|Frederick Douglass Essay Prompt
For this assignment you will write a 4-6 page essay on the following prompt:
To what extent does the narrative and story of Frederick Douglass refute the pro-slavery quote below? In addition, how does this story affect popular understandings of early American history? Provide evidence from the book in your analysis.
The negro slaves of the South are the happiest, and in some sense, the freest people in the world. The children and the aged and infirm work not at all, and yet have all the comforts and necessaries of life provided for them. They enjoy liberty, because they are oppressed neither by care or labor. The women do little hard work, and are protected from the despotism of their husbands by their masters. The negro men and stout boys work, on the average, in good weather, no more than nine hours a day. The balance of their time is spent in perfect abandon. Besides, they have their Sabbaths and holidays. White men, with so much of license and abandon, would die of ennui; but negroes luxuriate in corporeal and mental repose. With their faces upturned to the sun, they can sleep at any hour; and quiet sleep is the greatest of human enjoyments. "Blessed be the man who invented sleep." 'Tis happiness in itself-and results from contentment in the present, and confident assurance of the future. We do not know whether free laborers ever sleep. They are fools to do so; for, whilst they sleep, the wily and watchful capitalist is devising means to ensnare and exploit them. The free laborer must work or starve. He is more of a slave than the negro, because he works longer and harder for less allowance than the slave, and has no holiday, because the cares of life with him begin when its labors end. He has no liberty and not a single right. . . .
Until the lands of America are appropriated by a few, population becomes dense, competition among laborers active, employment uncertain, and wages low, the personal liberty of all the whites will continue to be a blessing. We have vast unsettled territories; population may cease to increase slowly, as in most countries, and many centuries may elapse before the question will be practically suggested, whether slavery to capital be preferable to slavery to human masters. But the negro has neither energy nor enterprise, and, even in our sparser populations, finds with his improvident habits, that his liberty is a curse to himself, and a greater curse to the society around him. These considerations, and others equally obvious, have induced the South to attempt to defend negro slavery as an exceptional institution, admitting, nay asserting, that slavery, in the general or in the abstract, is morally wrong, and against common right. With singular inconsistency, after making this admission, which admits away the authority of the Bible, of profane history, and of the almost universal practice of mankind-they turn around and attempt to bolster up the cause of negro slavery by these very exploded authorities. If we mean not to repudiate all divine, and almost all human authority in favor of slavery, we must vindicate that institution in the abstract.
To insist that a status of society, which has been almost universal, and which is expressly and continually justified by Holy Writ, is its natural, normal, and necessary status, under the ordinary circumstances, is on its face a plausible and probable proposition. To insist on less, is to yield our cause, and to give up our religion; for if white slavery be morally wrong, be a violation of natural rights, the Bible cannot be true. Human and divine authority do seem in the general to concur, in establishing the expediency of having masters and slaves of different races. In very many nations of antiquity, and in some of modern times, the law has permitted the native citizens to become slaves to each other. But few take advantage of such laws; and the infrequency of the practice establishes the general truth that master and slave should be of different national descent. In some respects the wider the difference the better, as the slave will feel less mortified by his position. In other respects, it may be that too wide a difference hardens the hearts and brutalizes the feeling of both master and slave. The civilized man hates the savage, and the savage returns the hatred with interest. Hence West India slavery of newly caught negroes is not a very humane, affectionate, or civilizing institution. Virginia negroes have become moral and intelligent. They love their master and his family, and the attachment is reciprocated. Still, we like the idle, but intelligent house-servants, better than the hard-used, but stupid outhands; and we like the mulatto better than the negro; yet the negro is generally more affectionate, contented, and faithful.
The world at large looks on negro slavery as much the worst form of slavery; because it is only acquainted with West India slavery. But our Southern slavery has become a benign and protective institution, and our negroes are confessedly better off than any free laboring population in the world. How can we contend that white slavery is wrong, whilst all the great body of free laborers are starving; and slaves, white or black, throughout the world, are enjoying comfort? . . .
The aversion to negroes, the antipathy of race, is much greater at the North than at the South; and it is very probable that this antipathy to the person of the negro, is confounded with or generates hatred of the institution with which he is usually connected. Hatred to slavery is very generally little more than hatred of negroes.
There is one strong argument in favor of negro slavery over all other slavery; that he, being unfitted for the mechanic arts, for trade, and all skillful pursuits, leaves those pursuits to be carried on by the whites; and does not bring all industry into disrepute, as in Greece and Rome, where the slaves were not only the artists and mechanics, but also the merchants.
Whilst, as a general and abstract question, negro slavery has no other claims over other forms of slavery, except that from inferiority, or rather peculiarity, of race, almost all negroes require masters, whilst only the children, the women, and the very weak, poor, and ignorant, &c., among the whites, need some protective and governing relation of this kind; yet as a subject of temporary, but worldwide importance, negro slavery has become the most necessary of all human institutions.
George Fitzhugh, “The Blessings of Slavery” (1857)
Do not try to write this essay if you have not read the book in its entirety. I will grade your essay based on its clarity, organization, content, and mechanics. It must exhibit correct spelling and grammar, and must be written at a collegiate level.
Your paper must be in Times New Roman size 12 font and double spaced. You should have 1 inch margins on all sides of the paper. Page numbers should be centered in the footer.
Here are some helpful tips for your paper-
1) Your paper must have an argument. This argument should be clearly stated in the introductory paragraph. An argument offers an explanation to a question, not just a general statement. For example: “Writing history papers is stupid” may be your firm belief, but it is a general statement and not an argument. Something better would be “Writing history papers is stupid because I always wait until the last minute, I never complete the reading assignments on time, and I always got A’s in high school- so why should I put any effort into this paper.” This is an argument because it offers three explanations for why this imaginary student dislikes writing history papers - (although I sense it will be a failing paper.)
2) Once you have a clearly stated argument, the rest of your paper should present the most relevant evidence in support of that argument- not just information from the first half of the chapter or the shortest documents. You want to persuade your reader that your argument is the most convincing explanation to a particular question.
3) Express your ideas, explain your evidence, then analyze that evidence in careful detail. Do not assume that I know what you intend to say- be sure you write exactly what you intend to say. Do not leave your reader guessing. If I spend a great deal of time trying to figure out what you are trying to say, that is not a good sign. Clarity is one of your best friends. Do not include “I believe” or other use of your own voice- it’s your paper, we know it is what you believe.
4) Organize your paper so that it develops in some coherent fashion. Do not simply discuss issues because you are currently reading that particular piece of evidence. A stream of consciousness is no form of organization. If your paper is so confusing that it takes me longer to read than took you to write, that is also not a good sign.
5) All paragraphs should begin with a strong topic sentence that lets the reader know exactly what that particular paragraph will discuss. Then, each sentence in that paragraph should focus on that topic sentence. If you have any sentences that do not deal with the topic sentence, they should not be in the paragraph. You should be able to read each paragraph’s topic sentence and see the logical progression of the paper.
6) The concluding paragraph should summarize the argument and the supporting evidence- but it should not simply repeat the introductory paragraph. Many times, students do not even include the concluding paragraph, so the reader is left guessing. This is a bad idea- your paper must have a concluding paragraph.
7) Avoid the use of the Passive Voice. Whenever you see the verb “to be” (“was,” “were”), rewrite the sentence to avoid the passive voice. For example: “The Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson” is passive voice because the subject (TJ) is after the verb (to write). Most passive voice sentences can easily be fixed: “Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence.” This is “active voice” because the person doing the action (TJ) is the subject of the sentence. Writing in the active voice makes sentences much clearer and does not bog down the paper in convoluted statements.
Another form of passive voice involves sentences that do not clarify the person doing the action. For example: “My tuition will be raised 25-30%” is passive voice because we do not know who is responsible for raising tuition. A better, more clear, statement would be: “As a result of the state budget crisis, the Board of Regents will raise my tuition 25-30%.” Now we know who is responsible for the action.
8) Avoid long quotations or repetitive use of quotations. While short and relevant quotes can go a long way to help the paper, be sure that you are doing the writing and not letting the quotes write the paper for you.
9) You must use footnotes/endnotes for any quotes. Your paper will be deducted if you do not cite your evidence, or if you use parenthetical references- such as (Wheeler and Becker, 108). Please refer to the Chicago Manual of Style for information on footnotes. If you have questions about footnotes or CMS please ask before it is too late.
10) Your paper must be your own ideas written in your own words. If you take information from any source, including the internet or another student, and claim it to be your own, you are guilty of plagiarism, and you will be turned over to the APs for investigation. You will receive a 0 for this paper. This also can lead to academic suspension. Do not risk it- just come up with your own ideas and express them in your own words- it is not that difficult. In addition, the use of any outside sources will result in a failing grade.
11) Do not wait until the last minute. Coming up with an argument and finding relevant evidence takes time. If you wait until the last minute you will produce a poor paper and earn a poor grade. Students always tell me they write better when under the pressure of a deadline. You do not write better, you only write faster.
12) Finally, it is impossible to produce a good paper in the first draft. You must reread and revise drafts to ensure that the argument is clearly stated, all of the best evidence is explained and analyzed, paragraphs stay focused, the paper develops in a coherent fashion, sentences are consistently written in the past tense and active voice, and you have a conclusion that summarizes your argument and the supporting evidence without simply repeating the introductory paragraph. If you submit only a first draft, you should expect a grade that reflects your lack of effort.
13) Your paper must be the appropriate length (4-6 pages, 12 point font), not too long and not too short. An appropriate title should be at the beginning of the paper; do not include unnecessary spaces at the heading of the paper or fancy fonts to stretch the length.
You will submit the paper by the end of the day on Friday, November 20th at 3:00pm. Late papers will be not be accepted and will result in a “0” as an assessment grade.
You will submit the paper to turnitin.com in addition to a hard copy. If you have never used turnitin.com before you will need to setup an account by providing an email address and password of your choice. Once you are registered, you will sign it to turnitin by using this course number and password and then upload/submit the paper:
HIST 1301 11075945 Langham
Please only submit .doc or .docx files. No PDFs.
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