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My Bondage and My Freedom

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My Bondage and My Freedom is an autobiographical slave narrative written by Frederick Douglass and published in 1855. It is the second of three autobiographies written by Douglass, and is mainly an expansion of his first (Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass), discussing in greater detail his transition from bondage to liberty. Following this liberation, Douglass, a My Bondage and My Freedom is an autobiographical slave narrative written by Frederick Douglass and published in 1855. It is the second of three autobiographies written by Douglass, and is mainly an expansion of his first (Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass), discussing in greater detail his transition from bondage to liberty. Following this liberation, Douglass, a former slave, went on to become a prominent abolitionist, speaker, author, and publisher. In his foreword to the 2003 Modern Library paperback edition, John Stauffer writes: “My Bondage and My Freedom,” [is] a deep meditation on the meaning of slavery, race, and freedom, and on the power of faith and literacy, as well as a portrait of an individual and a nation a few years before the Civil War. As his narrative unfolds, Frederick Douglass—abolitionist, journalist, orator, and one of the most powerful voices to emerge from the American civil rights movement—transforms himself from slave to fugitive to reformer, leaving behind a legacy of social, intellectual, and political thought. The 1855 text includes Douglass’s original Appendix, composed of excerpts from the author’s speeches as well as a letter he wrote to his former master.


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My Bondage and My Freedom is an autobiographical slave narrative written by Frederick Douglass and published in 1855. It is the second of three autobiographies written by Douglass, and is mainly an expansion of his first (Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass), discussing in greater detail his transition from bondage to liberty. Following this liberation, Douglass, a My Bondage and My Freedom is an autobiographical slave narrative written by Frederick Douglass and published in 1855. It is the second of three autobiographies written by Douglass, and is mainly an expansion of his first (Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass), discussing in greater detail his transition from bondage to liberty. Following this liberation, Douglass, a former slave, went on to become a prominent abolitionist, speaker, author, and publisher. In his foreword to the 2003 Modern Library paperback edition, John Stauffer writes: “My Bondage and My Freedom,” [is] a deep meditation on the meaning of slavery, race, and freedom, and on the power of faith and literacy, as well as a portrait of an individual and a nation a few years before the Civil War. As his narrative unfolds, Frederick Douglass—abolitionist, journalist, orator, and one of the most powerful voices to emerge from the American civil rights movement—transforms himself from slave to fugitive to reformer, leaving behind a legacy of social, intellectual, and political thought. The 1855 text includes Douglass’s original Appendix, composed of excerpts from the author’s speeches as well as a letter he wrote to his former master.

30 review for My Bondage and My Freedom

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rowena

    " 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 Freedom I’ve never read such a detailed and " 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 Freedom I’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.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lisa (Harmonybites)

    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 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.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    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 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.

  4. 5 out of 5

    ij

    My Bondage My Freedom Written By: Frederick Douglass Published By: Public Domain (Amazon) Kindle Edition My Bondage My Freedom I 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 My Bondage My Freedom Written By: Frederick Douglass Published By: Public Domain (Amazon) Kindle Edition My Bondage My Freedom I 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.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Hana

    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, 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.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sumeyya

    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 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...)

  7. 4 out of 5

    Larry Bassett

    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 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.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    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.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mark Jr.

    This is one of the most memorable books I could ever possibly read. My praise can’t possibly match the eloquence and power of a single one of his lines. But I can’t help praising anyway. As a writer wannabe myself, I'm in awe. The turns of phrase are fantastic, and they just kept coming. Here’s just one. The fact is, such was my dread of leaving the little cabin, that I wished to remain little forever, for I knew the taller I grew the shorter my stay. (7) The metaphors were beautiful. Here’s just This is one of the most memorable books I could ever possibly read. My praise can’t possibly match the eloquence and power of a single one of his lines. But I can’t help praising anyway. As a writer wannabe myself, I'm in awe. The turns of phrase are fantastic, and they just kept coming. Here’s just one. The fact is, such was my dread of leaving the little cabin, that I wished to remain little forever, for I knew the taller I grew the shorter my stay. (7) The metaphors were beautiful. Here’s just one: It is generally supposed that slavery, in the state of Maryland, exists in its mildest form, and that it is totally divested of those harsh and terrible peculiarities, which mark and characterize the slave system, in the southern and south-western states of the American union. The argument in favor of this opinion, is the contiguity of the free states, and the exposed condition of slavery in Maryland to the moral, religious and humane sentiment of the free states. I am not about to refute this argument, so far as it relates to slavery in that state, generally; on the contrary, I am willing to admit that, to this general point, the arguments is well grounded. Public opinion is, indeed, an unfailing restraint upon the cruelty and barbarity of masters, overseers, and slave-drivers, whenever and wherever it can reach them; but there are certain secluded and out-of-the-way places, even in the state of Maryland, seldom visited by a single ray of healthy public sentiment—where slavery, wrapt in its own congenial, midnight darkness, can, and does, develop all its malign and shocking characteristics; where it can be indecent without shame, cruel without shuddering, and murderous without apprehension or fear of exposure. (17) The graciousness was evident, and it never wavered. Here’s just one instance: Although my old master—Capt. Anthony—gave me at first, (as the reader will have already seen) very little attention, and although that little was of a remarkably mild and gentle description, a few months only were sufficient to convince me that mildness and gentleness were not the prevailing or governing traits of his character. These excellent qualities were displayed only occasionally. He could, when it suited him, appear to be literally insensible to the claims of humanity, when appealed to by the helpless against an aggressor, and he could himself commit outrages, deep, dark and nameless. Yet he was not by nature worse than other men. Had he been brought up in a free state, surrounded by the just restraints of free society—restraints which are necessary to the freedom of all its members, alike and equally—Capt. Anthony might have been as humane a man, and every way as respectable, as many who now oppose the slave system; certainly as humane and respectable as are members of society generally. The slaveholder, as well as the slave, is the victim of the slave system. A man's character greatly takes its hue and shape from the form and color of things about him. Under the whole heavens there is no relation more unfavorable to the development of honorable character, than that sustained by the slaveholder to the slave. Reason is imprisoned here, and passions run wild. Like the fires of the prairie, once lighted, they are at the mercy of every wind, and must burn, till they have consumed all that is combustible within their remorseless grasp. Capt. Anthony could be kind, and, at times, he even showed an affectionate disposition. Could the reader have seen him gently leading me by the hand—as he sometimes did—patting me on the head, speaking to me in soft, caressing tones and calling me his "little Indian boy," he would have deemed him a kind old man, and really, almost fatherly. But the pleasant moods of a slaveholder are remarkably brittle; they are easily snapped; they neither come often, nor remain long. His temper is subjected to perpetual trials; but, since these trials are never borne patiently, they add nothing to his natural stock of patience. (25) I found it striking that little Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, when a child, knew because of the law written on his heart that slavery was evil. The heart-rending incidents, related in the foregoing chapter, led me, thus early, to inquire into the nature and history of slavery. Why am I a slave? Why are some people slaves, and others masters? Was there ever a time this was not so? How did the relation commence? These were the perplexing questions which began now to claim my thoughts, and to exercise the weak powers of my mind, for I was still but a child, and knew less than children of the same age in the free states. As my questions concerning these things were only put to children a little older, and little better informed than myself, I was not rapid in reaching a solid footing. By some means I learned from these inquiries that "God, up in the sky," made every body; and that he made white people to be masters and mistresses, and black people to be slaves. This did not satisfy me, nor lessen my interest in the subject. I was told, too, that God was good, and that He knew what was best for me, and best for everybody. This was less satisfactory than the first statement; because it came, point blank, against all my notions of goodness. It was not good to let old master cut the flesh off Esther, and make her cry so. Besides, how did people know that God made black people to be slaves? Did they go up in the sky and learn it? or, did He come down and tell them so? All was dark here. It was some relief to my hard notions of the goodness of God, that, although he made white men to be slaveholders, he did not make them to be bad slaveholders, and that, in due time, he would punish the bad slaveholders; that he would, when they died, send them to the bad place, where they would be "burnt up." Nevertheless, I could not reconcile the relation of slavery with my crude notions of goodness. Then, too, I found that there were puzzling exceptions to this theory of slavery on both sides, and in the middle. I knew of blacks who were not slaves; I knew of whites who were not slaveholders; and I knew of persons who were nearly white, who were slaves. Color, therefore, was a very unsatisfactory basis for slavery. Once, however, engaged in the inquiry, I was not very long in finding out the true solution of the matter. It was not color, but crime, not God, but man, that afforded the true explanation of the existence of slavery. (31) What Douglass did was brilliant, because sincere. He humanized the slavery debate—a move which should not have been necessary. The common creed of the entire nation, not only as a professedly Christian nation but even within their foundational civil religious documents, confessed that all men were created equal. Indeed, though Douglass said he initially fell under the influence of an abolitionist who saw the Constitution as a slavery-defending document, Douglass himself came to see it the opposite way. But Douglass graciously reached out to his persecutors, and those of his fellow slaves, by taking the time to patiently tell his story and uncover the thousand small dehumanizing moments within it. Perhaps the most brilliant thing Douglass did was to show that slavery dehumanized its perpetrators, not just its victims, turning even the best of slaveowners into brutes. The seeds of his future freedom—and of his incredible eloquence—were planted by a kind Baltimore woman who appeared genuinely to love Frederick as her child. It was she who taught him the rudiments of reading. But when her husband ordered her to stop, and then disabused her of the notion that her kindness was warranted, teaching Frederick at the same moment that education was the key to his freedom, she began to oppose Frederick’s reading more than her husband did. This kind woman turned, at moments, truly cruel. It was moving to hear Douglass writing from within an America that still sanctioned African slavery. He said not one word about the method of his escape because he still had reason to fear what his “owner” could do to him and those who helped him. He also wanted to avoid tipping off Southerners as to possible routes into freedom. How did I live to age 38 without reading this book?

  10. 5 out of 5

    Carlos

    An impressive book and an astounding life story. This is a tale of bravery, endurance, unrelenting curiosity, audacity and endless resilience. I am confused as into why this is not a figure better known and I say this aware of his current importance but to my limited knowledge Douglass seems to be relevant enough to be cited aside with any prominent figure (i.e. MLK, JFK) and this is rarely the case. Maybe evidence of this is the fact that the current President recently stated FD was still An impressive book and an astounding life story. This is a tale of bravery, endurance, unrelenting curiosity, audacity and endless resilience. I am confused as into why this is not a figure better known and I say this aware of his current importance but to my limited knowledge Douglass seems to be relevant enough to be cited aside with any prominent figure (i.e. MLK, JFK) and this is rarely the case. Maybe evidence of this is the fact that the current President recently stated FD was still alive.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cynda

    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 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.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Shivani Maurya

    Born into slavery in 1818, Frederick Douglass escaped to freedom. This book is his recounting of the transition period from being a bonded slave to finally embracing freedom in New Bedford. The first chapter borrows heavily from the events towards the end of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave , but what follows is a masterful insight into the plight of slavery from the eyes of a freed man. This pivotal point in Douglass' life was marred by personal struggles as Born into slavery in 1818, Frederick Douglass escaped to freedom. This book is his recounting of the transition period from being a bonded slave to finally embracing freedom in New Bedford. The first chapter borrows heavily from the events towards the end of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave , but what follows is a masterful insight into the plight of slavery from the eyes of a freed man. This pivotal point in Douglass' life was marred by personal struggles as he tried to settle down and make an honest living for his family. Coming from the harrowing grasp of slavery, his welcome attitude to daily struggles lends additional pathos to his recollections. But these are not confined to the personal details. In My Bondage and My Freedom , Douglass makes the most of the opportunity provided him by the anti-slavery movement and delivers a fiery condemnation of the state and religious institutions instrumental in upholding the practice of slavery. It becomes quite clear how freedom from slavery unfettered him from hesitance and doubts. His confidence shines through in his speeches not only to the American crowd but also to the British (during his stay on the isles as a fugitive). The excerpts from his speeches are some of his best denunciations in writing. He calls out the callousness and hypocrisy of the Americans reluctant to share their much touted liberty and freedom with millions of people for want of keeping them as property for their own benefit. (His speech titled "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" throws shade on this hypocrisy.) Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you this day rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. His masterful use of metaphors cuts to the quick any apologist argument in favor of slavery. That he was able to rally the British opinion in his favor, is a testament to his being the champion for the cause. This book really is Douglass coming into his own. He rightfully seizes the pulpit of the anti-slavery movement and doesn't hold back. He frankly admits to coming full force against the institution of slavery. He goes into details of severe physical atrocities that the slaves had to endure even for minor infractions. He exposes the laws and practices through which the slaves were kept spiritually and intellectually alienated from their fellow white Americans. His letter addressed to his old master (Thomas Auld) is an unapologetic, no holds barred testimony of his cruelties. And one can only guess at his restraint as he requests Auld, not for redress or apologies, but only to be put in touch with his family who are still slaving under him. But he does pack a punch with his closing line, I am your fellow man, but not your slave. FREDERICK DOUGLASS My Bondage and My Freedom is Douglass' claim to being an American on equal footing with his white counterparts. As a social reformer he commits to the cause of abolitionists and gives them his full support. As a masterful orator he wields the language to bring about a feeling of genuine abhorrence to slavery in his audience. And as a statesman his influence manifests not only in the support from other sympathetic voices in governance but also in his unchallenged refutation of those reluctant to change the status quo. If the Narrative was his pining for a better future for himself, this book is his pining for a better future for all his enslaved brethren. A must read for all. . . . . . PS: It's an after thought, but, much of what Douglass says to appeal to humanity's better angels in fight against slavery, is applicable against the vices plaguing present times. His talk about pro-slavery propaganda, internal decay of institutions and political parties strong arming each other to pass punitive laws prognosticates the future we live in. The only difference being the enemy we are up against.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Iris

    "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 "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 X Like 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.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Thorin

    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 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.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Abby

    Remarkable! I’m not sure how I made it this long without reading.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Vaishali

    A book that changed my life, and made me rethink what it is to have an iron will. Just amazing.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nina 321

    Should you ever feel tempted, even for a moment, to believe the beautiful lies of a galant Gone-with-the-wind slavery south (as in US history), or for an instant think, "well, maybe there were some bad eggs but surely not every slave driver was vicious and cruel?" -- then this book will cure you. It contains the memoirs of a man who was enslaved in the state of Maryland (between New Jersey and Washington DC in the US) from birth until he escaped to freedom aged 20. Douglass exposes slavery as Should you ever feel tempted, even for a moment, to believe the beautiful lies of a galant Gone-with-the-wind slavery south (as in US history), or for an instant think, "well, maybe there were some bad eggs but surely not every slave driver was vicious and cruel?" -- then this book will cure you. It contains the memoirs of a man who was enslaved in the state of Maryland (between New Jersey and Washington DC in the US) from birth until he escaped to freedom aged 20. Douglass exposes slavery as inherently vicious and cruel. It is the system itself that can only uphold itself by exerting cruelty and violence, and the system corrupts anybody who comes into touch with it. Written in beautiful 19th-C. prose and infused with strong moral 19th-C. religious sentiments, the book is a complete and nuanced indictment of the ideology and practice of enslavement. To me, the most powerful parts come in Part 1 where the author recounts his memoirs of his enslavement. This part lives off the 19th-C. realism of its descriptions, the way it brings textures and milieu to life, the impassive way it describes in unsparing detail the violence on a slave-holding estate -- and the description is enough. No sensationalism is necessary. Impressive are also the stories of resistance and the author's passionate conviction of the power of knowledge and education to effect change. The narrative of the mistress whose initial kindness Douglass ascribes to natural in-born humanity and how this kindness was hardened and corrupted by the slavery system (and, evident from today's eyes, patriarchy) is very powerful. For me, the book lost some of its momentum in Part 2 where Douglass tells of his freedom, although the descriptions of being overcome by intense emotion when first he reached New York City and of his taste of true equality when visiting Britain for 2 years (I read this part with mixed feelings) are very good. The big lacuna right at the heart of the story is how Douglass got from bondage to freedom. The book was published in 1855 and as Douglass explains: he could not make any of the details public as he risked endangering others. This is the most chilling aspect: he wrote this at a time when even the continued liberty of any escaped enslaved person was not guaranteed and where law allowed for "chattel" (a shocking term) to be returned to its owners. I discovered that no biopic exists of what surely must be one of the greatest heroic lives of 19th-C North America. Apparently Spike Lee is currently making one, 124 years after Frederick Douglass's death. That in itself says something about the dreadful legacy of the system of slavery. Format: freebie on Kindle. Fine.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Wade

    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 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.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Zach

    This book is an absolute masterpiece! Read this book! I like this book more than the first autobiography because of the perspective of looking back 10 years after he wrote the first, but I have to say reading both was quite interesting. In the first book he felt fresh and related stories to the reader off the cuff (am I crazy saying this?). The second book he felt like he knew what people wanted to know about slavery and really gave us a unique perspective of someone who understood his point of This book is an absolute masterpiece! Read this book! I like this book more than the first autobiography because of the perspective of looking back 10 years after he wrote the first, but I have to say reading both was quite interesting. In the first book he felt fresh and related stories to the reader off the cuff (am I crazy saying this?). The second book he felt like he knew what people wanted to know about slavery and really gave us a unique perspective of someone who understood his point of view is alien to those who did not grow up like he did. The book is bursting with interesting history of the time and on top of it, Frederick Douglass is a badass!!! Not the macho kind, the intellectual, assertive, driven and intuitive kind. Reading this book makes me better. I'll definitely be reading the 3rd autobiography!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kristen Coffin

    "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 "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.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Drew

    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.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Aline

    Incredibly powerful and moving.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lizzie

    Dang, Douglass can WRITE. Being the topic of my senior capstone project, MBMF will always have a special place in my heart, but it’s just a really good book and I really enjoyed reading it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mattr76

    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 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.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Perry Whitford

    Frederick Douglass, a bonafide American hero if ever there was one, was born into slavery in Maryland, 1818. Of mixed raced parentage, he never knew who his father was. As was the way with slavery, he was separated from his mother, who he barely saw before she died when he was ten: '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 Frederick Douglass, a bonafide American hero if ever there was one, was born into slavery in Maryland, 1818. Of mixed raced parentage, he never knew who his father was. As was the way with slavery, he was separated from his mother, who he barely saw before she died when he was ten: '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.' On the estate where he was raised he was never beaten or whipped, that came later when he was older and had been moved on to Baltimore. He did witness other slaves being ill-treated, usually for any perceived "impudence," a loose term: 'This may mean almost anything, or nothing at all, just according to the caprice of the master or overseer, at the moment ... the tone of an answer; in answering at all; in not answering; in the expression of countenance; in the motion of the head; in the gait, manner and bearing of the slave.' The harshest overseer at Wye House plantation was Mr. Gore, who once shot a slave dead for refusing to take a whipping. A common saying the young Douglass heard all the time was how it was “worth but half a cent to kill a nigger, and a half a cent to bury him.” After being passed from one brother to the next Douglass was given the rare opportunity to educate himself when the wife of his new owner, Sophia Auld, taught him to read. She soon regretted doing so but it was too late. As Douglass himself admits, education was the enemy of slavery, a knowledgeable slave would never be happy to remain a slave; 'To make a contented slave, you must make a thoughtless one.' This theme of educaation as the means to elevate the slaves into understanding the iniquity of their situation echos through this biography time and again. Douglass read the Bible and discovered about the abolitionist movement this way. He taught others to read and write before he escaped, then delivered speeches all over the Union, and even in Britain where he lived for a few years to avoid recapture after the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, where the importance of education was eloquently encouraged time and again. When Douglass was sixteen he was sent to work for Edward Covey, who subcontracted slaves to his farm and was known for his brutality. Covey beat Douglass time again until he resisted the punishment, handing out one of his own in return. Covey was a religious man, on the face of it at least. Of all the lessons Douglass learnt in the South one of the most damning had to be this one: 'For all slaveholders with whom I have ever met, religious slaveholders are the worst.' In 1838, aged twenty, Douglass escaped North. In this biography, published while slavery was still legal, he refused to give any details about the method he used. This robs his story of its most dramatic event, yet it speaks volumes about the man that he didn't want to give any secrets away and make it harder for others to do the same. Douglass writes with strong feeling, great honesty and insight and the manor of a spellbinding orator, which he apparently was.* With regards to his honesty and insight in particular, this excerpt from a speech he gave at Finsbury Chapel, Moorfields, London on May 12th, 1846, is a perfect illustration: 'If a slave has a bad master, his ambition is to get a better; when he gets a better, he aspires to have the best; and when he gets the best, he aspires to be his own master.' This for Douglass was the hideous truth about slavery, that it could only thrive under cruelty. In this way both slave and master alike become brutalized by the institution. *the appendix compiles a number of his speeches, all of which are powerful and persuasive.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Catriona

    This is one of the most powerful, challenging and remarkable books I've ever read. Frederick Douglass is such an eloquent narrator and he conveys the horrors and injustices of the slave system incredibly well. His own life is absolutely remarkable and gripping, but this book is so much more than just a life story, however amazing. I've never seen the fundamental principles of the system of slavery laid out - and challenged - so clearly anywhere else. We may have moved on from the slavery system This is one of the most powerful, challenging and remarkable books I've ever read. Frederick Douglass is such an eloquent narrator and he conveys the horrors and injustices of the slave system incredibly well. His own life is absolutely remarkable and gripping, but this book is so much more than just a life story, however amazing. I've never seen the fundamental principles of the system of slavery laid out - and challenged - so clearly anywhere else. We may have moved on from the slavery system as described in this book, but there are many, many lessons here for how we love our lives and treat our fellow humans today. Highly recommended.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Howard Olsen

    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 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."

  28. 5 out of 5

    Keith

    An excellent account of a man's life journey from absolute oppression to self-fulfillment. Unlike the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, this is not simply an abolitionist pamphlet detailing the facts of slavery, it's a fully realized autobiographical sketch and an excellent work of literature in its own right. We are treated, of course, to the harrowing accounts of life as a slave, climaxing with his year long residency with the slave master who is assigned to break him. I think, just An excellent account of a man's life journey from absolute oppression to self-fulfillment. Unlike the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, this is not simply an abolitionist pamphlet detailing the facts of slavery, it's a fully realized autobiographical sketch and an excellent work of literature in its own right. We are treated, of course, to the harrowing accounts of life as a slave, climaxing with his year long residency with the slave master who is assigned to break him. I think, just as important as his life as a slave, is his account of the beginnings of his life as a free man. Douglass escapes slavery in the South to find prejudice, segregation, and poverty in the North. His white abolitionist allies are often subtly prejudiced and condescending in their own right. However, he continues on to become a self-realized figure in his own right as a public speaker abroad and a publisher at home. A truly moving account of a life, Douglass is supremely intelligent, considered, and fair writer and thinker.

  29. 5 out of 5

    janet

    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 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.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Camille Dent

    **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 **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.

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