narrative of the life of frederick Douglass, an American slave
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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 (alcohol, party....) 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."