Frederick Douglass was considered by many to be American history’s most effective advocate for the abolition of slavery. Having been raised a slave and having discovered for himself as a child and young adult the very mechanics by which slave-holders were able to hold others in bondage, Douglass imparts an important message. For those who have worked under Miscavige the relevance is quite obvious.
“It would astonish one, unaccustomed to a slaveholding life, to see with what wonderful ease a slaveholder can find things of which to make occasion to whip a slave. A mere look, word, or motion, — a mistake, accident, or want of power, — are all matters for which a slave may be whipped at any time. Does a slave look dissatisfied? It is said, he has the devil in him, and it must be whipped out. Does he speak loudly when spoken to by his master? Then he is getting high-minded, and should be taken down a button-hole lower. Does he forget to pull off his hat at the approach of a white person? Then he is wanting in reverence, and should be whipped for it. Does he ever venture to suggest a different mode of doing things from that pointed out by his master? He is indeed presumptuous, and getting above himself; and nothing less than a flogging will do for him.”
Those who have received or witnessed Miscavige’s serial beatings and physical and mental hazings will recognize that his tortures are prompted by precisely the same uppity types of conduct Douglass witnessed the slaveholders similarly reacting to.
But Douglass goes further. He figured out why slaveholders must treat their slaves in such fashion. And why, like Miscavige, slaveholders must also commit such atrocities in the presence of the friends and co-workers of slaves, why slaveholders must continually threaten and execute the dividing of families of slaves, and finally, why slaveholders must severely limit the slaves’ access to information, particularly information that might empower one to think and act for his or her self.
The complete mechanics of how slavery is accomplished and perpetuated can have a remarkably powerful and liberating effect on those once subjected to slavery.
— Marty Rathbun
Amazon Review: No book except perhaps Uncle Tom’s Cabin had as powerful an impact on the abolitionist movement as Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. But while Stowe wrote about imaginary characters, Douglass’s book is a record of his own remarkable life.
Born a slave in 1818 on a plantation in Maryland, Douglass taught himself to read and write. In 1845, seven years after escaping to the North, he published Narrative, the first of three autobiographies. This book calmly but dramatically recounts the horrors and the accomplishments of his early years—the daily, casual brutality of the slave masters; his painful efforts to educate himself; his decision to find freedom or die; and his harrowing but successful escape.
An astonishing orator and a skillful writer, Douglass became a newspaper editor, a political activist, and an eloquent spokesperson for the civil rights of African Americans. He lived through the Civil War, the end of slavery, and the beginning of segregation. He was celebrated internationally as the leading black intellectual of his day, and his story still resonates in ours.
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