Friday, April 17, 2009

Frederick Douglass' Autobiography

A long time ago I did a play version of Frederick Douglass' life. I played his wife, who was with him when he died. In the show he comes home from a suffragette's meeting on or around New Year's Eve and has a heart attack and dies in my arms. It was very sad but not nearly as sad as his autobiography, which is available online here: http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/Literature/Douglass/Autobiography/

We all know that slavery was horrible and that the life of a slave was wretched but reading the words of someone who lived through it is pretty different from just learning about it in school or wherever. I just finished the book a few days ago. It took me a long time to read because it's so sad. I could only read it in short bursts.

At the end when he talks about his escape he says he won't give any details because if he does then other slaves who try to escape will suffer as their escape routes will be cut off. That makes lots of sense but looking back at it from across an almost two hundred year divide I wish I could read how he did it. I wish I could know the names of the exact people who helped because they deserve so much for risking their lives and their families.

When we look back at these dark times they seem a little because there is always someone who steps up and does what needs to be done, no matter the cost.

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