Black and white illustration of Frederick Douglass

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

by Frederick Douglass
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In Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Douglass stresses that killing a slave or colored person is not treated as a crime in Talbot County, Maryland.  Why does he highlight this detail?

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In his Narrative, Douglass stresses that killing a slave is not considered a crime in Talbot County, Maryland because he wants to make an ethical and emotional appeal to his audience.  Douglass wants to stress to his audience that slaves are not regarded as humans by slave masters:  he offers the circumstances of his own birth, the whipping of his Aunt Hester, and the betrayal of Mrs. Auld as evidence to show that slave masters only see slaves as less than human.  Simultaneously, Douglass poses himself as a sympathetic figure in his narrative--one who has endured great hardship and has struggled to fight for his own freedom.  The juxtaposition of the slave masters' cruel treatment and the sympathetic nature of Douglass's character allows Douglass to appeal to his audience who, at the time, were mostly white abolitionists working towards dismantling the institution of slavery.

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