Lee Reighard Douglass, Frederick, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass; An American Slave.

Boston: The Anti-Slavery Office, 1845, pp. 76. Frederick Douglass' early autobiography; The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave is the story of his early life as a slave in Maryland up to the point of his escape and settlement in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He discusses his earliest memories, including scant recollections of his family as well as describing his earliest encounters with the atrocities of slave culture. It is a very simple read, but one that provides the necessary depth to give the reader a vision of what this life was like. As it was written in 1845, just eight years after his escape and still sixteen years before the beginning of the Civil War, it was intended for an audience whose culture had slavery as a matter of fact part of it. While it is likely that most of the readers were from the north, many were still slow to accept the idea of a complete abolition of slavery. The main point made by Douglass throughout the book is that slavery is more than just the abuse of the body and the mind; its insidious charge is the total destruction of the soul, truly turning slaves into animalistic brutes and thereby justifying the ungodly treatment that owners laid upon them. The way that he makes this point over and over again is by citing examples from things he witnessed and things he experienced where the slavers would intentionally act in ways that would dehumanize their black slaves. While it could be said that speaking only from personal experience could allow one to question the validity of Douglass' claims, he does include forewords from two well-known white abolitionists who voraciously vouch for his legitimacy and his sincerity. While today we all know the name Frederick Douglass, in 1845 the word of those two well-respected white men likely

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Lee Reighard allowed this story the credibility it needed to spread far and wide. And this was a story that needed to be spread far and wide. This book had countless strengths and positives towards achieving its goal of educating American society on the true nature of slavery. Probably the one that was most valuable was the graphic, and sometimes gruesome, way that Douglass would describe the physical that he and his fellow slaves incurred. When he talks of his early life without, not only a bed, but also without pants or a blanket, and only keeping alive by finding a sack to crawl into at night, it shows the desperation of his situation. When he discusses getting whipped and cracks rising in his back that were so thick and so deep that you stick your finger in them, that made a tangible impact. The point is that everyone knows that slavery was bad and that black people were brutalized or killed, the specifics allow the reader to understand the true depth of the depravity. Only by making account so real and so awful can you assure that those who read those words will not allow such a thing to happen again in this country. Another major strength of this book was the focus on education. Throughout the book, education was shown to be the silver bullet that could allow the enslaved people of America to overcome their burden. It was one of the things that slavers feared most because they knew that if slaves were learned, they could gain hope and organize against their masters. This is why they worked so hard to beat them into submission. It wasn't simply a way to punish them for wrongdoing. It was also a way to remove any sliver of humanity that may still desire to be free. Douglass does an amazing job of describing his experiences with that, how Edward Covey almost destroyed his hope and desire for freedom. He speaks of how the times where he is leading to read and write and teaching

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Lee Reighard others to do the same are the times where he feels most free. This is an important point, not just for the story itself, but for the message it relays to its audience of that day. If any abolitionists wished to help inspire slaves to seek their freedom, a great way to do so was to inspire them to educate themselves. While not directly about slavery, this still holds true in the modern day. For those who grow up economically oppressed, the best way to overcome that station is by becoming educated. While absolutely blown away by the nature of this book and the impact that it can have on the reader, I am compelled to consider points where it fell short. The first point is a small one, but one that should be mentioned. Throughout the book, Douglass mentions a large number of owners, drivers, and overseers that he encountered throughout his time as a slave, and each was more brutal than the last, except for Hugh and Sophia Auld of Baltimore. Upon meeting them, he speaks almost lovingly of his mistress, who apparently adores him. Even to the end, when speaking of Master Hugh, while he takes issue with the injustice of Hugh taking his money, he nonetheless seems to respect the fact that he is not abusive. What is interesting is that this attitude towards the Aulds of Baltimore clearly leaves some conflict within him. While he speaks of his mistresses heart growing cold as his years in her service go on, he is loathe to mention any specifics, other than the fact that she stops teaching him to read. Due to the timing and audience of this book and his rightful hatred of anyone participating in this cruel enterprise, this conflict is probably pretty natural, but it was interesting how at times his feelings seemed to betray him. In some ways, this is not so much a negative because it somehow humanizes his situation, but in other ways, one could see how it may become confusing to the reader.

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Lee Reighard The most glaring problem was the book's omission of the story of how he came to freedom. I understand why this was omitted. He felt that anything he said in regards to his path or the people that helped him could compromise the voyage of any other slave wishing to obtain his same freedom. I found it interesting that he actually spoke ill of the Underground Railroad, which actively sought to bring black slaves from the south to the free states and territories of America. His claim was that "they do nothing towards enlightening the slave, whilst they do much to enlighten the master." It is a reasonable point because publicizing the goal of helping slaves escape makes slave masters more vigilant. At the same time, Douglass himself spoke multiple times of how the minds of his fellow slaves had become dormant and that even he had to fight against the inevitability of slavery. Hope was the main thing that kept him fighting, and the Underground Railroad likely gave that hope to many slaves who would never have dreamed of freedom. The point is, while the publicity may have enlightened the master, Douglass was wrong in his assertion that it did not also enlighten the slave.

When I finished reading this account a few nights ago, there was one really important thing that stuck out to me:
"What I have said respecting and against religion, I mean strictly to apply to the slaveholding religion of this land, and with no possible reference to Christianity proper; for between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference- so wide, that to receive one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked."

Frederick Douglass was so considerate about his words that, when he had concluded recounting all of the atrocious events of his tragic life, he thought to add an appendix to clarify his thoughts on religion and to ensure he was not

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Lee Reighard alienating anyone who may view his account as an attack upon Christianity. He made it very clear throughout the book that those who most clung to their religious beliefs were also the most cruel, but he wrote an extra chapter so that his readers would understand his belief in Christ (regardless of his persecution), and would not feel shame or guilt in holding that same affiliation. One cannot say whether that chapter or that message resonated in the day that it was written. What can certainly be said, however is that, nearly 200 years later, those words displayed above still resonate in the United States today. We're no longer talking about slavery or any sort of direct oppression, but there is still an insidious fight against freedom. Douglass' "Christianity of this land" has still not stopped fighting the "Christianity of Christ". In the end, Douglass intended this account to raise awareness of the atrocity of slavery. In the modern day, it ensures that we never forget. What it also does is remind us that the fight continues against intolerance, whatever form it may take.

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