The Transformation of a Man to a Brute “In general most slaves do not know their ages anymore than horses know theirs. ” This quote is taken from the famous autobiography entitled Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass An American Slave. In this work he retells the horrors of slavery and the hardships he endured while enslaved; he and his fellow slaves were euthanized by the white slave masters. Not only were slaves deprived of knowing their age, but also of their family and other personal information.
This promoted the idea that slaves were less than human and only property. Demutualization is the act of degrading people to deprive human qualities. (Merriam-Webster) This act of detest was common practice for slave owners. It enforced the ideas that slaves were property and that of white supremacy. The demutualization of slaves by their masters is exemplified through the lack of education, separation of loved ones, and poor living and working conditions. One example of demutualization of slaves is their lack of education.
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This kept slaves in their place; if a slave could not learn to read and write they were kept oblivious to the world around them. The slaves had no sire for a better life because they did not know that such a life existed for them. Without education, slaves could not form their own opinions or realize they were being wronged. All of these factors ensured that the white masters could enslave the black people as long as they were complacent and unaware. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass illuminates this principle.
Frederick’s master states “if you teach that [slave] to read he will be spoiled as a slave, he will become unmanageable and of no value to his master. It will harm [the slave] as well; it will make him discontented” (Douglass, 32). These harsh words summarize underlying rational of preventing the education of slaves. It supports white supremacy and promotes complacency among slaves. When the master said that Frederick would become a “spoiled slave”, he is indicating that Douglass would be more equal to his master if he was educated. Being uneducated limits the ability to think freely for one’s self.
Specifically, the quote indicated education will make slaves “unmanageable” and “of no value. ” This is because the slaves would understand that their treatment was wrong and unjust. Furthermore, if the slave knows that their treatment is unjust and hey could have a better life, it would “make him discontented. ” The lack of education euthanized the slaves by taking away not only the ability to read but also their ability to think for themselves and thrive on their own. Another aspect of demutualization in the Antebellum period is the separation and isolation of loved ones.
By separating slaves from their families, it ensured that they made and kept no family ties. This isolated the slaves; they had no sense of belonging or being loved while enslaved. At any time their mother, brother, or sister could be sold or killed right in front of the slaves’ eyes. Because of this, slaves did not see the point of family or getting attached to a fellow slave because in turn it would cause them more pain when they were separated. “Frequently before the child reached its first birthday, its mother is taken away from it.
She’s hired out to work on a farm miles away, and the child is placed under the care of a woman who is too old to work in the s Why this is done, I do not know, unless I t is to interfere Witt the natural development of affection between the mother and child. ” (Douglass, 2) This quote shows the removal of family ties, the isolation and how there is no sense of belonging thin the slave community. The slave masters would “interfere” with the slaves’ relationships by splitting up selling families and friends of the slaves to preserve control over them.
The process of isolation is yet another dehumidifying factor the masters inflicted upon their slaves. Finally, being forced to work and live in poor conditions euthanized slaves. These conditions widened the gap between masters and slaves. The masters lived in nice homes and had plenty to eat and could go through life with limited troubles. However, their slaves lived in poverty, commonly in shacks no larger then a doghouse. They lived, were fed, worked and were whipped liked animals. Slave masters saw slaves as nothing more than chattel. They felt no remorse towards their slaves because the masters looked down upon them.
The masters could treat their slaves however they pleased because they owned them, Just like they would to any other livestock. “Our food was coarse cornmeal… It was put into a large wooden trough and set down on the ground. The children were then called, as though we were pigs, and like pigs we would come to devour the mush” (Douglass, 27) The slaves were euthanized and reduced to being treated as nothing more Han pigs. Thus, they were animalcule. The slaves were never sated, yet the masters of these starving people were full every night with more to spare.
This treatment of the slaves by the masters was to solidify the fact that slaves were less then human, not even worth a decent meal. Slave owners did everything in their power to keep the slaves believing they were nothing but property and entitled to their (MIS)treatment. The Antebellum period in America was one in which enslavement was used to euthanize black people so the masters could maintain control over their slaves. By mechanizing slaves, it provided whites with, not only the feeling of supremacy, but free labor which allowed for the masters to live exponentially better lives than their slaves.
Demutualization was also a way to establish the scope of the relationship between slaves and their masters. When treated so poorly, slaves could only believe they were the lesser of their masters. Lack of education, isolation and implantation are only three of the dehumidifying aspects inflicted on slaves during this period. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass An American Slave provides an expose of he treatment of slaves that exemplifies demutualization in its fullest and truest state.
The process of demutualization was used to empower the masters over slaves and had worked for decades in America. Following this period, the Civil War would end the enslavement of black people and the dehumidifying treatment that they had once suffered from at the hand of their masters.