Seeing the Unseen: Perspectives of Slaveholders

 Despite the tragic history of African Americans and their life of enslavement, one man by the name of Frederick Douglass broke his ties to this lifestyle through certain wits and dedication. In his autobiography, he depicts his life transitioning from one white man and woman to another. Whether his owners were good or bad, each individual’s actions has molded his body and mind from the moment he was born until he was freed. And as slaves are considered “property”, how has the way each owner handled their belongings reflect on their morality as a human?

The respect William Freeland has for humanity compels his slaves to work hard in response to the man’s open character. For instance, Douglass explains that “he worked us hard, but always between sunrise and sunset. He required a good deal of work to be done, but gave us good tools of which to work”. In contrast to Covey, an owner considered deceitful and mean, Freeland chose to portray his desire to have hard working slaves through his own actions as their owner.Unlike Covey, Freeland doesn’t twist the words of religion to suit his needs. Instead, he is smart to ensure that his property is well worked to their greatest capacity, yet he realizes the importance of allowing time for each slave to recuperate. In doing so, Freeland manages not only to allow each slave to reach their greatest potential, but he also gains the acknowledgement of being a just and educated person.

In contrast to Freeland’s respect for humanity, an account of Annan’s mistreated condition demonstrates the sparks of rebellion that ignites in the soul of the young man. As a child, Annan was given away for fishing work and “[he] was usually fed once a day and would regularly contract painful diseases which were never treated as [he] was denied access to medical care”. Because his boss’s cruel actions motivated the greed of profit that child trafficking could produce, Annan grew up without any love nor loyalty towards his “boss”. Although the account of Annan’s slavery doesn’t go into details about his boss, Annan’s living condition implies the image of a selfish man who lives in the shallows of life. The boss’s actions proves that he will live his life unhappy because the joy he seeks is one that inflicts pain to a child who has yet to mature.

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The horrors of child trafficking doesn’t end with Annan’s story yet flows into the life of Charles, the boy who matured before his time. Charles’s story begins at the age of 8 where he is taken in as a soldier for the army against the government of Uganda. Against his will, Charles is forced to be fight and kill or be tortured and killed. His captors’ use of fear to instill obedience among their slaves illustrates their malicious intents in an effort to use religion as an excuse. Just like Covey in Douglass’s story, the LRA’s are merely cowards hiding from the blood of their greed for power. In stripping away the innocence of children like Charles, the LDR are anything, but the soldiers of God. By forcing children to kill and hoping that scarring their hands would keep them captive, the captors prove themselves unworthy of even the slightest bit of redemption.

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Child seen fighting in the Lord Resistance Army(LRA) in Uganda

Fortunately, in the narrative of a Mississippian slave, the slaves are able to refer to their owners as “ole Miss [who] was so good, I’d do anything fer her”. The familiarity and endearment in the tone of the slave indicates a strong relationship between the slave and owner. Similar to Freeland, Marse Bob is a kind owner who treats his slave with compassion. Because of this, he is able to earn the respect of the slave. Although his kindness may be a front used to blind the slave from the idea of escaping, his tactics are effective because his slaves are able to leave as humans in his hands.

In each account of slavery, from Douglass’s story to modern slavery, they had the effects of creating a certain perspective about slaveholders. Although most are driven by self-interest and the desire to please their religion, many are similar to Freeland and Marse. Although these men participate in the act of holding slaves, they are nevertheless honorable men who treat their slaves with a certain air of respect and kindness. In doing so, they prove that as humans, it doesn’t take much to show compassion to those with nothing for possibly nothing their life.

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