Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave - Frederick Douglass
This is a first hand account, an autobiographical narrative, of Mr. Douglass' life as a slave in Maryland. This was written after his escape to the north.
The story is awe inspiring. His strength and determination are rare. His ability to recognize that knowledge (the ability to read and write) were a path to freedom and then teach himself what he required is absolutely amazing. His literacy is astonishing.
The book is only 126 pages, but it is probably the most powerful condemnation of slavery and reason for true change that I have ever read.
Some of the most memorable parts of this book:
Douglass explained the biblical reasoning the south used to justify keeping slaves. They say the Africans were the descendants of Ham. Ham was cursed by God. He and his people were to be subservient to other men. That is what the southerners used to say they were Christians and still keep slaves. I guess they missed the whole New Testament changing the rules. Actually, they probably didn't miss it. They abused it. It is a shame that is so common.
Douglass went a bit further with this. He explained that his father, though he was never told who the man was, was a white man. This happened quite often. There were many mixed race children on the plantations. Douglass reasoned that because he was half white that he was not only a descendant of Ham, but also from peoples who were not cursed. Eventually there would have been enough mixed race folks that slavery would have died out because the biblical justification could no longer stand up to scrutiny. That was an awesome insight.
Another part that struck me deeply was when his master had died and the property was to be divided between two of his children. They had to do a valuation of the property before division could take place. The executor gathered all the master's property and assigned it a value. This included all the slaves, land, livestock, farm implements, crops, livery, etc. What was interesting was that a male slave was given the same value as a horse. A female slave was equal to a cow. A child slave was equal to a pig. The southerners fully recognized that black people were human beings, yet the value of these human beings was no more than livestock! Disgusting!
This was my favorite quote from this book (Samantha Style).
"In coming to a fixed determination to run away, we did more than Patrick Henry, when he resolved upon liberty or death."
This book relays vicious acts of barbarity, heartless manipulation of people to keep them subservient and ignorant, and is full of reflections on the disgusting practices utilized that hurt both slave and slave-holders.
READ IT! (BTW...it is also available for free and downloadable on the internet.)