While reading the first part of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, I found it both much easier to read as well as much more emotionally stimulating than any other novel that we have previously read. Slavery is a highly debated topic among historians and is regarded as a “touchy subject”. While I am highly interested in history, I have never really focused on learning about slavery. After reading even just a few pages of this book, I was emotionally moved. The fact that people had to endure the hardships of slavery is almost unbearable to hear. Obviously I am familiar with the slave trade and the fact that slaves were not treated with the utmost care, but reading first hand accounts of the absolute brutality that went on was very eye opening. Two questions were automatically raised in my mind: how were people okay with doing this and how did America come so far as to where we are today.
Because of the way that society is today very few, if any, people would ever comprehend treating another human in such a grotesque manner. It is such a foreign concept to me to know the so many men and women treated their slaves in such a way. Even further, the mental abuse that slaves had to endure was shocking. In the preface, Garrison makes a very valid and eye opening point. He uses the example of an American sailor, who was completely literate, that was sent away to slavery in Africa for three years. At the end of this period he was found so demoralized and brute-like that he even forgot his own native language. This points to the extremity of which slavery truly strips an individual of all identity no matter what race or gender.
Looking back in history to the slavery period is such a mind-boggling experience. Douglas does an excellent job of really captivating the readers interest and almost forcing them to understand the reality of slavery. To see America’s society the way it is today and to compare it to the way it was back then is very compelling. I feel that it is very important to read novels such as Douglas’s recollection of his life simply because of the fact that many people, like myself, are not aware of the details and horrors that accompany their past.