Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Why did the enslasved people praise their masters?

Chapter 3

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The slaves quickly learned that not praising their masters often resulted in beatings or being sold away from their families.

The colonel, after ascertaining where the slave belonged, rode on; the man also went on about his business, not dreaming that he had been conversing with his master. He thought, said, and heard nothing more of the matter, until two or three weeks afterwards. The poor man was then informed by his overseer that, for having found fault with his master, he was now to be sold to a Georgia trader. He was immediately chained and handcuffed; and thus, without a moment's warning, he was snatched away, and forever sundered, from his family and friends, by a hand more unrelenting than death. This is the penalty of telling the truth, of telling the simple truth, in answer to a series of plain questions.

As a result, slaves praised their masters not because it was the truth, but rather, they did not wish to be separated from their families.

It is partly in consequence of such facts, that slaves, when inquired of as to their condition and the character of their masters, almost universally say they are contented, and that their masters are kind.


Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass