In today's world, the expression, "to be a man," can take on many different meanings just as it could during the time of slavery in early American history. The term, "man," can be a reference to gender, or it can also be a description of one's actions. A person's bravery and masculinity can determine whether or not they act like a "man," and preservation of one's manhood is an idea that has been pursued by humanity throughout history. Enslaved, African American, men in the 1800s were constantly faced with the challenge of maintaining their masculinity while enduring hardships that were meant to degrade and ridicule . Frederick Douglass is a classic example of one such man. Douglass" experiences showed that a person could be owned by someone else while retaining their masculinity and remaining human. In his Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, published in 1845, Douglass describes the torment that was oppressed upon slaves, however he also shows that many of the slaves were not the animals that the white slaveholder often thought they were. He used his Narrative as a tool to help persuade others into abolitionism and to convince oppressed blacks to stand up for their freedom.
Frederick Douglass was considered by many to be exceptional, compared to most slaves, however he also experienced many of the same trials and tribulations as other enslaved African American men. As a child, Douglass endured many hardships along with the other black children. In his Narrative, he discusses the lack of proper clothing and beddings, the overall malnutrition and the abuse that the slave children were forced into . According to Douglass, "no age nor sex," found any favor with the slave owners . As Douglass grew older, he continued to remain under the control of the white owners and had to experience the same punishments as other slaves, despite the idea that he was possibly the child of a white man and a slave woman.