April 12, 2013

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass is best known as an orator and an abolitionist.  A former slave, he knew first hand the suffering that not owning yourself can be.  I've been told many times that this auto-biography is one that should be read, so, when presented with the chance to listen to it on audiobook, I did.  The narrator had a calm, steady voice and it was quickly captivating.

This autobiography covers from childhood until ten years after Douglass gained his freedom.  He describes thte time he spent with different slave owners, his treatment while working for different people, and a little about what he did once he escaped.  A big part of this book was about his desire to read and how he taught himself to do so.

Douglass encounters a lot of people in his life and unsurprisingly many were cruel and harsh.  What did surprise me was that he did say some of the slave owners were decent in their treatment of him.  I couldn't ever imagine calling a slave owner decent and it shows that Douglass was definitely a bigger person than me.  To be so mild after having been a slave is astonishing.  He also describes the people that slavery made cruel, like the woman who started to teach him to read only to become the biggest opponent of slaves learning to read.  I do confess that there were so many people he mentioned, it was hard to keep track of them sometimes.

Douglass has a remarkable way with words and this autobiography is as interesting as it is sad.  But I wish there was more of it!  With the amount of detail that he put into describing how he learned to read and the beatings he got (which are sections of the book not for the faint of heart), I wish he had put just as much detail into other things, like his marriage and his speeches after slavery.  I realize he wrote several other books, but since this one covered his time right out of slavery, I expected there to be more description of that eventful time in his life.  It would have provided a big contrast to his time spent as a slave.  Even so, I did find the book extremely informative and it was definitely more than what I learned in school.    And I'm glad for having read such a personal account of slavery.  It is a reminder that such evil shouldn't be permitted in the world.

A great man and one can see why he was so influential.  His autobiography was quick, but moving.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas
Read by Jonathan Reese

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