My Bondage My Freedom
Written By: Frederick Douglass
Published By: Public Domain (Amazon) Kindle Edition
My Bondage My Freedom
I have read in the past about Frederick Douglass the famed abolitionist, orator, statesman, and writer. However, until reading this autobiography I knew nothing about him before he became famous.
This autobiography was published in 1855 and thus covered approximately thirty-seven (37) of his early years. Being born a slave, Douglass could only approximate the year of his birth. He lived an additional forty (40) years, after 1855, which are not covered in this book.
The autobiography covered his childhood years on the eastern shore of Maryland, first with his grandmother, and then his transfer to a sort of holding area for young slaves until it was decided where they would end up. Douglass only remembered seeing his mother once before leaving his grandmother. He saw her later at the “big house” and heard that he was the product of his owner and his slave mother. He had a hard time understanding why he was a slave, and his place in the world.
Slaves had no choices in their lives and Douglass here was no different from other slaves. At first, he faired well, for a slave, being sent to be the companion to his owner’s nephew. There he learned to read from his mistress, who being from the north did not know this was forbidden. When telling her husband how well Douglass was learning she was told she should stop her lessons, at once. However, Douglass had learned enough to continue to study, on his own. The first book Douglass was able to purchase was “The Columbian Orator,” which contained over eighty (80) noteworthy speeches of prominent individuals. Most school-aged men studied this book and Douglass hid it and studied it whenever he had free time. Later, after a disagreement between his owner and current master he was sent back to work in Annapolis.
Douglass could not get along with his master and was sent to a farm to be “broken,” by a person who had a reputation for dealing with slaves who failed to do as they were told. He did not fair well and was beaten everyday for a while and ended up walking back to his owner, stating that he would do as he was told if he could come back. His owner refused and he had to go to the farmer.
Douglass could not deal with his bondage, and later escaped slavery. Being a fugitive slave had its problems, but, he felt free. He found it hard to make a living and through friends and acquaintances found that he had a gift of being a fine orator, and was often requested to tell his story. He wanted to do more than tell his story and ended up becoming an abolitionist who went around the northeast giving speeches. Later, he went to England and thereafter, friends collected enough money to purchase his freedom.
Seeing pictures of Frederick Douglass dressed in fine clothes, I never knew that under his shirt and coat was the scared back of a slave.
The end of the book contained many of his speeches, but the highlight of the book for me was his story of his life in bondage. This new knowledge has given me an even higher opinion of Frederick Douglass, slave, abolitionist, orator, statesman, and writer.