Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave By Frederick Douglass Summary and Analysis Appendix

Summary

Certain editions of Douglass' Narrative conclude with an appendix. Douglass feels he may be misunderstood and wants to explain to the reader that he is not anti-religion. He makes it clear that he is only against the religion of slaveholders; for Douglass, their religion is far removed from the "Christianity of Christ." In fact, to embrace the latter as "good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked." To be a Christian requires one to reject slavery.

Douglass ends by presenting a parody of a Southern church hymn called "Heavenly Union." In it, he pokes fun at Southerners who profess religion while "stinting negroes backs and maws." He jibes at the preacher who gives his slaves only meager allowances of food and clothing, all the while urging them to "love not the world" (that is, indulge in worldly pleasures). And he exposes the "man-thief" (the slave trader) who lives very well from the profits of his trade. Finally, Douglass states that he hopes his little book will shed light on the institution of slavery and hasten its end. He pledges to fight for his "sacred cause" with the power of "truth, love, and justice."

Analysis

A religious context frames the entire Narrative. The abolitionists were, for the most part, religious people, and many of their arguments were based on what should be the conduct of Christians. Abolitionists, Douglass included, wanted to distinguish their kind of Christianity from that of the slave owners. Abolitionism was clearly a part of their holy crusade.

Douglass ends his autobiography by reaffirming his name/identity ("I subscribe myself, Frederick Douglass"). Because slaves have no identity, by recognizing himself, Douglass is finally free.

Glossary

votaries people devoted to a cause or religion.

Pharisees followers of an ancient Jewish sect, advocating strict observance of traditions and laws of the Hebrew faith. Jesus condemned them as hypocrites. Here, Douglass is comparing Christian slaveholders to Pharisees.

gnats insects or flies, especially those that are bloodsucking.

Pilate and Herod the Roman governor and ruler of Galilee, respectively, who condemned Christ to the Cross.

motes specks of dust.

Jack and Nell . . . Tony, Doll, and Sam names representative of slaves.

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