In light of your journal’s recent debates on which works should be considered classics of American literature, I am writing to you concerning one of the most profound narratives of American history. It does not offer epic tales of a great whale, nor does it have an abundance of symbolism embedded within the context of 1920s life in New York. But what it is does have is the riveting true story of a man who sought but one thing – to be free. This is the story of a man who has overcome hardships that we cannot possibly imagine. A story written with such eloquence, passion, and imagery, that the reader feels every pang of anger, every jolt of pain, and every surge of joy. This story is titled Narrative of Life of Frederick Douglass.
Classics of American literature should not be bound by constraints of being fictional pieces written by men who were authors and nothing more. These pieces of literature should also open a window into American history, to give readers a sense of life once known. One of the biggest
tarnishes in American history is the practice of slavery, but how can we appreciate how far we have come without having knowledge of where we began? How can we learn from past mistakes without being aware of their existence? Frederick Douglass’s narrative opens the readers’ eyes to
a firsthand account of the unforgivable acts of slavery. He speaks of growing up without a sense of family, not to mention a sense of self. He describes horrendously brutal acts of whippings, beatings, and even murders. But he also describes freedom – an entitlement of the Declaration of Independence that this nation was built on, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Douglass speaks of the joy of working to earn wages that go to no one other than himself. He breaks free of the chains of slavery and joins the abolitionist movement as an eloquent speaker and writer.
He closes his narrative stating, “I have been engaged in pleading the case of my brethren – with what...