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Impacts of Slavery on the Southern Society: Frederick Douglass

Updated on December 31, 2017
Patrick Patrick profile image

Patrick has been working as a freelance writer for the past 3 years


Although slavery affected the United States as a whole, it particularly affected the South, where a majority of the whites were not ready to see slavery abolished. In his narrative, Frederick Douglass helps us understand the impacts of slavery, not only on the African American families, but also on the southern whites, the society as well as the relationships between the whites and African Americans in the southern society. Here, I will use Frederick's narrative to discuss how slavery affected the south in general.

The South


Some of the states that had the highest number of slaves included:


South Carolina

North Carolina


Frederick Douglass and Mrs. Sophia

According to Frederick, his mistress, Sophia, had been very kind to him at first. He describes her as having been a kind, tender-hearted woman, who treated him like a human being. She not only allowed him to learn, but also taught him to read at first. She is described as having had heavenly qualities: giving bread to the hungry, giving cloths to the naked and even comforting mourners. However, slavery would divest her of these qualities, turning her into a fierce, stone hearted woman. She no longer allowed him to learn to read or even be taught by others to do the same

This very representation/narrative by Frederick shows how slavery affected both the whites and the African Americans. Her husband had planted an evil seed that led her to become a different person, affecting her own moral health. Mrs. Sophia Auld therefore becomes a perfect example of the negative effects of slavery. According to Frederick, she had never owned a slave before, and he was her very first one. When her husband instructs her to stop teaching him how to read and the consequences of teaching him (that she would ultimately lose her property), she is transformed to a mean and heartless woman. This shows her being transformed from a kind, and loving person to a dehumanized being without any kindness or mercy.

Mrs. Auld Teaching Frederick Douglass to Read


As a result of slavery, her views and relationship with black people changes for the worse. She is no longer sympathetic to the suffering of others, and is therefore desensitized to such suffering and the needs of others. She degrades Frederick in to a position of submission, no longer looking at him as a human being, but a black, inferior person, who is not fit to interact with her or get an opportunity to read. As a slave owner, Sophia loses her humanity. As Frederick puts it:

"for it is almost an unpardonable offence to teach slaves to read in this Christian country".


This represents some level of hypocrisy in this society. Mrs. Sophia represents some of the Christianity values before she allows slavery to change her. As a Christian at first, she is described as having been very caring and concerned for others regardless of their race. However, slavery causes her to lose these values to an extent that she becomes fiercer than her husband. She represents the rest of the southern whites, who were influenced by slavery to neglect their Christian values and dehumanize others on the basis of race. The relationship between races is also affected as is evident between Frederick and the white little boys who teach how to read. Mrs. Sophia does not only stop teaching him, but also refuses him the opportunity to be taught by others. He is taught is secret due to this situation. In the southern society therefore, slavery created a wall between the whites and the African Americans, causing the southern whites to mistreat the blacks given that they were viewed as being mere slaves, unworthy of books or interacting with whites.


For both sides, Slavery created a negative perception of the other, thus forcing both the blacks and whites to perceive each other in terms of their races instead of treating each other as human beings. Slavery is therefore represented as a force that caused negative attitudes between the two races, negatively affecting the society in general. Sophia, like many other white slave owners are reduced to angry and evil individuals, who are unable to reject what they had previously perceived as wrong and evil.

© 2017 Patrick


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