Urban Studies

Even if you are not “quoting” but just paraphrasing or summarizing what an author writes, you must still provide a citation.  For example,

Douglass described the living conditions in the cabins as cold and dirty (17).

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Discussion Questions about The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Do not skip the Introduction, but you can skim it.  It was written by a white person to offer his support for Frederick Douglass as a witness to slavery.  Nearly all slave narratives have similar testimonials by white people to authorize the formerly enslaved person’s text as authentic.  In this case, Douglass happened to be highly literate, so he wrote his own story (so far as we know, with little editing).

  1. Who was William Lloyd Garrison?  Explain who this person was in terms of American history in the 1840s and 1850s. Look him up.
  2. Who is the intended audience for the Introduction – primarily whites or African Americans (slave or free?).  Explain your answer.
  3. What human rights do slaves possess, according to Garrison?

In the actual Narrative, I want you to discover a few things:

  1. How were women, children, and the elderly treated?  Find three times in the text where Douglass discusses these topics.  Quote or paraphrase from those descriptions in Douglass’ narrative. Cite where the information comes from.
  2. How did slavery corrupt white people, according to Douglass?  Give at least one specific example from the book.  Quote from it, using MLA citation.
  3. What techniques were used to control slaves and to keep them compliant?  What were the non-violent means of control?  From reading this narrative, does it appear that African Americans readily accepted their role as slaves?  Give evidence with citations from this book to back up your position.
  4. How were slaves treated during the Christmasholidays?  How does Douglass think this treatment added to the mental enslavement of the African Americans?
  5. What issue is Douglass addressing in the book’s Appendix?  Summarize his main point in your own words (3-5 sentences)


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