Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass, an American Slave by Fredrick Douglass

Cameron Rath
Student, BA

This striking excerpt from Douglass’ book:

“My mistress was, as I have said, a kind and tender-hearted woman; and in the simplicity of her soul she commenced, when I first went to live with her, to treat me as she supposed one human being ought to treat another. In entering upon the duties of a slaveholder, she did not seem to perceive that I sustained to her the relation of a mere chattel, and that for her to treat me as a human being was not only wrong, but dangerously so. Slavery proved as injurious to her as it did to me. When I went there, she was a pious, warm, and tender-hearted woman. There was no sorrow or suffering for which she had not a tear. She had bread for the hungry, clothes for the naked, and comfort for every mourner that came within her reach. Slavery soon proved its ability to divest her of these heavenly qualities. Under its influence, the tender heart became stone, and the lamblike disposition gave way to one of tiger-like fierceness.”

What really stuck with me about this book was how much was directly relatable to what still happens today. In the times of slavery, slaves were not allowed to read or write and were encouraged to drink on holidays to keep them complacent. Now the worst schools and least amount of opportunities are in predominately minority neighborhoods. At the time of civil unrest in South LA, there were over 700 liquor licenses. The methods of oppression haven’t changed, they’ve just been institutionalized
Frederick Douglass, Daguerreotype, Samuel J. Miller, The Art Institue of Chicago
Search results for Fredrick Douglass, Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Recovering the Progressive Frederick Douglass, Nicholas Buccola, Dissent
“Angela Davis on the Prison Abolishment Movement, Frederick Douglass, the 40th Anniversary of Her Arrest and President Obama’s First Two Years,” Democracy Now
“Lincoln’s Black History,” Gary Wills, New York Review of Books

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