Book Review: The Autobiography of Frederick Douglas

The autobiography of Frederick Douglas is a fascinating story of a man who being born into slavery, fought his way to freedom. He was born in Maryland, most likely in the early 1800s as he didn’t know his exact age. He also didn’t know his father, but by his skin complexion, he suspected him to be a white man, possibly his own master. His mother was a slave on the plantation, but he hardly knew her since she worked in a separate location.

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A vivid picture of struggle

I loved the book because it depicts slavery from a perspective I’ve never heard before. In school we learn about slavery of course, but let’s be honest, it’s watered down compared to what it was in reality. Douglas’ autobiography tells the story of slavery from a first person perspective. It’s uncomfortably fascinating, filled with vivid pictures of his life, and an unfiltered access to the tormented world of slaves and their sufferings.

Frederick not only was an eye witness of these things, he was also a victim. Nevertheless, he refused to let his oppressors victimize him to the point of absolute hopelessness. Though he experienced many hopeless moments throughout his life, those moments remain as snapshots of struggle weaved in to the bigger picture of resilience, hope, and victory.

A vivid picture through prose

What also captivated me with this autobiography is Douglas’s elegant, yet simple prose. His mastery of narrative is impressive despite his upbringing. He had to work twice as hard to learn how to read and write since slaves were prohibited from receiving education. But Frederick was relentless.

One of his master’s wife was kind enough to teach him how to read and write, but only for a time. However, Frederick continued to pursue education by befriending some of the boys in his area who would teach him the fundamentals of reading and writing. Upon learning, he would eventually teach other slaves to read and write, all this unnoticed by his masters.

A vivid faith despite hypocrisy

Despite experiencing cruelty from his masters, who professed the christian faith, Frederick was a firm believer in God and follower of Jesus (according to what he shares in his autobiography). He often shared about what he believed about Jesus in contrast to what he saw in his “christian” masters. However, what he saw in these slave owners didn’t change the way he saw Christianity. He embraced his faith in God not only as a slave, but also as a free man.

Would I recommend this book having read it? ABSOLUTELY.

To see my last book review, you can visit this post.

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