explore the relation of his work to modern Black fiction” (Ito 83).

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Many people were surprised by his account and the imagery and description of his literal style. Making him an influential writer was the publication of his autobiography as a slave, thus fuelling the anti-slavery in Britain. His autobiography described the adventures that took him to Britain, and the exposure of how slaves were thrown overboard ships, for the owners to claim insurance. Equiano was a leader of the poor blacks, and his connection to the political realm served as the people’s voice. He was more of a voice than most Africans seizing opportunities to utilize it.

Douglass and Equiano led lives that most slaves envied as they gained their freedom from the bondage of which the majority of their brothers did not know. The assimilation of the system and the prejudice that was overcome by the black people to the society can be noted in their work. The titles in their work were authenticated by the use of Written by Himself while skeptics’ was held toward former slaves ability by the white audience, with some suggesting the inclusion of the plantation languages to maintain credibility to the audience. There are contrasting self-perception in their work tittles. Equiano was referring to himself as the African while Douglass was referring to himself as an American slave. The variation in their writing can thus, be credited to the reason Equiano being born in Africa as he was kidnapped when still a small boy and forced into slavery while Douglass an American was born into the slavery system in America.

Slaves Narratives: Frederick Douglass, Olaudah Equiano Essay

American slavery is said to have been proclaimed to be a man’s heritage, as it had been absorbed into their culture, as it was being seen in the slave’s appearances. Douglass had written that there was a springing up of a different looking class of people that were now being held as slaves from the originals that were brought from Africa. There are differences between the works of both men even if they are classified as slave narratives. The differences are brought forth by the fact that both men were from diverse upbringings, in addition to their social standards, adherence.

Being a slave of the African original, Equiano had begun life as a free man. He wrote his childhood thoughts with pleasure as depicted in his work, which opened his village description blight. The spirituality of the people was guided by the life of a plain lifestyle, which was described to be jubilant and clean and never indulged in alcohol or condoned laziness. Thus, the separation of Equiano from his haven and family is the crudest aspect of his bondage. The separation of him and his sister, he described doubled the wretchedness of his situation and boarded into a ship to West Indies. Equiano wrote that he found comfort onboard the ship in the presence of other people from his nation amid hideous conditions of being chained together in their filth and diseases.

In the comparison of Douglass's narrative and Equiano’s, some graphics are left out. Equiano describes that he received his first whipping on the ship, but he does not indicate that this flogging was in the real sense severe. Douglass's account shows that he was severely flogged as he wrote that the lashes cut through him leaving marks that were visible for a long time. The writing of Equiano can thus, be said to have been written with the realm of his audience of the time, as his narrative was popular with travel literature. His narrative is of informal, natural wonders and scientific information as he included places, soil, and plantations in abundance and incredible sizes.

The life led by Equiano was a traveler, unlike Douglass who never described his slave life with interesting details. He focused his writing on authenticity rather than his interest as the main theme in his work is his escape and not travel. His journey to freedom from slavery is related to his escape giving blared reality and graphics details as depicted in his writing that, the louder she shouted the harder he thrashed, and where the blood ran fastest, there he whipped longest’, and the common language of his masters ‘it was worth half a cent to kill a nigger and half a cent to burry one’.

The narratives of Douglass were with the urgency and passion that was directed to the abolitionist who was his main audience (Giles & Bonner256-265). He inflicted them to feel the pain that was being experienced by the slaves, and to loathe the slave owners as he was doing. He described slavery as the epitome of demoralization of humans, splitting the nation into two. Thus, his narrative gave the abolitionist the resources they required of ammunition to fight their cause. The narrative of Douglass has childhood memories of missing his father is likely to be the white master, but the law called for a child to follow the way of their mother. He was separated from his mother when he was still young as in the case of slave children; thus, her death to Douglass was like the death of a stranger.

These two writers relied on their faith for them to counter their hardships, reflected in the writings of both men, and this helped them to question the Christian slave owner's hypocrisy. The separation of Equiano from his family and into slavery depicts that his faith was Christianity and his devotion to his re-birth which he explained his apparition of the crucified Redeemer shedding blood on the cross. Equiano was at times veering off and used his spirituality to convert the non-believers, but Douglass was using his spirituality in questioning the morals of human bondage. He abhorred the corrupt owning of slaves and the whipping of women to the Christianity of land as he was the believer of Christianity of Christ (Pearce 266-273).

Summary

Even though their narratives have differences these two men did overcome racism and tyranny as their message was being heard, and their ability to read and write led them to be free men and they contributed enormously in the process of the abolishment of slavery. There was no doubt that the understanding of literacy as being the primary code of existence and empowerment path. Equiano writing for his story was convinced that it would offer satisfaction to his numerous friends and in the promotion of humanity interests he had learned how the world revolved with the words of literacy. He conceived that for one to endure immortal his written life story was to last as long as people did. These two men were slaves but yearned for knowledge and literacy.

The writer of the African-American had come a long way, with their language exploration and literacy producing outstanding literature. This helped in the development of culture and literature, leading to a strong influence on literature, literacy, and languages.

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