The conditioning of Frederick Douglas

Frederick Douglas
“I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong”

Some background information on Frederick Douglass, excerpt from

Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, who later became known as Frederick Douglass, was born a slave in Talbot County, Maryland, near Hillsboro. He was separated from his mother, Harriet Bailey, when he was still an infant. She died when Douglass was about seven. The identity of Douglass’ father is obscure: Douglass originally stated that his father was a white man, perhaps his owner, Aaron Anthony; but he later said he knew nothing of his father’s identity. At the age of six, Douglass was separated from his grandmother and moved to the Wye House plantation, where Anthony worked as overseer.[1] When Anthony died, Douglass was given to Lucretia Auld, wife of Thomas Auld. Mrs. Auld sent Douglass to Baltimore to serve Thomas’ brother, Hugh Auld.
When Douglass was about twelve, Hugh Auld’s wife, Sophia, broke the law by teaching him some letters of the alphabet. Thereafter, as detailed in his
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (published in 1845), Douglass succeeded in learning to read from white children in the neighborhood in which he lived, and by observing the writings of the men with whom he worked. When Hugh Auld discovered this, he strongly disapproved, saying that if a slave learned to read, he would become dissatisfied with his condition and desire freedom; Douglass later referred to this as the first anti-abolitionist speech he had ever heard.
As he learned and began to read newspapers, political materials, and books of every description, the young Douglass was exposed to a new realm of thought and experience that led him first to question and then to condemn the institution of slavery itself. In later years, Douglass would credit The Columbian Orator, which he discovered when he was around twelve years old, with clarifying and defining his views of freedom and human rights.
When he was hired out to a Mr. Freeman, Douglass taught slaves how to read the New Testament at a Sabbath school on the plantation. As word spread, the interest among slaves in the local community was extensive enough that on any given week over forty slaves would attend lessons. For about six months, their work went relatively unnoticed. While Freeman himself remained complacent about their activities, other plantation owners became incensed that their slaves had been offered such instruction and burst in one Sunday armed with clubs and stones to disperse the congregation permanently.


I just finished reading the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, and it was a very good read, very sad at times with Douglass’ personal recollections of the horrid nature of slavery, but it was very informative. First off, Douglass is a Black History figure that doesn’t really get too much spotlight/coverage in ‘Black History Month’; for example, I was first aware of the man from a T-Shirt. After research, and then reading his book, Douglass was an extraordinary man (not just ‘Black man’) for his time. From teaching himself as a youngster to read and write (which was prohibited for black people) by secretly learning from white kids, and deceiving them to give him any reading/educational materials, to taking his literary knowledge and secretly holding classes for other black people (young & old), Douglass was a modern day renaissance as he knew that knowledge is power. Society in the south, and especially the slaveholders knew this, and would torment and violently whip any black slave who was trying to educate themselves. Mentally, slaveholders and the white racist society of that time, pulled the ultimate mind-f*ck on black people. I always knew this, didn’t really know to what extent and the details involved, but let me showcase some:
  • Slaveholders would actually be ‘generous’ enough to give slaves the holidays off until the New Year; so in a sense, slaves were literally ‘free’ during this time. However, the slaveholders would purposely intoxicate the slaves with cheap liquor, so much to the point that their little ‘freedom’ was heavily engulfed in a staggering/hangover state – which was supposed to convey that ‘freedom’ isn’t something that should be desired

  • Barbaric sports such as wrestling and boxing were encouraged by slaveholders

  • Reading was prohibited, as the belief was that an educated ‘slave’ can not handle education and will not know what is good for him, the master only knows what is good for a slave 
  • Slaveholders never starved their slaves; actually they made it known that they always gave their slaves plenty of food, the food was equivalent to slop, but it was in mass abundance
  • When black women gave birth, the slaveholders separated the child from its mother from a young age so that the child can not develop attachment and affection to its mother, but rather develop attachment to the slave owner

Some of the things that were done to black people were not just dehumanizing, but it was conditioning; in the sense of it altered the way people behaved, think, and responded. This happened all from the 1700’s to mid-late 1800’s, this conditioning was passed down with each black generation. Even after slavery was abolished, this conditioning, and more importantly, the society, was still segregated and there was a hatred/inferiority complex that existed by certain populations.

Fast forward to the current state of black people in America, and the question must be asked, when/if will the conditioning that black people have succumbed to, will subside? How much generations will it take? I mean, we have definitely made progressed, we are doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, politicians, but there are huge numbers that still have that ‘slave’ mentality that end up in jail, commit crimes, are against the ‘system’, don’t educate themselves, and so on.

How long will this ‘spell’ last????

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