Why is Frederick Douglass' narrative important to the social and/or political context in which it was written?Why is Frederick Douglass' narrative important to the social and/or political context...

Why is Frederick Douglass' narrative important to the social and/or political context in which it was written?

Why is Frederick Douglass' narrative important to the social and/or political context in which it was written?

Asked on by fbarrag2

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I would say that works like Douglass' did much to advance the abolitionist cause in mid- nineteenth century America.  Douglass' work helped increase the fervor located in the North that called for an end to slavery.  The fact that it was a first- hand account, representative of the struggles that slaved had to endure, and that Douglass did not shy away from political activism once he fled to the North all became avenues in which his work proved to be relevant to the American discussion that was taking place at the time surrounding the issue of slavery.  At the same time, I think that Douglass' work was further relevant because it was written by a person of color about what it meant to be a person of color.  This was a dynamic that was not previously experienced to this extent prior to Douglass' work.  This was important because it helped to start the process of expanding the narrative of America and the inclusion of more voices in the dialogue.  With Douglass' writing, White Americans started to hear "the other" in an authentic and original voice, and understand with greater awareness that slavery and silencing voices carried tremendous consequences that could not coexist with the fundamental principles of the nation:

As Russ Castronovo claims, in his article, ''Framing the Slave Narrative / Framing the Discussion," 'The slave narrative refutes the dominant cultural authority that insisted slaves could not write about...or rightfully criticize United States domestic institutions.’’

With Douglass' work, authority began to shift towards the voice of "the other."  The result of this transformation of paradigm is greater awareness and greater significance given the time period.

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