Frederick Douglass

 After doing the extremely hard job of escaping slavery, Frederick Douglass faced an equally challenging job of creating a persuasive image — an image that would make people want to join the abolition movement. He knew the power of a picture and what it was capable of doing, so when in front of the camera he was very sure to have a serious expression since slavery was a serious topic.

One very important thing we can learn from reading the Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass is that how people perceive us is extremely important. Our image tells people a lot about us without us even having to say a word. Frederick Douglass believed that pictures were in a way like windows for people really see inside of us. To help persuade people more that slavery was no small matter he didn’t sugarcoat the horrors he experienced first hand and witnessed. Even after he escaped there was a lot for him to fear and there was a lot of things he had to do to stay free.

“I saw in every white man an enemy, and in almost every colored man a cause for distrust. It was a most painful situation; and to understand it, one must needs experience it, or imagine himself in similar circumstances”(159).

There was still many challenges Douglass faced and how he looked at people around him was one of them. He knew that anyone black or white could potentially be the reason for his return to enslavement. He had to appeal to not only the abolition movement but to everyone if he wanted to stay free. He also wanted to help others escape slavery, but knew that if he saw “in every colored man a cause for distrust” that they may view him the same way. He had to put a lot of thought in his appearance. 

Despite these challenges he viewed America as his home and when asked to move abroad he refused. While in Scotland, Douglass sent a letter to William Lloyd Garrison where he stated, “I have been frequently counselled to leave America altogether, and make Britain my home. But this I cannot do, unless it shall be absolutely necessary for my personal freedom”(198). Even though being in America caused him unimaginable pain and that returning to America would be risking getting recaptured by his previous enslaver, Douglass still viewed it as his home.

Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Other Writings. Edited by Celeste Marie Bernier. Broadview Press, 2018.

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