Dec 13, 2017 in Literature


Executive Summary

The autobiography captures the life of Frederick Douglas as a slave in the south. It also brings out how the slaves related with their masters. He describes how masters viewed their slaves and their subsequent treatment. In order to bring out the suffering he talks about his own treatment by his various masters and the Turning point of his life. He acknowledges various important stages including writing in his long struggle for freedom. He therefore concludes by highlighting importance of the slaves to struggle for their rights. According to him, one of the most significant step is to master some skills like in his case writing which gave him a certain edge.


Frederick Douglas like many other slaves lived in deplorable conditions with constant brutality from their masters. In the same period he was alienated from his mother at an early age before her eventful death when Douglas was still a kid. He first experiences the horrors of slavery when he sees his aunt being whipped by her master. This incidence changed his perspective and he believed only by fighting for freedom will eventually deal with the suffering of enslaved people. However, his life changes when he is taken to a master who was relatively kind at the time who tried to teach him to write although her husband objected it on the grounds that if slaves could write they could not be controlled easily. He took his masters statement seriously and understood the importance of education in terms of fighting for freedom. Douglas pursued his dream of learning to write on his own and sometimes through the help of other slaves who had the knowledge. His rise from a slave to a prominent figure in the country was a milestone in terms of advocacy against slave trade.

Frederick Reaction to Enslavement

Although Frederick was astonished by the oppression of slaves by their masters he took the challenge positively. In fact, in the whole book he has depicted himself as someone who was able t interact with his masters to some extent. This is manifested in the instances where he has talked positively about his masters in various plantations he was working. This really helped him to advance his cause of fighting for equality in the society. His attitude helped him to learn how to write and he even had masters who were friendly enough to help him. This good rapport even with the whites helped him to know how to read and write. He is also connected to some form of job at least even though he did not earn much. However, this helped him to maneuver in a very delicate world for a slave at the time.

Significance of his Rebellion

Although he was entrenched to slavery for several years, Douglas always contemplated escaping. He was planning to escape to the North where slavery was not deep rooted like in the South where he lived. His eventful escape made him a free man which gave him a chance to fight for the cause of the slaves. His also courage t fight a white man who was mistreating him was a turning point in his life. He was able to successfully stand up for his rights which were something rare at the time. This made him gain self confidence which was necessarily in his campaigns of anti-slavery. This eventually led him to a writing career a significant step because he practically demonstrated to other slaves their capabilities.

His participation as a slave and experiencing the pains of being enslaved give him an insight of the whole process. He was therefore able to capture enslavement from experience rather than observation. This can be attributed to the fact that he was a slave who was brutalized by his masters in various occasions. He was also the pioneer of writing about enslavement and how it affects the people lives. This was unique in the sense that the previous works were only written by those anti-slavery activities that were mainly white people advocating for the rights of the blacks. His ability to speak eloquently in English propelled to the national stage in terms of popularity. However, initially the organizers did not give him freedom to speak out his mind but rather dictate to him what he should say. Nevertheless, with publication of his works he gained more freedom even in terms of speaking. This eventually unties him in his advocacy for abolishment of slave trade across the globe. He travelled widely even across the Atlantic ocean to various city to give lectures or attend seminars connected with enslavement. His works were also published in various places including Europe with greater effects in terms of fighting enslavements.

His works also covers the story from slave’s perspective which is important in terms of eliciting people’s emotions. This is demonstrated when he captures was transpire when his master dies and the inheritance was categorized in away slaves were classified in the same category as goats, cattle and sheep. This means that their masters did not perceive them as human beings with their independent mind but rather as mere animals of production in terms of labor. His ability to depict what slaves were going through helped to capture the attention of the world about he plight of the slaves. On other occasions he was able to easily explain the pains of the actions the slaves owners inflicted on the slaves like separating them from their family. Although some people were skeptical about his story due to their inner beliefs that slaves could not write or read his use of actual dates and real names could not be ignored. His works also gained credibility due to the fact that he was not biased in his description of various masters he encountered. He was able to easily point out the positives and the negatives in the same measure.

His personal life ends up on the positive note which in itself is a manifestation of a won battle. He was there a slave like anybody else and attempted to escape which was a common occurrence at the time. From slavery, he was able to move to employment at one point and his eventful career of a successful writer and diplomat. His pursuit for education at least gave slave some hope in terms of finding their self worth which has been wiped out by their colonial masters.  He therefore recognizes his fellow slaves and what they were going n when he states he is talking from experience in terms f being whipped or denied basic freedoms. This acts as a positive story in terms of fight against slavery.


In conclusion, we can note that the writer journey depicts a personal struggle of a man to free from the chains of oppression. At one point he was being divided by the siblings of his masters in the same way as the livestock.  In normal circumstances this could have broken his spirits but rather it acted to lift him up in pursuit of freedom. His compassionate from his fellow men is demonstrated throughout the book when he remembers those who were still enslaved especially in the South. This finally set the stage for a long journey that eventually ended slave trade across the country.

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