…so I read the whole book!
I own a used book store.
This has been a particularly hard winter with a LOT of snow! Consequently, foot traffic has been lighter than “normal.” Although business is down a bit, I have the luxury of of indulging my need to read, what with having 53K+ books to choose from.
This particular day, I picked up a little book by Frederick Douglass, “Written by Himself.” The following is a nutshell of what I learned.
1. “Written by Himself” was an important point for him to make, because blacks were not considered capable of intelligent thought, much less able to write a book. He made sure people KNEW the book was his own.
2. I was bothered by the fact that so many slaves were really rightful heirs of the Masters they served, because those masters had abused a slave woman. Frederick, himself, was a bi-racial result of such a master’s behavior. However, it was often the wife of the Master who insisted that the illegitimate children be treated as slaves. Often those children had an even harder life than the “regular” slaves as a result of their genes.
3. One of Frederick’s “Masters” was a lady who taught him how to read a little (when he was about seven) until her husband forced her to stop it. He continued to learn from the little white boys that were his friends in the city.
4. The argument that that husband gave to his wife for why she shouldn’t teach Frederick to read was that if all the slaves learned to read and write they would rise up against their masters. This became the motivation that drove Frederick to educate himself.
5. His little white friends also eventually taught him to write. Apparently he used trickery to get them to show him how it was done.
6. Later, when he had to go back to his original plantation, he spent his Sundays teaching other slaves to read and write. (It was still illegal.)
7. He apparently read the Bible at some point, because he understood that all men had been created in the image of God. He also knew the difference between the Christianity that the Bible presents, as opposed to the Christianity that the” Christian” white people inflicted on their slaves. These people, according to him, only used Scripture to support their heinous behaviors. He pointed out that so many of the “Masters” around him were pastors, deacons, evangelizers, and holders of high church offices, but around the slaves they were the most brutal, harsh, and offensive people around.
8. He eventually managed to escape, but refused to give specifics so that he wouldn’t hurt any of the people who helped, or any of the people who might need their future help.
9. He wrote and published his book at the suggestion of a friend. This took a lot of courage, in light of the fact that he was still a fugitive.
10. He apparently left the country and spent a couple of years in Britain after the publicatiion of his book. He came back richer, and bought his own freedom.
11. He was a Republican.
12. He was also a counselor to Abraham Lincoln.
13. He was one of the biggest recruiters of black soldiers that we had.
14. He was appointed to be the US Representative to Haiti.
I heartily recommend this book to any reader of any age. However, it can be an emotional thing to read when Mr. Douglass talks about some of the abuse he and others experienced. So keep that in mind for younger readers.
If we must have heroes, certainly Frederick Douglass should be one of them.