Slavery did not function as many people now think it did. It was not as large-scale as it is imagined to be and was very systematic. Our textbook tells a lot about how it worked, but it did not tell us of the brutality and harsh reality that went along with the system. Douglas, though, did reveal this to us. From his experience and the textbook, we learn of slavery s effects and of the difference between city slaves and plantation slaves. However, Douglas stories do differ from what the textbook teaches us.
Slavery was not what it is pictured to be like in the movies. There were no more than a handful of extremely wealthy slaveholders. Few slave owners had hundreds of slaves, a lot of land and a long, tree-lined driveway leading up to a huge, wonderful mansion. Most of them worked hard on the fields, side-by-side with their slaves. Slaves either worked on a specific task, and when they finished they were done for the day, or they were divided into groups and worked for as long as the slaved river saw fit. They worked in the fields of staple crops like cotton and rice. But slavery was a business; it was organized and precise. Products were produced and money was made. Except, it was not nearly anything like the businesses of the North. Slaves had no rights; they were property; they were animals. Douglas shows us the evils of slavery when he tells us that he and other slaves were lined up with the animals as well as the belongings and possessions of his late master and were examined to determine their value. The textbook does not show us these evils as well as Douglass does.
The effect slavery had on the master and the slave was division, in two forms. One was that the whites and the blacks were further separated as slavery continued. Deep lines of division were drawn between the two races. As the whites mercilessly prospered, the blacks miserably suffered. The other form of division was between the slaves themselves the whites themselves. Slave children were torn from their mothers without pity. Frederick Douglas shows us the awfulness of this type of division with the story of the grandmother who was sent to die in the woods all by herself, even though she had so many children. On the other hand, white families were separated when husbands had affairs and illegitimate children with their slaves. These children were treated as slaves usually and were not accepted into the white family. Also, the white family itself was disrupted. The divided society was very different than the northern, egalitarian society.
Slaves on the plantation had a much different life than slaves in the city. City slaves were far better off. They could work, eat well, sleep well, and do much more compared to the desolate plantation slave. A city slave had a better chance of learning how to read and write, as Douglas did. The difference in the amount and difficulty of work was tremendous; the city slave did not have the arduous task of working in the fields. Also, especially in Maryland and other northern parts of the South, it was easier for a slave to reach freedom from a city, rather than an isolated plantation. Douglas was a great example of this; he failed to reach freedom from the plantation, but succeeded in reaching freedom from the city.
The textbook showed the economical and social surface skin of slavery, but Frederick Douglas open up the ugly insides of it for us. He was much more descriptive and his examples were meaningful. He did not get into the systematics of slavery as much as the textbook. Both the textbook and his narrative helped clarify the situation of city and plantation slaves and display the effects of this horrible practice.