Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

The Function of Christianity in Slave Literature College

Much of the literature that emerged during the 19th century dealt with the then controversial and incredibly widespread institution of slavery. Nearly equally widespread, however, was white Southerners’ claim to Christianity, a religion that, by the mid-19th century, had become inextricably intertwined with the institution of slavery. In his autobiographical slave narrative, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass,” Frederick Douglass calls attention to the vast incongruity between the doctrines of Christianity and the practice of it in a region dominated by an economic system based on the enslavement of an entire race of people. Many of the other literary works of this time echoed this sentiment, confronting the issue of slavery against the backdrop of Christianity—for example, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which follows the journey of Tom and several other slaves under the ownership of several different masters, and Hannah Crafts’ recently discovered The Bondswoman’s Narrative, which chronicles a female slave’s life and eventual escape from captivity into the North. Uncle Tom’s Cabin provides a criticism of the “slaveholding religion” Douglass describes, largely by depicting characters who hypocritically...

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