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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

by Frederick Douglass

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Review

“He whipped, but seemed to take no pleasure in it. He was called by the slaves a good overseer.”

This description from the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass does not approach the barbarity of many of the other practices described in the book, but in some ways it excites the most revulsion in me. An American might be known as “good” as long as he is careful not to enjoy enslaving and exploiting and whipping men, women and children! Is this the “Christian nation” that evangelicals want to exalt from the “good old days”?

If you have any sense of justice at all, you will be sickened by this excellent autobiography by the former slave Frederick Douglass. He protects us from none of our history: the man-stealing, rape, brutalizing, and cowardice. I cannot imagine anyone reading this book and then attempting to defend the “institution” of slavery, and I long for the day when a similar book will reveal the perversion of modern arguments in defense of abortion.

But Douglass did more than expose the sin of slavery—he also shows clearly what courage looks like in the face of injustice. At a time when people were seriously arguing that Africans were sub-human, Douglass’s humanity towers over the “humanity” of the slave-owners. He is angry (as he should be), but he is also unselfish, tireless, and undaunted. His story forever ends the possibility that behaviorism is true. Is man a product of his environment? Ridiculous. Douglass towers over his environment; he will see the world change before he changes.

And he did.

by Jeff Baldwin

Thegreatbooks.com