Aidan’s Summer Reading, Frederick Douglass’ first autobiography

Frederick Douglass' autobiography is highly worthwhile reading.

Frederick Douglass' autobiography is highly worthwhile reading.

We are spending time today with Mom at her apartment in the Brook House.

We had a wonderful time last night hanging with Kelly Matthews and Ronnie Millar, who just returned to the U.S. from Northern Ireland a week ago. 

Ronnie just completed a four-year stint as director of Corrymeela, a marvelous center right on the northern coast of Northern Ireland-on a clear day, you can see Scotland-that is dedicated to peace and reconciliation.

Kelly completed her doctoral work while in Northern Ireland, so will be assuming a tenure track position in the English Department at Framingham State.

Aidan stayed in, much to the disappointment of Kelly and Ronnie’s two boys, Rory and Andrew.

In addition to happily watching the first television he had seen in a week-Dad and Diane don’t have one at Rockport-he also moved closer to complete his summer reading for his upcoming A.P. English class: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass an American Slave.

This slight volume is the first of Douglass’ three memoirs. 

The very fact that any exist is testament to his triumph over slavery’s oppressive rules which forbade him to read and which he defied.

The first installation of Douglass’ autobiography covers his early life, his gradually dawning awareness of being a slave, and his growing determination to be free.

Learning to read with the assistance of a white woman is a pivotal moment in the book, and one that Aidan duly annotated.

His fight with the cruel overseer Covey is another.

Tired of being repeatedly beaten, Douglass fought back.   The two men battled to a draw, which in essence represented a victory for Douglass on three accounts.

First, he had held his own and refused to be physically abused.  Second, Covey no longer attempted to whip him.

Third, and perhaps most important, the fight marked a dramatic change in how Douglass thought of himself.

He writes that although his body was still enslaved, his spirit was free.

It wasn’t too long before his corporeal freedom matched his spirit.

Douglass escapes and begins what turned out to be a half-century of activism against slavery and for human rights for all as a speaker, editor, ambassador to Haiti and general moral authority.

He is one of the most impressive Americans of all time, and his memoir is an excellent place to start to gain insight on the forces that shaped and his early actions.


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