100 Book Challenge, Non-fiction

Book #6 Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Have you ever met someone that you instantly clicked with?  You don’t have to be exactly the same, but you seem to just ride the same wavelength?  I love that feeling and I hang on to those people.  I love authors like that too, and it is even easier to hang on to them because I can buy their books and read them over and over and feel that connection.  Whether the connection is to the characters they create or the authors themselves, I love knowing I can pull that book off the shelf again and again to experience it.

With Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, I felt that connection.  I knew next to nothing about his life before picking up this book and now I’m so fired up about it that I’ve been stomping around my house, harassing anyone who will sit still long enough to talk to them about it.  The very short summary is that Frederick Douglass was an escaped slave before the American Civil War who taught himself how to read before his escape.  After he found a home in the North, his eloquence in speaking got him attention by abolitionists who recruited him to speak on his experiences.  After that, he became a celebrity and bestselling author.

The narrative was written when he was around twenty-seven years old, so most of his amazing life happened after the end of the book.  I was lucky that my edition had a short summary at the end that told of his days as a women’s rights activist, diplomat, and negotiator for racial equality.  The first thought I had at the end of the appendix was, “Why don’t we have a national holiday for Frederick Douglass?!”

In the narrative of his young life, Douglass describes how slaveholders gave their slaves glimpses of freedom over holidays and encouraged wanton drunkenness during those times.  The intended reaction was that they associate freedom with the worst of behavior, which makes them think that perhaps freedom isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.  Clever devils.  Another interesting fact Douglass explained was that hearing slaves singing in the fields isn’t a sign of contentment but one of sorrow because when you reach those lowest depths of sorrow, all you can do is sing.  I wondered if this was culturally true, because I’ve never felt that or experienced it through someone else, but I can see how it could be true.

The insights he wrote on what made a person a slave is what I will carry with me forever.

“I have found that, to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one.  It is necessary to darken his moral and mental vision, and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason.  He must be able to detect no inconsistencies in slavery; he must be made to feel that slavery is right; and he can be brought to that only when he ceases to be a man.”

This filled me the determination never want to be enslaved because of my thoughtlessness.  Don’t we all choose or are subjected to slavery at some point in our lives?  We don’t think deeply about our futures or lives and just live in the moment, darkening our moral and mental vision of ourselves, refusing to face behaviors and addictions that steal our freedom, choosing to be blind to what glorious, amazing people we are meant to be.  And what was Douglass’ path to freedom?  Knowledge.  And that path is for everyone, if they choose to escape slavery and are brave enough to walk it.

Goodreads Rating: five stars, but I’d give it more if that was an option


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has written 287 articles on Red Hot Eyebrows.

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