Reed Books: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass


Jess Reed, Staff Writer

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass is one of the most accurate and widely acclaimed slave narratives of all time. Douglass, born into slavery and spending his early life in Maryland, tells the story of his escape from slavery, and how learning to read and write helped him in his life as an orator, convincing people to become abolitionists in antebellum America.

One of the clearest threads in the book Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass is the many allusions he makes to the Christian faith. The reason for this may be that doing this was a way to connect with white readers; since Douglass cannot relate to them on a racial level or societal level, he uses religion to help his white audience understand his ideas. For example, when talking about the riches of Colonel Lloyd, Douglass compares him to a biblical figure. “To describe the wealth of Colonel Lloyd would be almost equal to describing the riches of Job” (Douglass 15). In the Bible, Job is a man who has everything he wants in life, until God takes it away to test his faith. With this allusion, Douglass makes sure his audience understands the sheer magnitude of difference between Lloyd’s life and the slaves’ lives. Earlier in the book, when Douglass is talking about the morals of slavery, he defeats a pro-slavery argument with religion. The religious argument for American slavery is that God cursed Ham, the son of Noah, and all of his descendants who populate Africa; therefore, it is God’s will that Africans be enslaved. However, Douglass brings up the point that with racial mixing and the increase of biracial people in the South, American slavery would no longer be religiously justifiable. “If the lineal descendants of Ham are alone to be scripturally enslaved,

it is certain that slavery at the south must soon become unscriptural…” (Douglass 4). Overall, Frederick Douglass uses allusions to the Christian faith to better connect to his white readers, and help them understand the concepts and themes he carries throughout the book.

This book is not only an interesting example of the religious context of the time, but generally a fascinating glance into the life of one of the most inspirational American heroes.