It was very interesting hearing about the life of a slave directly from the man himself without his word being filtered through someone else's perspective. I realize there is always the possibility of self-aggrandizement in an autobiography. I also realize in cases such as this where some great cause is involved there is also the possibility an author may change or enhance events in the book to support that cause, in this case to support the author's goal of opposing slavery. While those two things are possible, I don't believe Mr. Douglass committed either of those literary sins. What Frederick Douglass wrote seems to fall right in line with everything else I've read about the period and about the institution of slavery. It's gut wrenching to realize that slave owners could mistreat another human being so poorly, even to the extent of treating them worse than their animals. Unfortunately there are people in this World today who are no better and who, given the chance, would treat their fellow man equally heartlessly. Douglas described how living and working under several different masters was a roller-coaster ride of changing conditions that a slave had to adapt to or suffer the consequences. Hearing how slavery can changed people into a more cruel form of themselves was disheartening and spoke to how slavery hurt people on both sides of the institution.
It was sad but not unexpected to learn how religion was used as a curtain behind which slave owners could hide and as a justification for the abuses heaped on slaves. It's not unlike how extremists today use the same justifications for the despicable acts they commit in the name of religion. And while I certainly am not trying to equate aspects of our society today to the plight of slaves, it was interesting to read how some slave owners would allow slaves time to socialize, have athletic contests, visit relatives on nearby plantations and even drink whiskey if they could buy it in order to make the slaves believe their plight wasn't so bad and could in fact be worse. I can see parallels in today's society where we are doing the same thing to ourselves through relentless pursuits of personal happiness, often without regard to other people. Maybe the more things change the more they really do stay the same.
I would have liked more detail, especially about Mr. Douglass' escape the the North, however I understand his desire to keep those details hidden given that he wrote this in 1845 when slavery was still in place and hiding those details might protect those who helped him and/or prevent slave owners from learning his methods in order to prevent future escaped slaves from using his methods. That said however, the book was definitely worth reading and I would recommend it to readers interested in learning more about the institution of slavery in the Southern United States and why it was so important that it be eliminated.