Frederick Douglass’ Unforgettable, and Horrific, Christmas Story

portrait of frederick douglass
Adé Hennis
May 22, 2024

Throughout his childhood, Frederick Douglass witnessed enslaved people risk their lives to steal food from slaveowners to avoid starvation. However, over the Christmas holidays, instead of enjoying a feast, they were forced to drink liquor.

Enslavers placed bets on which of their slaves could drink the most whiskey without passing out or getting sick. They thought it was fun to celebrate Christmas by torturing people.

"Not to be drunk during the holidays was disgraceful,” Douglass recalled. Enslavers pretended that they were being generous by giving their slaves alcohol and six days off work, but in reality, it was a form of social control. People who were intoxicated or hung over weren’t able to arrange an escape.

Alcohol and food were used to oppress Black people but sometimes it backfired.  Many enslaved people, like Douglass, escaped and shared their stories of the horrors of plantation life.

We should be able to identify and resist all forms of social control. We have the capability to change or remove ourselves from any toxic environment, especially when we’re aware of opps parading as entertainers, allies, and one of us.