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Ex-slave Frederick Douglass's second autobiography-written after ten years of reflection following his legal emancipation in 1846 and his break with his mentor William Lloyd Garrison-catapulted Douglass into the international spotlight as the foremost spokesman for American blacks, both freed and slave. Written during his celebrated career as a speaker and newspaper editorEx-slave Frederick Douglass's second autobiography-written after ten years of reflection following his legal emancipation in 1846 and his break with his mentor William Lloyd Garrison-catapulted Douglass into the international spotlight as the foremost spokesman for American blacks, both freed and slave. Written during his celebrated career as a speaker and newspaper editor, My Bondage and My Freedom reveals the author of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845) grown more mature, forceful, analytical, and complex with a deepened commitment to the fight for equal rights and liberties. Edited with an Introduction and Notes by John David Smith"...

Title : My Bondage and My Freedom
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ISBN : 9780140439182
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 432 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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My Bondage and My Freedom Reviews

  • Rowena
    2018-12-08 20:53

    " The remark is not unfrequently made, that slaves are the most contented and happy labourers in the world. They dance and sing, and make all manner of joyful noises—so they do; but it is a great mistake to suppose them happy because they sing. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows, rather than the joys, of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears." – Frederick Douglass,My Bondage and My FreedomI’ve never read such a detailed and insightful autobiography about slavery. Douglass helped me understand in more detail the horrors of slavery, especially the psychological. I can imagine it must have been really difficult for him to write this, to relive all his pain, but he was the perfect person to do so, being as intelligent and observant as he was.In the beginning of the book, the discussions of family within slavery is very pertinent because it speaks to how the evil of slavery affects the very foundations of society. When Douglass as a child lives with his grandmother and siblings for the first time, this is what he says: "We were brothers and sisters, but what of that? Why should they be attached to me, or to them? Brothers and sisters we were by blood; but slavery had made us strangers. I heard the words brothers and sisters, and knew they must mean something; but slavery had robbed these terms of their true meaning."It’s even sadder when he discusses his mother:“My poor mother, like many other slave-women, had many children, but NO FAMILY!”You could hear the injustice in his words once he looked back in retrospect when looking back in retrospect; a child who had little recollection of his mother. When she died, Douglass wrote, “I was not allowed to visit her during any part of her long illness; nor did I see her for a long time before she was taken ill and died. The heartless and ghastly form of slavery rises between mother and child, even at the bed of death.”Douglass uses his memories from his childhood and early adulthood to describe the hypocrisy and evils he encountered and observed as a slave, showing us that not a single part of life was untouched by slavery. His autobiography goes into detail of how he came to learn what it meant to be a slave, especially a bright slave, whose environment clearly did not nourish, and how he strategically tried to better himself and those around him, and eventually escape.As a child Douglass asked himself the following “Why am I a slave? Why are some people slaves, and others masters? Was there ever a time when this was not so? How did the relationship commence?” I’ve said this before, but despite the number of books on slavery I have read I always learn more and I am always freshly shocked. Clearly there is no bottom to this evil practice, no shortage of cruel ways to keep people subjugated:But, there is this difference in the two extremes; viz: that in the case of the slave, the miseries and hardships of his lot are imposed by others, and in the master’s case, they are imposed by himself. The slave is a subject, subjected by others; the slaveholder is a subject, but he is the author of his own subjection.

  • Lisa (Harmonybites)
    2018-11-24 22:41

    This is a great book, by a great American. Skeptics looking at that statement might think, well sure you think that reading his own account. Except I've found autobiographies unintentionally revealing in fascinating ways. Within the last year I read autobiographies and memoirs by Ghandi, Dian Fossey and Booker T. Washington. The first book lessened my admiration and liking, the second made me absolutely hate the woman because of her own words, and the last left me ambivalent. And in the case of others, I've become disillusioned afterwards reading other accounts of their lives. Neither is the case with Frederick Douglass--after reading this--and even, hell especially, after reading further about him, I have a new hero. I couldn't help but admire him given so much related here--particularly how, after his experience of being treated with dignity and respect in Britain, he decided to come back to America to fight to end slavery. And reading beyond this book, I learned he was a staunch supporter not just of civil rights for African Americans, but equal rights for women as well. Hardly a popular cause or common attitude back then.And simply in terms of content, this book was riveting. The 1855 introduction by James M'Cune Smith did give me momentary pause. It read, like so much 19th century literature I've encountered, as tedious, overly religious and stuffy. Once you reach Douglass' own account however, that's no longer the case. Yes, there is a formal tone that is characteristic of the age, but there wasn't one line of this entire book that wasn't fascinating; he's a master storyteller. After purchasing this book, I learned this is actually the second of three autobiographies written by Douglass. The first, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, published in 1845, is the most famous and arguably of the three the most influential and historically important. Yet an introduction by Brent Hayes Edwards in the edition I read makes the case for the second biography as the better, more strongly written book. Which makes sense--after all, in the decade since that first biography Douglass had spent years as editor of The North Star, which would have honed his thinking and writing.I also have read that this middle book includes the most expansive account of his time in slavery. And that account is full of insights, not simply into slavery, but how power over others corrupts victim and perpetrator alike. And I've never read a more moving account of the liberating power of literacy. I wish young people could read this early in their schooling, and read of how young Frederick heard his master talk of how reading makes a man unfit for slavery--and understand the importance of reading for setting a mind alight. The appendix contains other items of interest--the gem I think is Douglass' "Letter to his Old Master." Truly, this is a wonderful read.

  • Caroline
    2018-12-08 19:24

    Remarkable, of course. Eloquent, and a bit wordy in 19th century style, but Douglass needed to prove that a Black man could match the rhetoric of his white peers.I was most interested in Douglass’s comments on the expropriation of the product of labor. In skimming a couple of internet pieces on the availability of Marx’s writing in America, it appears Greeley published some of his writing in the early 1850s. My Bondage and My Freedom was published in 1854, when the impression left by the 1848 revolutions in Europe would still have been strong. Douglass writes as if his views were completely in place while he was still a slave (prior to about 1839), but the general applicability of his views on labor make one wonder if perhaps some of the development hadn’t taken place more recently, in a global context and intellectual environment.No matter, it was an excellent work of literature and politics.

  • Hana
    2018-11-20 19:53

    My Bondage and My Freedom reads like the best of historical fiction. Douglass' story is full of lively characters--even the minor figures are vividly drawn. The descriptions transport us instantly to a particular place and moment in time. For the first eight years of his life Douglass was raised by his grandmother who had charge of the young slave children. They all shared a cabin with a vegetable garden and the children mostly ran free on the plantation. As he describes it he was "a spirited, joyous, uproarious, and happy boy, upon whom troubles fall only like water on a duck's back." "Down in a little valley, not far from grandmammy's cabin, stood Mr. Lee's mill, where the people came often in large numbers to get their corn ground....The mill-pond, too, had it's charm; and with my pinhook, and thread line, I could get nibbles, if I could catch no fish." But haunting this childhood idyll is a darker knowledge that "I was not long to remain there, and that...I was A SLAVE--born a slave." Even at this early age Frederick has "a sense of my entire dependence on the will of somebody I had never seen."Eventually the dreaded day arrives and he is taken from his grandmother to the great house of the "old master. Here he meets his mother, who in truth is a stranger from whom he has been separated since infancy and who has been hired out as a field hand to another plantation but still does her best to visit him in the old master's kitchen. It is whispered that Frederick's father is a white man, and perhaps even the master himself, but "Slavery does away with fathers, as it does away with families." Douglass' descriptions of plantation life are marvelous: life in the kitchen where he finds himself "at the mercy of the sable virago...whose fiery wrath was my constant dread"; and 'upstairs' where “The table groans under the heavy and blood-bought luxuries gathered with painstaking care, at home and abroad. Fields, forests, rivers and seas, are made tributary here. Immense wealth, and its lavish expenditure, fill the great house with all that can please the eye, or tempt the taste.” In the dining room of the great house, “Behind the tall-backed and elaborately wrought chairs, stand the servants, men and maidens—fifteen in number—discriminately selected, not only with a view to their industry and faithfulness, but with special regard to their personal appearance, their graceful agility and captivating address. Some of these are armed with fans, and are fanning reviving breezes toward the over-heated brows of the alabaster ladies; others watch with eager eye, and with fawn-like step anticipate and supply wants before they are sufficiently formed to be announced by word or sign.” But Frederick is soon witness to less pleasant sights--floggings and cruelties under iron-hearted overseers who are "accuser, judge, jury, advocate and executioner." The plantation is "a nation to itself" "full three hundred years behind the age, in all that relates to humanity and morals."When Frederick is sent to Baltimore to be the house slave of one of the old master's relatives, he is blessed to have a mistress who has never owned a slave before and is, initially, extraordinarily kind. At 'Freddy's' request, she begins to teach him to read the Bible, but is harshly reprimanded by her husband and forbidden to continue the instruction. But Freddy is determined to learn--and every child in America should read the incredible lengths to which he went to master reading and writing. I'm tempted to tell more, but that would spoil this thrilling, illuminating and beautifully told story. It is free on Kindle. Go get it and read it for inspiration, and for enjoyment.Content rating PG for mature themes of slavery and slave life and occasionally graphic scenes of beatings.

  • Ij
    2018-12-11 20:31

    My Bondage My FreedomWritten By: Frederick DouglassPublished By: Public Domain (Amazon) Kindle EditionMy Bondage My FreedomI have read in the past about Frederick Douglass the famed abolitionist, orator, statesman, and writer. However, until reading this autobiography I knew nothing about him before he became famous. This autobiography was published in 1855 and thus covered approximately thirty-seven (37) of his early years. Being born a slave, Douglass could only approximate the year of his birth. He lived an additional forty (40) years, after 1855, which are not covered in this book.The autobiography covered his childhood years on the eastern shore of Maryland, first with his grandmother, and then his transfer to a sort of holding area for young slaves until it was decided where they would end up. Douglass only remembered seeing his mother once before leaving his grandmother. He saw her later at the “big house” and heard that he was the product of his owner and his slave mother. He had a hard time understanding why he was a slave, and his place in the world.Slaves had no choices in their lives and Douglass here was no different from other slaves. At first, he faired well, for a slave, being sent to be the companion to his owner’s nephew. There he learned to read from his mistress, who being from the north did not know this was forbidden. When telling her husband how well Douglass was learning she was told she should stop her lessons, at once. However, Douglass had learned enough to continue to study, on his own. The first book Douglass was able to purchase was “The Columbian Orator,” which contained over eighty (80) noteworthy speeches of prominent individuals. Most school-aged men studied this book and Douglass hid it and studied it whenever he had free time. Later, after a disagreement between his owner and current master he was sent back to work in Annapolis. Douglass could not get along with his master and was sent to a farm to be “broken,” by a person who had a reputation for dealing with slaves who failed to do as they were told. He did not fair well and was beaten everyday for a while and ended up walking back to his owner, stating that he would do as he was told if he could come back. His owner refused and he had to go to the farmer.Douglass could not deal with his bondage, and later escaped slavery. Being a fugitive slave had its problems, but, he felt free. He found it hard to make a living and through friends and acquaintances found that he had a gift of being a fine orator, and was often requested to tell his story. He wanted to do more than tell his story and ended up becoming an abolitionist who went around the northeast giving speeches. Later, he went to England and thereafter, friends collected enough money to purchase his freedom.Seeing pictures of Frederick Douglass dressed in fine clothes, I never knew that under his shirt and coat was the scared back of a slave.The end of the book contained many of his speeches, but the highlight of the book for me was his story of his life in bondage. This new knowledge has given me an even higher opinion of Frederick Douglass, slave, abolitionist, orator, statesman, and writer.

  • Matt
    2018-11-13 00:38

    This book should be required reading for all American students. Frederick Douglass' account of his years as a slave and the early years of his public advocacy as a freeman is among the most poignant and morally forceful works I've ever read. Highly recommend it to anyone.

  • Sumeyya
    2018-11-30 01:23

    My Bondage and My Freedom is unparalleled in its complete scope of the utter destructive effects of slavery upon individuals and the larger group. There is NO other narrative, fiction or non, that describes the African American experience of bondage quite like this -- or in fact, at all. Other great African American thinkers (such as Du Bois or Washington) are able to examine the effects of slavery on society through observation; their accounts are mostly of African Americans' experience post-emancipation and the subsequent period of assimilation into white society. None describes what slavery was like with the detail and insight that Douglass does. While other writers used ample metaphors (usually of Christianity, like Du Bois) and difficult "academic" language, Douglass writes for the larger audience. His story is therefore, more easily understood, and in my opinion, profoundly more insightful because it delves into the minds of rational "good" people who happened to be slave owners, and discusses the economic conditions that encouraged, moreover sanctioned, slavery's continued existence -- several hundred years more than what the framers of the Constitution may have intended.**Besides all that, Douglass's narrative is the ultimate example of the endearing quality of the human spirit, and as cliché as it may sound, it is absolutely true. One has to wonder, after all the inhumane, brutal, and completely destroying effects of slavery (which were systematically administered, mind you), how an entire RACE of people were able to retain some dreg of their dignity and survive. It is even more phenomenal then, that a boy who grew up and was conditioned in in this system, was not only able to retain 'dignity,' but was also able to use his natural ability of words to become an advocate in the cause of racial injustice. This is why I would recommend this book to everyone (seriously, if you can read, read this book!) – surely, in Douglass’s words, there’s a lesson we can apply to solving (or at least clearing up) many of the problems of social injustice (whether racial or otherwise) going in the world today.**PS. -- There is also a quick chapter (more like part of a chapter) that includes Douglass's view of the Framers and the Constitutional legality, or lack thereof, of the slave system, and why Douglass changed his views (at the beginning of his 'career' if we can call it that, Douglass believed that the Constitution and its Framers supported slavery. Later in his career, he changed his views saying that the Constitution, if interpreted by the actual written text of the document [and only that], is decisively anti-slavery, and thus [at that time], to continue the system of slavery was indeed un-constitutional...)

  • Larry Bassett
    2018-12-13 00:49

    I experienced this book as a combination of audible.com as well as an e-book. The e-book went beyond the audible book in that it included a number of speeches that Douglas gave in the 1850s that were alluded to in the book. This is the second of several autobiographies that Douglas wrote in his lifetime. This book is a significant expansion of the first autobiography which was relatively short. Although it recovers the territory of the first book it is a stunning presentation of the man's early and middle life. It is hard to believe that Frederick Douglass was a person with no formal education. In fact he speaks and writes so well that many people disbelieved that he was ever a slave. I understand that he wrote his first autobiography to try to dispel that believe and to give enough details about his background so that people could actually believe he was born and lived his childhood as a slave.Douglas spent two years in Great Britain where he found life and people who did not discriminate against him for being black. But he thought he needed to come back to his own country to change things and he found discrimination was rampant even in the non-slave north. He came back to the US with the idea of starting a black newspaper. His supporters in the US encouraged him not to do this but he did anyway. It is interesting to see his ideas develop and go against some of the opinions of the anti-slavery movement. Some thought the north should succeed from the south but Douglas came to disagree and to argue that the constitution was actually anti-slavery. It is amazing to me that this book was written nearly 175 years ago. It is so accessible even today.I guess there is one more autobiography that covers his later years and I am looking forward to reading that one as well. From reading a biography about him it seems he moderated his politics somewhat after a pretty radical beginning. I have only known him most of my life as the man who said "power concedes nothing without a demand, it never did and it never will." But it seems like he might have become somewhat enamored of his own brilliance and Lincoln pulled him into Republican politics and he stuck with it even as the party became more conservative. Getting a significant political appointment apparently dominated his later life and he lost his fire.

  • Iris
    2018-12-11 02:32

    "Our house stood within a few rods of the Chesapeake Bay, whose broad bosom was ever white with sails from every quarter of the habitable globe. Those beautiful vessels, robed in purest white, so delightful to the eye of freemen, were to me so many shrouded ghosts, to terrify and torment me with thoughts of my wretched condition. I have often, in the deep stillness of a summer's Sabbath, stood all alone upon the lofty banks of that noble bay, and traced, with saddened heart and tearful eye, the countless number of sails moving off to the mighty ocean. The sight of these always affected me powerfully. My thoughts would compel utterance; and there, with no audience but the Almighty, I would pour out my soul's complaint, in my rude way, with an apostrophe to the moving multitude of ships..."- Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Chapter XLike Flaubert, Douglass allots himself very few sentimental passages like that one, and their rarity makes them especially noteworthy. In his speeches and autobiographies, his strikingly modern, rolling prose exercises such pull that such a painterly scene isn't necessary. With a life so extraordinary, Douglass was pressured to write about his strong-willed journey several times, each one with a wider scope: the quick read "Narrative", a staple on syllabi (1845); this one, from 1855, and finally, his 1881 "Life and Times of Frederick Douglass" which covers the same territory but also the Civil War, his friendships with John Brown and Abraham Lincoln, and his work in Washington DC and New York for abolitionism and feminism. I chose the second work, "My Bondage and My Freedom," and recommend it hugely for its insight into everyday life of slaves and the politics of individual slaveowners. The focus is on the bondage, not the freedom; for one, he wrote when his freedom was still legally shaky. After being free for several years, he achieved reknown as a speaker, but was considered to be in such danger as a publicly escaped slave that he lived several years abroad, in Scotland and England, to escape attacks in the US and to be received with great pomp by UK dignitaries.Douglass reveals unparalleled insight into slave life and slaveowners, setting the reader on edge even today: Douglass, a master of rhetoric, knows how to wield information for dramatic tension. He acknowledges how greatly he wants to reveal how he broke out of slavery, but knows that he mustn't utter a word for fear of endangering the people who helped him escape. By the time of his 1881 autobiography, he was free to tell all about his enfranchisement, about which I will only say that it involves a sailor suit and a one-way train ticket.

  • Thorin
    2018-11-15 03:40

    This is a very heavy read. Frederick Douglass has an amazing gift of language and he uses it well in describing his story. I wish everyone would read this. It was at times so tragic that I could hardly stand it and I felt my heart breaking in my chest. Other times I was thrilled with his soaring words from excerpts of his speeches that were included in the book. Douglass' observations about the institution of slavery are absolutely spot on and really helped me understand much more about both the holders and the held. A brilliant mind and absolutely incredible story.

  • Cynda
    2018-11-20 22:45

    Rowena of Reading for Pleasure suggested I read this book. Once upon a time,someone read this book in a US American slavery readings course. But that someone was decidedly not me. So I took the plunge, and I am glad I did.I felt Frederick Douglass' dignity and determination at every turn. Made decisions and kept making decisions, being an ever-evolving spiritual force for Good. Kept talking about slavery once he escaped because slavery, as all lies, die in the Light of Truth Wisdom. Freedom begins from within. When the more expansive the picture can be seen, the more expansive the human. Action. Action changes things. Make a plan, take action, and take action again. Douglass made at least 2 attempts to escape slavery. This man was a powerhouse of perceptions, understandings, actions, and telling his Truth.Douglas tells how to free oneself from the inside out. Slaves can not always physically escape but many have the ability to expand to become more than a slave. Barring communicating that idea to other slaves, Douglass sought to shed light on the lies and misdirection of slavery. Slavery is Lie. And Lies die in Light.Good Rhetor: A good man speaking well.

  • Wade
    2018-11-28 01:39

    This book ought to be treated as a vital pillar in understanding the history of humanity in our country. Douglas tells his story of growing up in slavery, his gradual education as he took advantage of opportunities to to learn from the school books his young master brought home, and through this, his dissatisfaction with the state of things that would allow one group of people to subjugate and dehumanize another. Along the way he wrestles with how he can pray to the same God that his horribly abusive slave holder prays to, as well as many other thought provoking issues. He finally escapes and begins his fight, not just for the abolition of slavery in the south, but towards actual equality in the north where people think themselves magnanimous because they are against slavery, even of the ignorant blacks. Although Douglas is a fine writer who's words, stories, and thoughts flow naturally, this book was hard to read because the subject matter is so heavy; I had to frequently take breaks from reading this, not out of boredom, but in order to rejuvenate my emotional energy from the oppression that is even reading about slavery. Even when Douglas writes about his time in "freedom" it is difficult to read because he is so surrounded by institutions that detest the very existence of a free, black man.This book is a must read; through it we gain valuable insights into our own history, and with that we can see how, even though slavery has ended, the social momentum caused by such an enormously impactful institution is still having its effects felt today.

  • Kristen Coffin
    2018-11-12 03:26

    "One cannot easily forget to love freedom."Much like Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass this book is an amazing telling of the life of a former slave and how he achieved his freedom. It's a more complete telling than Narrative (having been written 15 years later) - it includes what happened to him in more detail after becoming a free man.Its eloquent from start to finish - at equal times sad or heroic or terrifying or hopeful. But it's an "easy" read in that I was able to read it very quickly, the level of eloquence wasn't overdone or drawn out. It didn't take away from the flow of words.

  • Drew
    2018-11-21 02:43

    I wish when I was growing up in Maryland, we'd read this autobiography by Frederick Douglass instead of learning about Lord Calvert or Francis Scott Key, given that so much of the author's story (from birth on) takes place in the Old Line State. An eloquent, culturally astute, sometimes harrowing memoir, "My Bondage and My Freedom" was a bestseller in its day and still has much to share on the insidious ways that racism plays out in American culture.

  • Howard Olsen
    2018-11-14 19:53

    This is Frederick Douglass' story of his life as a slave, and his subsequent escape to the North. Douglass doesn't just describe the physical cruelty of southern slavery, although there's plenty of harrowing detail about that. He emphasizes the psychological pain suffered by slaves. We speak now of grinding poverty, but slaves like Douglass had to suffer through something even worse; the knowledge that their lives were not their own. This is brought home when Douglass' master - a man Douglass had no reason to like - dies; and his slaves are disposed of during probate. For slaves, the death of the master could mean sale, relocation, the splitting up of family relationships, etc. Douglass himself is a testament to the millions of lives that were ruined by slavery. By sheer luck, he was able to learn to read and was converted to Christianity, both of which events opened his mind to the cruelties inflicted on him and his race. Without these twin pillars of knowledge, Douglass admits that he could have gone through life only dimly aware of the injustice done to him. Slave or not, Douglass was clearly a brilliant man; a natural born orator with a fiery social conscience. This book is a testament not just to his life, but those of the lives of millions who were caught up in America's "peculiar institution."

  • janet
    2018-12-02 00:47

    Douglass anticipated Althusser and Foucault's work on subject formation and Agamben's Homo Sacer and concept of the camp in this work and improved upon Hegel at his own metaphor whether Douglass was aware of the work or not all while trying to appeal to white liberals to end slavery peacefully though he eventually came to see that slavery wouldn't end without violence. In reading about his adjustment to life after slavery in the north, I felt like I was reading the story of a new immigrant. He documents the racism and statelessness and threat of capture that every escaped slave must have lived. This is an incredibly valuable historic record and current in its own way. At the same time, Douglass shouldn't be classified as an informant, but an accomplished author fully in his own right.

  • Camille Dent (TheCamillion)
    2018-12-02 22:24

    **3.5-4**This is an absolutely beautifully-written historical narrative. History is not my strong point, but this book's eloquence captivated me. Admittedly, some scenes felt a bit overwritten, with entire paragraphs dedicated to food or room description. My rating would probably be higher if I had had the leisure to slowly work through all of that detail rather than having deadlines for reaching specific chapters for my class. I love Douglass' perspective and way of thinking, and I appreciate how he uses his experiences to study humanity rather than condemn white people in retaliation.

  • Jess
    2018-11-26 00:34

    To go through so much suffering physically and mentally and to come out on top so strongly - while maintaining undeserving class is truly remarkable. THIS is what kids in school should be required to read.

  • Amber
    2018-12-10 02:40

    This book was wierd it was also disturbing bc it was gross. and also it would have been a lot shorter if he hadnt explained so much that which was all about nothing but it was alot better than Mountains beyond mountains.

  • Casey Taylor
    2018-11-23 20:53

    Classic, not because of great literary style but because of essential content. Every American student ought to read the main body of Douglas's biography. Especially insightful at points about American Christianity in antebellum America.

  • Robin Evans
    2018-11-28 19:40

    An amazing true story of a slave who fought to become a free man. Douglass tells his story in an unflinching manner, and you feel his pain. His vocabulary is impressive and makes it a difficult read at times. But totally worth the effort!

  • Szidonia
    2018-12-10 23:33

    This was a great read, more developed than his first memoir.

  • Nicholas
    2018-12-04 22:34

    Quotes:"Douglass was determined to let facts and theory, not personal pleading, bury slavery.""A man who was born and brought up in slavery, a living witness of its horrors; who often himself experienced its cruelties; and who, despite the depressing influences surrounding his birth, youth and manhood, has risen, from a dark and almost absolute obscurity, to the distinguished position which he now occupies.""There is not, beneath the sky, an enemy to filial affection so destructive as slavery. It had made my brothers and sisters strangers to me; it converted the mother that bore me, into a myth; it shrouded my father in mystery, and left me without an intelligible beginning in the world.""The politician keeps away, because the people have no votes, and the preacher keeps away, because the people have no money.""A man's troubles are always half disposed of, when he finds endurance his only remedy. I found myself here; there was no getting away; and what remained for me, but to make the best of it?""He had bruised her flesh, but had left her invincible spirit undaunted. Such floggings are seldom repeated by the same overseer. They prefer to whip those who are most easily whipped. The old doctrine that submission is the best cure for outrage and wrong, does not hold good on the slave plantation. He is whipped oftenest, who is whipped easiest; and the slave who has the courage to stand up for himself against the overseer, although he may have many hard stripes at the first, becomes, in the end, a freeman, even though he sustain the formal relation of a slave."""Tumble up! Tumble up, and to work, work," is the cry; and, now, from twelve o'clock (mid-day) till dark, the human cattle are in motion, wielding their clumsy hoes; hurried on by no hope of reward, no sense of gratitude, no love of children, no prospect of bettering their condition; nothing, save the dread and terror of the slave-driver's lash. So goes one day, and so comes and goes another.""Alas! it may only be a sham at last! This immense wealth; this gilded splendor; this profusion of luxury; this exemption from toil; this life of ease; this sea of plenty; aye, what of it all? Are the pearly gates of happiness and sweet content flung open to such suitors? far from it! The poor slave, on his hard, pine plank, but scantily covered with his thin blanket, sleeps more soundly than the feverish voluptuary who reclines upon his feather bed and downy pillow. Food, to the indolent lounger, is poison, not sustenance. Lurking beneath all their dishes, are invisible spirits of evil, ready to feed the self-deluded gormandizers with aches, pains, fierce temper, uncontrolled passions, dyspepsia, rheumatism, lumbago and gout; and of these the Lloyds got their full share. To the pampered love of ease, there is no resting place. What is pleasant to-day, is repulsive tomorrow; what is soft now, is hard at another time; what is sweet in the morning, is bitter in the evening. Neither to the wicked, nor to the idler, is there any solid peace: "Troubled like the restless sea."""In ceasing to instruct me, she must begin to justify herself to herself; and, once consenting to take sides in such debate, she was riveted to her position.""All this, however, was entirely too late. The first, and never to be retraced, step had been taken. In teaching me the alphabet, in the days of her simplicity and kindness, my mistress had given me the "inch," and now, no ordinary precaution could prevent me from taking the "ell."""Knowledge had come; light had penetrated the moral dungeon where I dwelt; and, behold! there lay the bloody whip, for my back, and here was the iron chain; and my good, kind master, he was the author of my situation.""If religion had any effect on his character at all, it made him more cruel and hateful in all his ways. The natural wickedness of his heart had not been removed, but only reinforced, by the profession of religion.""Well, my dear reader, this battle with Mr. Covey, - undignified as it was, and as I fear my narration of it is - was the turning point in my "life as a slave." It rekindled in my breast the smoldering embers of liberty; it brought up my Baltimore dreams, and revived a sense of my own manhood. I was a changed being after that fight. I was nothing before; I WAS A MAN NOW. It recalled to life my crushed self-respect and my self-confidence, and inspired me with a renewed determination to be A FREEMAN. A man, without force, is without the essential dignity of humanity. Human nature is so constituted, that it cannot honor a helpless man, although it can pity him; and even this it cannot do long, if the signs of power do not arise.""I had reached the point, at which I was not afraid to die. This spirit made me a freeman in fact, while I remained a slave in form. When a slave cannot be flogged he is more than half free. He has a domain as broad as his own manly heart to defend, and he is really "a power on earth."""To enslave men, successfully and safely, it is necessary to have their minds occupied with thoughts and aspirations short of the liberty of which they are deprived. A certain degree of attainable good must be kept before them.""You may hurl a man so low, beneath the level of his kind, that he loses all just ideas of his natural position; but elevate him a little, and the clear conception of rights rises to life and power, and leads him onward.""They all wanted to be free; but the serious thought of running away, had not entered into their minds, until I won them to the undertaking.""The prospect was not always a bright one. At times, we were almost tempted to abandon the enterprise, and to get back to that comparative peace of mind, which even a man under the gallows might feel, when all hope of escape had vanished. Quiet bondage was felt to be better than the doubts, fears and uncertainties, which now so sadly perplexed and disturbed us.""The good to be sought, and the evil to be shunned, were flung in the balance, and weighed against each other. On the one hand, there stood slavery; a stern reality, glaring frightfully upon us, with the blood of millions in his polluted skirts - terrible to behold - greedily devouring our hard earnings and feeding himself upon our flesh. Here was the evil from which to escape. On the other hand, far away, back in the hazy distance, were all forms seemed but shadows, under the flickering light of the north start - behind some craggy hill or snow-covered mountain - stood a doubtful freedom, half frozen, beckoning us to her icy domain. This was, the good to be sought.""It was easy to resolve, but not so easy to act."""Shoot! shoot me!" said Henry. "You can't kill me but one. Shoot! - shoot! and be damned. I won't be tied."""How could we regard ourselves as in the right, when all about us denounced us as criminals, and had the power and the disposition to treat us as such.""The white slave has taken from him, by indirection, what the black slave has taken from him, directly, and without ceremony. Both are plundered, and by the same plunderers. The slave is robbed, by his master, of all his earnings, above what is required for his bare physical, necessities; and the white man is robbed by the slave system, of the just results of his labor, because he is flung into competition with a class of laborers who work without wages.""To make a contented slave, you must make a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken his moral and mental vision, and, as far as possible, to annihilate his power of reason. He must be able to detect no inconsistencies in slavery. The man that takes his earnings, must be able to convince him that he has a perfect right to do so. It must not depend upon mere force; the slave must know no Higher Law than his master's will. The whole relationship must not only demonstrate, to his mind, its necessity, but its absolute rightfulness. If there be one crevice through which a single drop can fall, it will certainly rust off the slave's chain.""[Public manner:] may kindle an enthusiasm, very pleasant to inhale; but that is of no practical benefit to themselves, not to the slaves escaping.""I could see no reason why I should, at the end of each week, pour the reward of my honest toil into the purse of any man.""What they held to be a great and important truth, I now looked upon as a dangerous error. A very painful, and yet a natural, thing now happened. Those who could not see any honest reasons for changing their views, as I had don, could not easily see any such reasons for my change, and the common punishment of apostates was mine.""It is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earth quake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.""Is this the land your fathers loved?The freedom which they toiled to win?Is this the earth whereon they moved?Are these the graves they slumber in?"

  • Mattr76
    2018-12-05 01:44

    When slavery was introduced into the Americas, I doubt anyone would have guessed the seeds for a great literary tradition would be planted along with the cotton and sugar cane. If Solomon Northup's 12 Years a Slave is the American Odyssey, then Frederick Douglass's autobiography is something akin to the works produced by the legendary Athenian philosophers. Simultaneously a straightforward, compelling biography and a rigorous humanist argument against slavery, this is an essential, thoroughly American, eminently important book.Unlike the freeman Northup, Douglass was born into slavery. Thus Douglass very early grapples with the existential crisis with which such a life is laden. Why are some humans born masters, while some are born slaves? If there is a God, how can He allow this to happen? Through heartbreak and toil, Douglass acquires the resolve to tackle the injustice.He is not alone, though. A kind mistress introduces him to reading and writing, unwittingly exposing Douglass to literary ammunition, and allowing light to shine into the dark cave in which the slave system necessarily traps its victims. This was one of the most enjoyable threads of the book for me. Douglass credits literature for lighting the fire in his soul, to seek freedom and justice."Once awakened by the silver trump of knowledge, my spirit was roused to eternal wakefulness. Liberty! the inestimable birthright of every man, had, for me, converted every object into an asserter of this great right. It was ever present, to torment me with a sense of my wretched condition. The more beautiful and charming were the smiles of nature, the more horrible and desolate was my condition. I saw nothing without seeing it, and I heard nothing without hearing it. I do not exaggerate, when I say, that it looked from every star, smiled in every calm, breathed in every wind, and moved in every storm."Another interesting thread in the book is Douglass's appraisal of religion. While himself a religious man, he has no qualms about criticizing the religion of his masters. He makes the observations that his worst masters were religious, while his best master was not, and that more religion, far from making his cruel masters see the error in their ways, seemed to make his masters even more cruel. This data point supports the idea that religion, far from being implicitly good or bad, is a "force multiplier" that can make good people better or bad people worse. It can be leveraged to do good or evil. This neutral view of religion is very important today, in my opinion.Most of the book is devoted to Douglass's time as a slave, but the last few chapters covering his life after escape are also a highlight. Here we see in vivid detail what an escaped slave's life is like in a country where it is legal to capture slaves and send them south (Solomon Northup's fate). Indeed, Douglass is vehemently critical of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, a law foisted upon the free states by the "state's rights" South. I also found it interesting that Douglass withholds details of his escape, a good indication of the paranoia of the times. Another highlight is his contrast of racial attitudes in the Northern U.S. and Europe. His description of the former, including separate accommodations for white and black people and all the associated racism, clearly echoes through to the 1960s at least, whereas he describes the latter as how we would like things to be in our country today.Douglass was an incredibly gifted writer and, judging by the transcripts of his speeches, a powerful orator as well. Ironically, his abolitionist friends wanted him to "dumb down" his speeches so that his audience would believe he was recently a slave. Aside from the incredible narrative, this book includes extracts from several speeches, and a letter to his former master in which he takes him to task for his cruelty. An interesting common element of the speeches is his exasperation of "why do I need to prove that slaves are humans?", a feeling probably a lot of people feel today about different, though perhaps related, issues. I highly recommend this book to everyone.

  • Paul Bulger
    2018-12-02 21:37

    In all honesty, the thing that compelled me to finally read My Bondage and My Freedom is the fact that president Trump didn't seem to know who Frederick Douglas was, and it's simply shocking to have a president who wouldn't be able to tell you anything specific about Frederick Douglas if asked (without preparation).Of course many people, including myself, leaped at the opportunity to point out our president's shocking amount of ignorance toward the history of the country he runs, but it also served as a personal conviction, because at the time, I probably wouldn't have been able to tell you much about Douglas aside from the fact that he was one of the most articulate abolitionists to ever live, and I might have been able to conjure up one or two quotes by him I heard in school if you gave me a minute to think about it. But, I had never actually read one of his full writings, or a full book about him, so, if I'm going to berate the president for his ignorance of American history, I need to do my own homework, first. Now, onto talking about the book. Books like My Bondage and My Freedom are at a point where they are at their most important to read and study now than perhaps at any point within the past fifty years. Explicit romanticization of the confederate period has been rejuvenated, and many in the highest corners of public office are working to erase the stigma that comes with associating oneself with a group that found committing treason a preferable alternative to living in a world where they couldn't call another human being their property. A major prospective candidate for our own senate called the time where an institution as ugly as slavery was present was the last time this country was ever great. Slavery is bad. Nobody should be shocked by that fact. But reducing the entirety of what slavery was, and what it did not just to the victims that were enslaved, but what it did to the very ones that practiced it, how it created a mould for human behavior where the ugliest aspects of human nature were facilitated, where they festered, thrived, and were often rewarded, where man could indulge every whim of his nastiest impulses, feed into his every vice, his rage, his lust, violence, cruelty, and perversion, with no repercussion, down to, "it was a bad thing," then you're committing a crime upon those who were subject to suffer it. It's easy to downplay slavery, to romanticize the era and to call the time that slavery was present in America the last time America was ever great, when your understanding of slavery rests simply at "it was bad," because it wasn't simply bad, it perverted everything and everybody that was ever exposed to it and made to be near it, whether they be on the receiving, spectating, or whipping end. Frederick Douglas doesn't reveal the obvious, that slavery was bad, especially because of the outwardly evident cruelty committed against the slave, but he goes deeper by articulating how it affects the master and the driver, exposing how slavery infected every innately good attribute within a man that might have been present before, corrupts every good deed or manner he may have ever once exhibited, and makes turns everything that was ever in him into something vile and sinister, mangling his very soul, and fueling it with the notion that the evil he commits is righteousness. And it demonstrates that no greatness or even goodness can exist inside the person that practices slavery, which is a reality we shouldn't, nor should allow our leaders, to forget.

  • BenandDay Hamilton
    2018-12-07 20:36

    I've been reading a lot of fiction lately and picked this book up in the fall of this year. I wanted to start reading more biographies of people of color and just less fiction in general. I loved, loved, this book. It's heart-wrenching, angering, enlightening, and just so humbling. Being a women of color in 21st century America, it's easy to look at the hardships now (I'd argue I have little anyway, I grew up very privileged) and get caught up in all the hype. But when I look back at those who came before me, I always realize my life, my opportunities, my privileges are only because of them. Whatever I am facing now pales in comparison to what those before me went through. I haven't fought for anything. But I have benefited from their sacrifices. So humbling! Fredrick Douglas's life is one of pain and sorrow. But also hope and justice. He details his life as best he can, since being a slave he doesn't have the luxury of knowledge early in his life. Throughout the book, he doesn't hesitate to call out injustice where he sees it. He doesn't feel guilty for calling out the system that enslaved and raped people of color. But he also reflects on the people within the system, people who were white, who fought against the system they benefited from. Acknowledging their own privileges and fighting so that all can have the same rights they had. He also explores the religious aspects of slavery and eventually, how he discovered once he learned how to read, that those who used the Bible to keep people enslaved, were in the wrong. Because he learned how to read, he was able to search the Bible for himself and realize, it wasn't the Bible that was wrong, but the people who willingly ignored specific passages and intentionally misinterpreted others, in order to further their own well being. Fredrick Douglas remained strong in his Christian faith, despite the hardships that he endured from so called Christians. It is encouraging to see that he held strong to his faith, and realized that those in power had twisted the Bible to suit their own ends, instead of following the biblical truths of loving your neighbor, one in Christ, ect. That was amazing! I would recommend this book to anyone wanting a deep look at the lives of black historical figures, especially since it is told by Fredrick Douglas himself in his own words. My husband and I have this book on a list of books we will have our children read when they are older.

  • Daniel
    2018-12-08 03:28

    All too many Americans, alas, have only a limited knowledge of our history. While our fellows may recognize a few names, how many can identify James Madison as the principal author of the Constitution—or the reasons which compelled him (and many others, including George Washington) to meet in Philadelphia to draft it, six years after the British surrender at Yorktown? (And how many can identify that battle as the last significant conflict of the Revolutionary War?)And just as we don’t know the high points of our history, many do not know the low points. How many today know about the life of Frederick Douglass, a man whom today we might today call the “conscience of the nation” at perhaps its most turbulent time? How many know that this leader was born in slavery, escaped to build a new life and become a spokesman for freedom, for justice, a man who met with President Lincoln in the middle of the Civil War?Just as George Washington was the “indispensable man,” this narrative is an indispensable autobiography, a life-story, which exposes the evil of slavery and what it did not just to those who suffered under the lash, but also to those who wielded the lash. Every American should read this book. Every American should study the life of Frederick Douglass, and learn how he came to love a country, which, in his early days, deprived him of so much, not just the freedom that our founding charters promise, but also the very human bonds which should nourish and sustain all human beings.As a boy he barely saw his own mother:Her visits to me … were few in number, brief in duration, and mostly made in the night. The pain she took, and the toil she endured, to see me, tells me that a true mother’s heart was hers, and that slavery had difficulty in paralyzing it with unmotherly indifferenceNeither had control over his own life. Their owner put him to work in one place, hiring his mother out to a neighbor who lived twelve miles from him. To see her son, “she always had to walk one way or the other.” Twelve miles just to hold her little boy—and then after she had worked all for someone else without receiving compensation for her labors.And if she showed up late to work the next day, she could not make the excuse that she went to see her child. The slave system did not acknowledge these most human of bonds, even for a boy still in single digits. “The heartless and ghastly form of slavery rises between mother and child, even at the bed of death.” She died before he was ten. He did not attend her funeral—or even know where she was buried.Slavery destroyed family relations: There is not, beneath the sky, an enemy to filial affection so destructive as slavery. It had made my brothers and sisters strangers to me; it converted the mother that bore me, into a myth; it shrouded my father in mystery, and left me without an intelligible beginning in the world.And as a young boy, Douglass witnessed the volatility of slaveholders, shooting a man who stood in stream for refusing an order or whipping a woman for the “crime” of impudence… the commonest and most indefinite in the whole catalogue of offenses usually laid to the charge of slaves…. This may mean almost anything , or nothing at all, just according to the caprice of the master or overseer, at the moment.And it wasn’t just the maternal bond that was severed. His “old master took it upon him to break up the growing intimacy between Esther and Edward,” two young slaves. The master told her to avoid the company of this man whose company she most sought. But, a “woman’s love is not to be annihilated by the peremptory command of any one.” Esther would meet with Edward, and when her meetings were discovered, her owner would flog her.Think about that for a moment, “her owner;” one man owned another human being. The law allowed him to prevent her from seeing the man she loved. She was merely a piece of property to him and marriage which might imposed an obligation, imposed none on her: it had “no existence” for the slave, except in such hearts as are purer and higher than the standard morality around them.”But, Douglass was able to find a life better than that endured by most of his fellows. He was sent to Baltimore where his new mistress, Sophia Auld treated him, like any other boy, even teaching him to read. But, her husband found out and forbade her from continuing. “If you learn him now to read,” Hugh Auld told his wife, “he’ll want to know how to write; and, this accomplished he’ll be running away with himself.”This “discourse,” Douglass writes, “was the first decidedly anti-slavery lecture to which it has been my lot to listen.” In many states in our country in the Nineteenth Century, “the white man’s power to perpetuate the enslavement of the black man” depended on keeping the black man—and woman—in ignorance.Auld’s lecture helped Douglass understand the very nature of slavery, and it made him see what it did to the slave owner. It could “change a saint into a sinner, and an angel into a demon.” Give one man such power over another and there is almost no limit what he will do.And he suffered—and observed—much cruelty. He was beaten, forced to work when he could barely stand on his feet, deprived of food, comfortable clothing, saw children separated from their parents, wives from their husbands, witnessed his grandmother when, no longer useful to her owners, exiled to a cottage in the woods.Through it all, he kept the hope that he would one day be free. He finally managed his escape, and with the help of the Underground Railroad, moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts where he found work and built a family until abolitionists heard him speak—and made him one of their spokesmen.He traveled to Europe, speaking out against slavery, and returned to his native land to continue his lectures and speak out for abolition. And through it all, he developed a philosophy of slavery and of freedom—and of what it means to be human.And that is why I highly recommend that you read this book. When you hear this man’s story, you better understand the system of slavery which oppressed millions Americans of African origin for well over two hundred years of our history. This narrative of a life (fortunately for Douglass only a portion of his life) allows us to see the truly inhuman nature of this institution. These are experiences, not statistics. We fell compassion because he is a man like we are. We wonder how anyone could have treated their fellows as his owners treated him—and the other human beings who were no more than property to them. And then we think how many other Frederick Douglasses there were, how many Esthers, how many Edwards, how many mothers forced to walk twelve miles just to see their little boys.They lacked the ability to tell their story. But, Douglass told us his. We should read it, not just to know what he suffered, but to know what other men and women suffered as well. And because of the role slavery played in our history, this book becomes indispensable to understanding the worst evil that history.And it gives us hope that since we overcame that evil, we can overcome others.

  • Matt
    2018-11-17 21:52

    Frederick Douglass’s My Bondage and My Freedom should be required reading. Written in the 1850s (before the Civil War and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution), it is a searing and sobering account of Douglass’s life as an enslaved person in Maryland and as a freeman in the North following his escape from slavery. Douglass’s lucid prose describes the deprivations of slavery he witnessed and experienced, providing an indictment of the institution with unparalleled impact and insight. As many abolitionists recognized at the time, Douglass’s prodigious intellect destroyed the foundations of slavery premised on the inferiority of African Americans. But the person who emerges from Douglass’s memoir is not simply the poster child for abolitionism, he is also a compelling and witty storyteller. The book made me think about the fundamental importance of liberty, but also that we cheapen the concept when we too readily trumpet it for minor intrusions (such as regulations that set the maximum working hours for bakers or that prevent bakers from discriminating against others). Indeed, Douglass makes much the same point in one of the speeches included in the appendix (which are worth reading to get a sense of Douglass’s impressive persuasive skills as an orator). Not all deprivations of liberty should be equated with slavery, Douglass stresses. Almost everyone today agrees that slavery is wrong, but particularly when some are lauding those who fought for and championed slavery, Douglass’s unimpeachable testimony of the institution’s utter wickedness and depravity needs to be read. I was particularly struck by Douglass’s point that slavery destroyed the God-sanctioned institution of the family among the enslaved. Douglass’s observations about the discrimination he faced in the North as a freeman are also particularly resonant today. Slavery is indeed America’s original sin—which we as a nation are still grappling with and atoning for. Confronting that past—including by reading Douglass’s as well as others’ firsthand accounts of black life in America—is an important step in our reconciliation.

  • Robert
    2018-12-04 23:42

    “My Bondage and My Freedom” by Frederick DouglassNote: MBAMF is a sequel of sorts to Mr. Douglass’ better known autobiography, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave”. I chose to read and review MBAMF as it is a more complete version of this inspiring American’s life story.“I longed to have a future – a future with hope in it”.“My Bondage and My Freedom” (published in 1855) is the second of three volumes of autobiography written by Frederick Douglas, a self-freed and self-educated ex: slave who in the course of his 77 year life became an eloquent and successful writer and speaker, both in the U.S. and the U.K., in addition to founding and editing a successful anti-slavery newspaper. With the publication of his final volume, “Life and Times of Frederick Douglass”, he became the first African American to publish three volumes of autobiography.Frederick Douglass was born Frederick Bailey in Maryland to a slave mother in 1818. The identity of his father is unknown (Douglass: “Genealogical trees do not flourish among slaves”) though it is rumored that his mother’s master was his father.Douglass writes with palpable emotion about his early years with his beloved, enslaved mother and grandparents, largely unaware of his social status: “…if cold and hunger do not pierce the tender frame, the first seven or eight years of the slave-boy’s life are about as full of sweet content as those of the most favored and petted white children of the slaveholder”. Yet Douglass’ talent as an ironic, philosophical writer becomes apparent as he immediately follows this idyllic sentence with a series of scathing couplets such as “(the slave child) never has the misfortune of soiling or tearing his clothes … for he has almost none”. At the age of six Bailey is transferred to another of the properties owned by his (now) master to begin his life of indentured servitude. The passages detailing the grief of his mother and grandparents, as well as his own heartbreak at being taken from his family, are as heart-wrenching as anything I have read. I was reminded of what struck me most when I first read “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” – the utter desolation of spirit suffered by the slave population at every (frequent) family separation (separation of families being one of the main psychological tortures inflicted on the slave population).Bailey has the beginning of an education when the wife of his master begins to give him reading lessons until the master’s discovery. He continues to study on his own and ultimately, secretly teaches several of his fellow slaves to read. Douglass’ writing becomes more brutal as do his experiences. Beatings and physical abuse (including not infrequent murder) of slaves by slaveholders and their wives and children are a daily occurrence, and these episodes retain the power to shock a contemporary reader, such are the writing skills of Douglass. Passages describing the slaveholder’s mentality of equating religion (“…he would cut and slash my body during the week, he would not hesitate, on Sunday, to tell me the way of life and salvation by Jesus Christ”) of with the right to own and abuse another human being are nightmarish and led me to wonder about myself – had I been in a position to have owned slaves would I have done so, would I have rationalized my doing so, and would I have had the capacity for such brutal cruelty? It’s a devastating question and illustrates Douglass’ skill as a writer that his work can make his readers think even Douglass goes on to describe his years of slave bondage, and his vision of himself as a free man after a near fatal beating. His writing skill is superb, blending true irony and bitter humor, and his chapters detailing his escape plans have the excitement of a fictional thriller while never losing site of the conditions of his fellow slaves. Douglass’ greatest achievement is in subtly letting the reader know that contrary to some opinion those in lower stations in life are indeed well aware of their status and of what their lives are disallowed.Ultimately Bailey escapes (the book having been published at a time when revenge against escaped slaves was severe he tells the reader that many details of the escape months are left out) and changes his name to Douglass as a cover. He weds and has a family, though Douglas gives us scant details here as well, perhaps choosing to protect his loved ones by privacy. Upon discovering the writings of anti-slavery editor William Lloyd Garrison, Douglass’ thoughts expand from his own freedom to doing what he can to assist the anti-slavery movement. His renown as an inspiring speaker spreads as do his writings; he attends and speaks at the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls. A brief association with abolitionist John Brown forces Douglass to flee for England after the Harpers Ferry raid failed but he returns to the US a year later and is a vocal proponent of the right of African Americans to enlist in the Civil War as well as participating as voters. Douglass is called to the White House by Lincoln to discuss strategies for emancipation. Douglass continues his human rights work, writings, and public speaking until his death in 1895.Frederick Douglass is a perfect example of the American hero. He had philosophical differences with other like-minded thinkers and was not afraid to change his specific opinions as his thoughts progressed but his commitment to personal freedom, the most basic of American ideals, and his lifelong dedication to self-improvement remains an inspiration to contemporary readers.A note on editions – If your library does not have a copy of this book, or you simply want your own copy, I recommend the Barnes & Noble Classics edition (ISBN 978-1-59308-301-4). It’s a trade-size paperback for $10.95, is well-printed with a very eye-friendly type, and the supplemental materials included (a list of quotes, mini-bio, superb introduction and notes by Professor Brent Hayes Edwards, historical timeline, additional essays by Mr. Douglass, etc) are all excellent. Add you will probably want a highlighter and pencil handy to mark up your copy with notes and favorite sentences as I did mine!

  • Nanette
    2018-12-05 21:30

    Spectacular piece of work which I highly recommend to everyone of every age. There are so many themes worth considering and the narrative is literary and flows beautifully along the author's thesis as he relates his story from birth as a slave to his emancipation. This is one for every bookshelf and every reader, young and old, male and female, rich and poor, American or not. So many quotable lines and rich with imagery and lessons for life. I wish the plethora of memoir writers today would take a cue from Douglass and step up their writing to the literary realm. Douglass employed high style as he used foreshadowing, flashback, poetry, tropes, metonymy, personification and so much more to convey his thesis and his story. Too many of today's autobiographies are written below Douglass' level--the level of an uneducated slave. Clearly he was gifted, but also he worked really hard at his craft with a divine purpose to educate for the purpose of abolishing the "peculiar institution," slavery. If modern authors put as much eloquence into their writing, their readers and the world would be SO MUCH RICHER!