Brief Recapitulation of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
The book Narrative of the Life of
Frederick Douglass was a ground breaking depiction of the life of a former
slave. The author, Frederick Douglass, overcame unbelievable odds in his quest
for knowledge and freedom. At the time of its release in 1845, America’s segregated
society had never heard the portrayal of life as an American slave. It was
unfathomable that a slave could even read or write and yet here lie the beauty
and prose of Douglass’s inaugural magnum opus.
When Narrative of the Life was
published, slavery was very much legal in the United States. Douglass had
escaped his slave owner and travelled up North to freedom. Even though he may
have been free from ownership, Douglass still lived in fear since if a slave
was known to escape it was the slave owner’s right to capture the slave and
return him to his master. This fact alone exemplifies the bravery and courage
of Douglass to expose the evil injustices of slavery.
The book starts at Douglass’s
childhood and how keenly aware he is of how he has no knowledge of familial
ties or even his own birthdate. “I have no accurate knowledge of my age, never
having seen any authentic record containing it.” (1) This chapter sheds light
on the enforced systemic miseducation of slaves. Slave owners knew that they
must keep all slaves ignorant in order to successfully control them. By not
being aware of your lineage, it strips away a sense of belonging and supportive
America was considerably still a
new nation. Douglass reveals the ugly, sinister, masochistic side of America.
He draws a parallel of Christianity and the “pious” Christian slave owners.
Douglass invokes America to question its moral compass. How can a nation who
touts as being the “land of the free and the home of the brave” treat other human
beings so inhumanely? Page after page, Douglass subjects the reader to the pure
horror and atrocity of slavery. He does so in such a matter of fact tone. His
writing does not reflect the anger one would think a former slave would have,
but rather that of an intellectual edifying the reader of the injustice whilst baring
the dichotomous relationship America has with itself. How can a slave owner be
“Christian” and also bare witness and partake in the torture of slaves?
Although Douglass’s manuscript was regarded as
an autobiography. It was definitely also propaganda in the positive sense. The
entire document details the blueprint of the expectations of slaves. Slaves
existed for profit. This further fueled the abolitionist of the North and
heralded Douglass as a hero and icon of the times. He began speaking engagements
to further promote his best selling book. His notoriety served the anti slave
movement well as it questioned the very institution of slavery amongst slave
owners and non slave owners.