Keren Threlfall's Reviews > Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass An American Slave

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass  An American Slave by Frederick Douglass
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Dec 27, 11

bookshelves: 2011-reading, american-history
Read in March, 2011, read count: 1

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is a memoir of Douglass’ life from being born into slavery in Maryland through the first years of his live as a freed man. Although Douglass had to teach himself to read and write, it is very clear that he was a brilliant man and skilled in writing, which is remarkable considering that Douglass wrote the book when he was in his twenties.

Douglass was a child of a Harriet Bailey, a female slave, and was fathered (in the biological sense of the word) by a white man who was unknown, but suspected to be Aaron Anthony. He did not know his mother, who died when he was seven years old. He was transferred from plantation slavery to city slavery, living with Hugh and Sophia Auld. It was there that Sophia began teaching him the alphabet, but that was put to an abrupt halt when her husband demanded that she cease for fear that an educated slave would realize his pitiful condition. (It was against the law, as well, to teach a slave to read.) After that, Sophia grew to be more brutal toward Douglass, though never nearing the plantation and deep-south brutality and atrocities. During his time in the city, he was exposed to opportunity and education, but was for a brief time sent back to the plantation, at which time he was whipped and observed further atrocities upon other slaves. From there, several more transfers were made, including some even after he was again sent back to live with the Auld family. He eventually escaped, seven years after learning about the abolitionist movement. (Interestingly, he seemed to be opposed to the Underground Railroad system, though he still encouraged that slaves should escape.) He was assisted by abolitionists following his escape, at which time he was also married. He began speaking on behalf of enslaved black Americans, and this is where the narrative ends in his life.
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