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The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave was extremely interesting. More so than any other reading this semester, Douglass was particularly compelling because of his oratorical style and his ability to achieve a sense of emotion from his words. In his writing, Douglass uses a variety of symbols and themes to describe his eventual escape from slavery. Throughout the Narrative, Douglass describes the idea and his grasp of power as a tool that propels his escape to the North. Moreover, within Douglass’s power, lies his literacy. Unlike many slaves at the time, because Douglass was able to read and write, he nearly achieved the social status of a White man. Like many other prolific African American writers in history, Douglass believed that such an ability should not be contained only within the powerful White society. Consequently, Douglass’s unique ability (within the slave community) to read and write allowed him to quickly progress through a dominant White society in which many were stuck. Additionally, Douglass’s escape to the North began his career as an orator. Here, I found it fascinating that not only did Douglass look towards his emotions for help, but also his faith. A strong believer in religion, Douglass was mistrusted by many. Therefore, Douglass looked towards the members of his church for support and created a strong following in the hope to someday protect all slaves. Eventually able to convince many to join him and fellow abolitionists, Douglass gave a glimmer of hope to those slaves who thought freedom did not exist. In the end, because Douglass had the courage to learn how to read and write on his own and to escape to the North, he created the notion the slavery was inhumane and demanded social justice.

Simon Bolivar, a leader of several independence movements throughout South America, uses a variety of rhetorical questions in The Jamaica Letter. At first, I did not completely understand the purpose of Bolivar’s writing style. However, as I continued to read, I recognized that such a style imposed a sense of justification and purpose about several of Bolivar’s main points. More specifically, as Bolivar describes the New World, he writes, “Who would have dared to predict that one nation would be a republic or another a monarchy, that this one would be unimportant, that one great? In my opinion, this is the image of our situation.” The use of rhetorical questions initially makes the reader think about what Bolivar is writing. Moreover, Bolivar’s use of rhetorical questions makes his argument more persuasive because he is not looking for an answer, but simply giving it to the reader. However, not only does Bolivar offer rhetorical questions in order to encourage the reader to reflect on the question, but also the author immediately states his opinion. Because Bolivar instantly takes a position on the idea of the New World, he employs a sense of power upon the reader. It is not as though Bolivar is losing his sense of humility, but he is instead using his voice to declare a main point.
Furthermore, it is very interesting to note that while describing the Americans, Bolivar discusses the subject of slavery just as Jefferson did. In Bolivar’s eyes, the Americans were considered slaves at the hands of the Spanish. Clearly unwilling to yield the Americans any respect, Bolivar describes the Americans as “servants suited for work or, at best, that of simple consumers.” Just as there was the major issue of slavery in North America, in South America there too was the concept that those who were in power refused to accept a people that were physically dissimilar.

When I first read the passages about Thomas Jefferson, I did not understand the source of Jefferson’s contradictions. However, as I continued to read, I came to realize that Jefferson’s contradictions were built on the foundation of his intelligence. Because Jefferson was so ahead of his time, he had to contend with the future, as well as the present. When describing the Black slaves of his time, Jefferson writes, “This unfortunate difference of color, and perhaps of faculty, is a powerful obstacle to the emancipation of these people” (536). Jefferson knew that because of the slaves’ “difference in color,” it would be nearly impossible to emancipate them in a time of such racial turmoil, and furthermore, allow them to roam free in a dominant White society. Even though Jefferson had all of the right intentions, they did not result in successful actions. Moreover, Jefferson writes that the “powerful obstacle” was the “difference in color” of the slaves. However, more so than the fact that the slaves were black, the dominant people in America at this time (the White people) were unwilling to change their perception of a different race. As a result, Jefferson was forced to battle his intellectual ability of being able to see the accepting societies of future America with the racist societies of present America. Nevertheless, due to societal pressures and the stubborn reluctance of the Whites, Jefferson was unable to implement change. In the end, even though Jefferson (and only him) had the ability to look past much of 18th and 19th century racial bias, he failed to implement his great ideas in a country that grew more unwilling to accept a people based on physical dissimilarities. Consequently, the Black slaves in America were unable to construct a distinct identity that was separate from that of the Whites.

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