The narrative of Fredrick Douglas is one of the most famous memoirs and narratives written by a former slave, especially those that served in the United States of America in the early 19th century. It is written by a former slave called Fredrick Douglas and it candidly describes the tough life that the ordinary slaves faced during the slavery period. The book is one of the most important pieces of literature that gives insights into what led to the abolitionist movement in the early years of the 19th century and the way he describes the events of his life shows his unrivaled resilience and determination to break away from bondage (Matlack 78).
What was the purpose of the author and what are the significant reasons why Douglas authored and published this book? To start with, Douglas wanted to defeat the demeaning ways of the white who would limit the content of his public speeches. The whites would allow him to address people in public but would monitor the content of his speech to ensure that he did not delve into the issues of slavery that would incite the black slaves to fight for freedom. The publication of this book opened the gates for him because he was given the freedom to tackle the issue of slavery from an ambitious perspective instead of just taking a public platform to give speeches that were quite repetitive and closely monitored. The publication of the book heightened the credibility of his life story and experiences as a slave because of the way the book was written. The book is the one that led to the rise of his newspaper that became the most influential tool of the abolitionist movement.
The writer’s main thesis is the determination and the resilience of a slave that finally yielded fruits that led to the freedom of the slaves. In the book, the writer gives an account of his life as a slave; to start with, he was not suffering like the other slaves because his master was quite kind and considerate. The master even gave him the chance to get educated and was their main undoing because this education that he received enlightened him and he started to see the way the slaves were being treated from another light. The education he received gave him the power and the authority to question some of the practices of the whites, and his bosses could not withstand his newfound courage. He was moved from one master to another as an attempt to tame him but his determination and urge to break free could not let him back down. Even when he was almost debilitated by a master called Covey his determination did not die, and instead of remaining submissive, he opted for the worst. He fought out with the master for an hour in a battle he eventually won and this is what earned him the respect of that master because he did not touch him again after that. The same determination and resilience led him to start a campaign to enlighten the slaves and he used his public forums to address the issues that the slaves were facing despite being stifled by the whites. With a strong desire to communicate the story of the slaves, He wrote this book that became one of the most important tools in the abolitionist movement (Fuller 34).
There are many issues that this book raises. One of the issues that the author has tackled directly is racism. While he was working like a slave for the Baltimore traders, he experiences relations between the black and the white races that were very strained. Initially, the whites and the freed blacks were working harmoniously but the influx of the freed blacks strained the relationship between the two races because the whites feared that the freed slaves would take their jobs. The whites became very violent towards the black and the author was on many occasions, intimidated violently and this forced him to keep changing from one shipyard to the other. Despite these hardships, he quickly learned the Caulk trade and eventually became one of the highest wage earners.
The second issue that the author tackles is the desire to break away from bondage. It is this desire that drives Douglas to learn how to read and write in the face of the cruelty of his masters who never wanted the slaves to get any form of enlightenment. The same desire makes him learn about the evils that the slaves faced and also made him learn bout the abolitionist movement. It is this desire that makes him escape to the north. This desire makes him very brutish and unmanageable that the masters find him unable to stomach him. He develops enough courage that enables him to fight his master and to start championing the rights of the slaves. He fights back against all what he considered as evil towards the slaves and his desire to break away from slavery helps to free millions of slaves in the United States of America at the height of the abolitionist movement
The third issue that is tackled by this book is the plight of African American slaves. The book describes in detail the harrowing experiences of the African American slaves during the early years of the 19th century. There were very many evils that existed during these days of slavery and these evils heightened the suffering of the African American slaves (Douglas 17). They were overworked, starved, and senselessly beaten. They were also denied the right to education and the violation of human rights was at its peak during this time of slavery. These are the evils that drove Douglas to start resisting the ways of the whites while challenging some of the punitive and inhuman practices that they used against the blacks.
In conclusion, the ideas of Fredrick Douglas still hold even today, decades after he influenced the abolitionist movement. I believe these are the same ideas that influenced the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’70s and they are the same ideas that are being used to fight racism in the United States of America. The reading of this book was very meaningful to me as a scholar in history because it gave me first-hand information about the experiences of the slaves, coming from a person who was one of the victims of this inhuman slavery. It also gave me a lot of insight into the life of Fredrick Douglas and his involvement in the abolitionist movement. Moreover, it has made me understand why Douglas is such a revered legend among the African American community in the United States of America.
Douglas, Fredrick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (A Norton Critical Edition). WA: Norton. 1979.
Fuller, Margaret. A critical analysis of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. WA. Norton. 1982
Matlack, James. The Autobiographies of Frederick Douglas. New York: Phylon. 1960.