„My Bondage and My Freedom“– How Douglass describes the slave experience

stewi87Starred Page By stewi87, 16th Jul 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Reviews>Books>Biography

This is a review of the impressive book of Frederick Douglass about the slave experience.

The Second Biography

My Bondage and My Freedom is Frederick Douglass’ second autobiographical attempt of describing slavery. The book was published in 1855, after Douglass’ return from England. In contrast to his first autobiography, here Douglass includes not only his slave experience, but also his life as an abolitionist. He does this in a well reflected, open minded manner; he for example names every person in the book by his/her real name, in order to show his intention of being truthful. This makes the book one of the most important references in the genre of the slave narrative. (Another example would be Oroonoko)

Life in Slavery

The life of Douglass in slavery is not a particularly difficult one, compared to some lives of others. Nevertheless, he experiences all the elements America’s peculiar institution holds. For example, he does not know his father, nor does he ever have a close relationship to his brother, sisters, and mother. Thus, he does not really know the meaning of family as a child. This lack of family is of course due to the willing separation of slave families by slaveholders.

As Douglass points out, this is just one of the many methods that the system of slavery used in order to maintain itself. Even more, without this psychological terror, as well as without the flogging, and other physical punishments, slavery would not have been possible altogether. This leads Douglass to a very remarkable observation. He says that a slave who suffers and fears about his life, wishes only for a better master. A slave who has a better master, and is treated more kindly, soon wishes to be his own master. And this is exactly what slaveholders seek to avoid. You can learn more about the history of slavery in Christopher's Article.

Life as an Abolitionist

Abolitionism, is the second, much shorter part of his life that Douglass describes in My Bondage and My Freedom. Here he shows how he managed to step up for his people, and prove to the world that the Negro is not an animal, but a man. A black man who could read, write, and hold speeches was simply sensational at the time. This is probably why he had such an extraordinary success as an advocate against slavery. Also very interesting in this chapter of Douglass’ life are how he managed to found a journal- “The North Star” – and how his relation to other, mainly white, abolitionists developed. Especially William Lloyd Garrison is a very important character in this movement of white, northern abolitionism.

Why should we read such an old book from a hurtful past?

In my opinion, it is very important that we, as members of free nations, should remember how such a terrible institution as slavery could have been maintained. In order to fight for our freedom it is still important to see and recognize the signs of oppression, which are still existent in our times too. This is where history can help us; especially history of the worst kind. I hope you readers, will enjoy the reading of this remarkable book, and recognize that freedom is not something that is self-evident, but something which is worth fighting for.

Tags

Abolitionism, Abolitionist, Africa, Autobiography, Douglass, Frederick, Garrison, My Bondage, My Freedom, Review, Slave, Slavery

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author avatar stewi87
I have a degree in English languages and literatures, and I absolutely love reading and reviewing books.

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Comments

author avatar C.D. Moore
17th Jul 2014 (#)

Great review!

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author avatar Retired
17th Jul 2014 (#)

Interesting. Not knowing his father and no close relationship with mother or siblings speaks of some similarity with the relationships within African-American families of today. Great review.

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author avatar Lee Hansen
17th Jul 2014 (#)

This sounds like a very interesting read. I will have to put it on my bucket list.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
18th Jul 2014 (#)

We should never forget our past however painful they maybe. And we should always be aware of injustices that still exist. Thought provoking, Stewi - siva

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