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Douglass escaped from slavery in 1838 and rose to become a principal leader and spokesperson for the U. He wrote three autobiographies, each one expanding on the details of his life. They are now foremost examples of the American slave narrative.In addition to being autobiographical, they are also, as is standard, explicitly works of political and social criticism and moral suasion; they were aimed at the hearts and minds of the readers, and their greater purpose was to attack and to contribute to the abolition of slavery in the United States, and to argue for the full inclusion of black Americans into the nation.
America was on the wrong side of history on the question of slavery.To defend slavery, some of its apologists drew on the idea of historical progress to offer the defense that slavery was a benevolent and paternal system for the mutual benefit of whites and blacks.Douglass countered by drawing on his experiences, and the experiences of other slaves, that American slavery was in no way benevolent.Douglass’s life, from slavery to statesman, his writings and speeches, and his national and international work have inspired many lines of discussion in debate within the fields of American and African American history, political science and theory, sociology, and in philosophy.His legacy is claimed, despite his links to ideas of cultural and racial assimilationism, by black Nationalists as well as by black liberals and black conservatives. Kirkland (1999), is a valuable guide to lines of inquiry about Douglass, and the debates he inspired, within philosophy in the United States.Douglass can be linked to the history of American philosophy, through his participation in national discussions about the nature of and future of the American Republic and its institutions. Du Bois (1868–1963) and Alain Locke (1884–1954; see Harris 1989). In contemporary philosophy in the United States, Douglass’s work is usually taken up within American philosophy, African American philosophy, and moral, social, and political philosophy; in particular, the debates in those areas focus on his views concerning slavery and (later in his career at the dawn of Jim Crow segregation) racial exploitation and segregation, natural law, the U. constitution, violence and self-respect in the resistance against slavery, racial integration versus emigration or separation, cultural assimilation, racial amalgamation, and women’s suffrage.In that light he is linked to his contemporaries who had academic philosophic connections, in particular Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), and by the uptake of his political and social legacy and writings by later African American philosophers, such as W. In his three narratives, and his numerous articles, speeches, and letters, Douglass vigorously argued against slavery.In his Fourth of July Address, he derides the very idea that he would even need to argue this point (1852b).Against the claim that blacks were beasts, he argued that rather slavery had brutalized them.Additionally, it subverted not only the natural goodness of blacks by brutalizing them, but it also did so to white slaveholders and those otherwise innocent whites affected by this wicked institution.Slavery, Douglass pointed out, making reference to Jefferson’s anxieties in Query 18 of the (1785), that slavery was a poison in the body of the republic.