What is the book about?
This is the autobiography of a man born into slavery who was separated from his mother early as slaves were. He writes about the ways which slaves were treated by their owners. When he is older, he is sent off to Baltimore to serve another family. There he teaches himself to read. When his master dies, Fredrick is valued as livestock to be divided as other property. He ends up with a man known as the negro-breaker. Eventually, the two men have a face off – this leads to s series of events and Fredrick ends up in Baltimore again. This time he learns a trade which then leads to both challenges and opportunities. Eventually, he runs away and becomes a well known orator and abolitionist.
Why should I read the book?
There are many reasons to read this book. But instead of telling you why, I want you to read this paragraph below. I think it tells you exactly why we should read this book.
If any one thing in my experience, more than another, served to deepen my conviction of the infernal character of slavery, and to fill me with unutterable loathing of slaveholders, it was their base ingratitude to my poor old grandmother. She had served my old master faithfully from youth to old age. She had been the source of all his wealth; she had peopled his plantation with slaves; she had become a great grandmother in his service. She had rocked him in infancy, attended him in childhood, served him through life, and at his death wiped from his icy brow the cold death-sweat, and closed his eyes forever. She was nevertheless left a slave—a slave for life—a slave in the hands of strangers; and in their hands she saw her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren, divided, like so many sheep, without being gratified with the small privilege of a single word, as to their or her own destiny. And, to cap the climax of their base ingratitude and fiendish barbarity, my grandmother, who was now very old, having outlived my old master and all his children, having seen the beginning and end of all of them, and her present owners finding she was of but little value, her frame already racked with the pains of old age, and complete helplessness fast stealing over her once active limbs, they took her to the woods, built her a little hut, put up a little mud-chimney, and then made her welcome to the privilege of supporting herself there in perfect loneliness; thus virtually turning her out to die! If my poor old grandmother now lives, she lives to suffer in utter loneliness; she lives to remember and mourn over the loss of children, the loss of grandchildren, and the loss of great-grandchildren. –
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass