What are some of Frederick Douglass' violent struggles against slavery in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass?

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teachertaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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One of most widely discussed stories from Douglass's narrative that deals with his violent struggle against slavery is his battle with Mr. Covey in Chapter 10.  Douglass was hired out to Mr. Covey on a one-year contract.  Mr. Covey treated all the slaves on his plantation with exceptional brutality, and Douglass could hardly do his work in the harsh weather and poor working conditions.  Mr. Covey did not give the slaves enough time to eat or rest, so they were regularly weary.  On one occasion, Mr. Covey beat Douglass horribly, and Douglass describes the extremely bloody state of his body.  So Douglass returned to his master for help.  Master Thomas, however, sent him back to Mr. Covey.  Upon return, Douglass got into a fight with Mr. Covey and won the battle.  Mr. Covey would never admit that he lost the fight, but he did not harm Douglass again.  Douglass regards the fight as a turning point in his career as a slave.  From this point on, he says that he was a slave in body but not in mind.  Through this violent struggle, Douglass was able to regain hope for the future.

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jameadows | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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One of Frederick Douglass's struggles against slavery is his resistance to the overseer, Mr. Covey. Douglass writes, "You have seen how a man was a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man" (page 39). In fighting back against Mr. Covey and refusing to submit to his blows, Douglass experiences what he calls a "resurrection" (page 43). He gains confidence in his ability to resist slavery and its dehumanization.

Douglass also has intellectual struggles against slavery. Against all odds, he learns to read. When his slave mistress, Mrs. Auld, stops teaching him to read (as she is told not to by her husband, who thinks learning to read will make Douglass unfit to be a slave), Douglass tricks local white boys into teaching him the alphabet. Later, reading enables him to understand the intellectual arguments against slavery, though he already understands the emotional and personal arguments against the institution. By reading "The Columbian Orator" and Sheridan's arguments against slavery, Douglass formulates an intellectual argument against slavery that enables his mind to be in a state of "eternal wakefulness" (page 24). By learning to read and later to write, Douglass also mounts a struggle against the conditions in which slaves were forced to live.

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