The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass, 1845
This 76-page account is astonishing in terms of its eloquence considering that Douglass as a slave had no schooling at all and became literate by his own efforts. Its contents, however, reveal the lives of slaves in the American South which is appalling in the extreme. Until one has read these harrowing pages, whatever one knew about the treatment of slavery will pale into insignificance.
Through the lens of Douglass’s experience of slavery, one can only conclude that Southern slave-owners and their overseers were inhuman hypocrites. Worse still were those who professed to be pious Christians, yet denied slaves the Bible and punished those who sought to learn to read. Lives of savage brutality, austerity and degradation were what slaves suffered at the hands of the so-called educated, Christian, Southern plantation owners.
This highly readable little booklet, despite its vintage, will enable students of American history and politics to appreciate the deep racial divides that continue to characterise life in the USA.
Reviewed by Duncan Du Bois ph.D