Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Chapter 10: Religion and Holidays

Discuss the concepts of religion and holidays in this chapter. What overall point does Douglass make about each ?

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Douglass's term of service to Covey ended on Christmas Day, 1833. The time between Christmas and New Years was always given to slaves as a time for merrymaking and leisure, but the masters tried to make sure that the slaves got as debauched as possible so they would believe that freedom was a hassle and was unhealthy. These holidays were always given, however, because they were known among the slaveholders as a way to prevent insurrection. They were "conductors, or safety-valves, to carry off the rebellious spirit of enslaved humanity."

After living with Covey, Douglass went to live with Mr. William Freeland. The two slaveholders were quite different; Freeland was not as rich, but he had no pretense to religion, did not possess degrading vices, and was not cowardly or cruel. Douglass was most impressed that he had no pretensions to religion, because religious slaveholders were often the worst.