November 13, 2008

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass is a short book, only about 100 pages. It is a great picture of what it was like to be a slave towards the end of American slavery. Any attempts to gloss over the brutality of that part of American history are blown away by this simple first-hand account.

Frederick Douglass himself spent his early years between several different masters. He particularly enjoys the care of one couple who had only recently become slaveowners. He relates that over time these once kind owners become as bad as the rest. As a young man, he finally does escape to freedom. As he writes about his first attempt (that was disovered and aborted), he says,

"In coming to a fixed determination to run away, we did more than Patrick Henry, when he resolved upon liberty and death. With us it was a doubtful liberty at most, and almost certain death if we failed. For my part, I should prefer death to hopeless bondage."

I think the most convicting thing about this book is how great a writer Frederick Douglass is, a man who never received any formal schooling. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone with a high school (or even college) education that could write this well. It's sad to think that the value of reading and writing today has largely been reduced to merely being a necessary skill to further oneself in the work place. Douglass himself felt that he would find freedom in being able to read and write, which he did.
I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who has any interest in American history whatsover.

1 comment:

  1. you might be surprised at how many big shot historic authors were homeschooled. formal education used to be a very rare thing.


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