Howard Olsen's Reviews > My Bondage and My Freedom

My Bondage and My Freedom by Frederick Douglass
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's review
Feb 06, 2010

it was amazing

This is Frederick Douglass' story of his life as a slave, and his subsequent escape to the North. Douglass doesn't just describe the physical cruelty of southern slavery, although there's plenty of harrowing detail about that. He emphasizes the psychological pain suffered by slaves. We speak now of grinding poverty, but slaves like Douglass had to suffer through something even worse; the knowledge that their lives were not their own. This is brought home when Douglass' master - a man Douglass had no reason to like - dies; and his slaves are disposed of during probate. For slaves, the death of the master could mean sale, relocation, the splitting up of family relationships, etc. Douglass himself is a testament to the millions of lives that were ruined by slavery. By sheer luck, he was able to learn to read and was converted to Christianity, both of which events opened his mind to the cruelties inflicted on him and his race. Without these twin pillars of knowledge, Douglass admits that he could have gone through life only dimly aware of the injustice done to him. Slave or not, Douglass was clearly a brilliant man; a natural born orator with a fiery social conscience. This book is a testament not just to his life, but those of the lives of millions who were caught up in America's "peculiar institution."
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