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on 27 August 2010
I wanted to read this book, it had been recommended by an American friend who said that it was prescribed reading in US schools. I am writing a book about a mixed race person and wanted to gain some insight into what it was actually like for real people living as slaves on the plantations.
The narrative is extremely well written, had Frederick Douglass had a modern education he may have had an academic career; however Black people would not have had him to speak up for the unbelievable cruelty which slaves had to endure. I knew that slaves were whipped but not to the extent and certainly not in the ways described by him.
The book was excellent in regard to value and I will read it again in the future.
His narrative is such an influence that many Academics have studied it and at the start of the book there are many comments which should be read again after completing the reading of it.
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VINE VOICEon 30 January 2011
A wonderfully evocative account by this former slave of his sufferings, his self-education and growing sense of self-worth and dignity prior to his successful bid for freedom in 1838 (he withholds details of his escape in this first version of his autogiography, so as not to make it harder for other slaves to escape by the same route from Maryland to New York). The author is a very good writer, with a straightforward, yet powerful and moving prose style The white man's view that the black slave is less than human and a mere chattel comes across very clearly in numerous incidents, as does the hypocrisy of much of 19th century American Christianity in upholding the slave regime. A great read.
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on 30 August 1999
This is a great book, and I feel everyone should read it. Iwasn't forced to read, but I chose to read it on my own in order to better understand the nation's injustices. Douglass' first hand account of slavery is one of the best sources. His writing isn't wordy or difficult to understand, either.
Great man, great book.
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This is a brief life story, written in 1845, by an ex-slave. At the time of writing he was technically an escaped slave. He later had his freedom bought for him by some English people.

Douglass is a very intelligent, brave and resourceful man and he describes slavery in Maryland, a state supposedly kinder to slaves than the deep South.

Apart from the horror of the living conditions and treatment, what stands out for me is his denunciation of the Christian society which the slaveowners subscribed to. This is in the Appendix, which I think some editions don't have. (The Penguin does). According to Douglass the more pious they were, the more likely to be cruel. I hasten to add Douglass himself was a Christian too. Towards the end of the book is a long quotation from the New Testament about Philistines and hypocrites.

It's powerful stuff.
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on 8 June 1999
I Read Douglass for an assignment in my college U.S. History class, and was almost dreading opening this book afraid that Douglass would blame every white person for his torment. Instead I found that Douglass knew the difference between the slave owners and the people who were trying to stop the practice. I finished this book in a matter of days, and respect Douglass as the extreamly brave man that he was. The paper I wrote reflected my outrage that such an occurance could have happened in this beautiful country.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 April 2013
If you want to try and understand the background and aftermath to the American civil war then this is one of those books you simply have to read. Douglass's biography is a compelling and articulate account of a man's journey to freedom and his life as a slave and after. Douglass was an eloquent and tireless campaigner for abolitionist policies and was an active and vocal opponent of those in the North who baulked when Lincoln ennacted the Emancipation Proclamation, particularly as it only emancipated slaves in the secessionist states - it was still legal to own slaves in the North. An authentic history written by a truely brave and inspirational individual, one who lived his life so people could be free.
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on 1 February 2014
This turned out to be a fascinating, if painful journey of Frederick Douglass, born into American slavery during the 1800's.
Frederick shows immense courage, enduring the harsh reality of every day life on his Master's farm. His fortitude of character and sharp perception give him the edge when it comes to dealing with unjust owners, and the desire for a better life keeps him striving towards an almost impossible dream - freedom.

Written with a surprising eloquence and gentle honesty, Frederick reveals the shocking truth of the poor slave workers conditions, and just how far their 'respectable', often Christian white owners are prepared to go to keep it that way.
I was left with a warmth and respect for this intelligent, inspiring man, who seemed to harbour no bitterness towards his fellow man, despite the barbarity he had both witnessed and endured. Frederick also helped fight the injustices of others, including the vote for women.
A concise book of ninety nine pages, but well worth reading, and difficult to put down.
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on 24 December 2014
The most enlightening book I have ever read about the horrific plight of slaves before the American Civil War. This autobiography is to the point, honestly written and very interesting, without being sensationalising. It's a pity this book is not made compulsory reading in schools.
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on 28 August 2013
How can you not read this book if you want to know about the struggle against slavery in the USA? Frederick Douglass was a remarkable man, clear sighted and determined, and the only reservation I had was that he seemed to tone down his comments about the complicity of organized religion and most of its adherents in the maintenance of slavery. Perhaps he did that to try and build the anti-slavery movement but I cannot see that such backtracking can ever work. The Church of England owned slave plantations in the West Indies and the failure to confront such an abomination at the time just helped the C of E to continue to this day investing in the perpetuation of misery and the toleration of racism and other nasty attitudes amongst its congregations. Douglass was one step from castigating all religion as a sponsor of slavery, and he should have taken that step. Racism continues to this day in the USA as in Britain and, despite the role of non-conformist ministers in the Civil Rights movement, I'm sure most of the racist bigots today continue to go to church, and that their church happily accepts their presence. However, this tale of Frederick Douglass' long road to freedom is utterly moving and magnificent.
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This is an absolutely amazing narrative, of the growth of an individual from the most brutish of slave lives to a free man who took pride in his work and his mind, which he then bent to political action. While told as a story, this book is actually an essay on personal struggle and development: to respect himself, to change his circumstances, to be re-born. At that, it is extremely powerful and moving. The reader empathizes completely with his rage, his awakening, and his striving to grow. He came to the point where he would rather fight back than die slowly, never to be dominated in his spirit.

But it also points to the effect of slavery on their owners. While there are the standard cruel and selfish ones, who are attempting to "break" his spirit in order to domesticate him, the story of how it twists the souls of essentially good people that is the most interesting and shocking. It is like a sickness, their total and unresponsible power, that extingusihes their empathy and replaces it with the most horrible selfishness, as they debase themselves with cruelty. You get the whippings and routine humilations, but also what that does to the perpetrators. This means that the book never descends into stereotypes, but reads as an extremely fresh story by a thoughtful, indeed brilliant, man.

THere are also many interesting asides, which are often philosophical. He points out the hypocrisy of southern christians, who make the worst and most cruel and self-righteous slavers, all while justifying their behavior by the bible. He also recounts how he expected that the "refinement" of the southern gentleman and their leisure would be impsooble in the North, which he pictured as poor as the non-slave holding population in the South - but he discovers an entirely different kind of economic life, in which men worked and prospered and deveoped themselves even more than what he had observed on plantations. But the most important thing is his recounting of his inner journey, which was encouraged by his learning to read as a way to overcome the ignorence that made for "contented slaves."

There is so much food for thought on the human spirit as well as wonder at how the US has evolved. Highest recommendation. If you like this, you should also read Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, by Harriat A. Jacobs.
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