“Education and slavery are incompatible,” wrote abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass in his most famous book, “Autobiography of a Slave.” Launched some 20 years before the abolition of slavery in the United States, which took place in 1863, the work became a bestseller and influenced anti-slavery sentiments across the country.
Owner of a powerful oratory, Douglass will become a central figure of American abolitionism based on texts and mobilizing speeches, in which he will later include suffragist causes. His listeners, contaminated by the racist tale in vogue, could hardly believe that an ex-slave was capable of such eloquence.
Douglass created three abolitionist newspapers and mobilized battalions of black soldiers during the Civil War (1861-1865). He advocated for the rights of freed blacks, ushering in the civil rights movement in the United States. He has been a consultant to several US presidents and held diplomatic posts.
The dissertation, which now arrives in Brazil by publisher Vestígio, focuses on the first part of its fabulous trajectory. Douglass brings back the earliest memories of a boy born in slavery on his final escape to freedom, in 1838, when he feels as though he had escaped from a “den of hungry lions. “.
The raw narrative, though contained, is a singular first-person account of the physical and psychological hell of slavery – a type of record that does not exist in Brazil, for example.
Douglass recounts his trajectory as terrible as it is spectacular, punctuated by what he calls “providences”: facts which would have favored the critical emancipation necessary for his movements of freedom and equality.
Separated as a baby from his mother, Douglass grew up witnessing the mistreatment, torture and murder of “enslaved brothers” on large tobacco, corn and wheat farms. “It was a common saying, even among little boys, that it cost half a hundred to kill a ‘black’ and another half a hundred to bury one,” he describes, in what seems strangely common.
On loan to his lord’s parents who lived in Baltimore, Douglass would live with a newly enslaved family and, therefore, away from the violent practices common on farms.
His inexperienced lady taught him the alphabet, which was then prohibited by law. Discovered, she is scolded by her husband on the stage which would cause a crucial epiphany for the boy Douglass. “If you teach this black man (talking about me) to read, nothing else can stop him.” It would make him incapable of being a slave. He would become unmanageable and worthless for his master, ”he describes.
Under the impact of this assertion, Douglass stealthily pursues literacy and reading as a means to overthrow his condition of slavery. He strategically approaches the white boys in the neighborhood for lessons disguised as challenges and games.
Already literate, he began to study in secret. Among the books he read and re-read was “The Columbian Orator,” a compilation of political essays, poetry, and dialogue published in 1797 and used in early childhood education in the early 19th century. a enslaved man, recovered after an unsuccessful escape, convinces his master to have the right to freedom.
The power of these readings to raise questions and articulate projections of freedom has followed Douglass’ life since then. Freedom “has now appeared, never to disappear again”. She was heard in all sounds, and seen in everything. She was always there to torment me with the feeling of my despicable condition. I couldn’t see anything without seeing it, I couldn’t hear anything without hearing it, and I didn’t feel anything without feeling it. “
The reader follows how Douglass’ understanding of slavery becomes more and more elaborate, becoming both a source of conflict and anguish, of terror, but also of hope. “I discovered that to make a slave happy, you have to do it without thinking. You must darken your morals and your mentality and, as much as possible, destroy the force of reason.
The power of his reporting lies both in the objectivity with which he reveals the dynamic between masters and their slaves – in a relationship he describes as staggering on both sides – but also in the author’s subjectivity, which struggle internally against the negative. stigmas attributed to blacks to constitute themselves as a legitimate self-made man.
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