What enduring meanings or principles in this book make it relevant today?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that one of the most powerful elements of Douglass' work is not simply its expression of the inherent evil in slavery, but helps to open a dialogue about how individuals perceive the levels of difference that exist in a heterogeneous social order.  For example, Douglass' analysis of Christianity is radical.  His argument is that established religions can be used as a form of cover for some of the worst of crimes.  Douglass' narrative makes one question how those who perpetrated the most awful of crimes of human slavery could also believe in Christianity.  The result of this enquiry ends up becoming twofold.  On one hand, these individuals might not have fully believed or followed the tenets of the religion.  This is one aspect of the "false Christianity" that Douglass advocates.  No one who believed in the universal tenet of brotherhood of Christianity could have possibly embraced slavery.  On another side of the same coin, Douglass depicts individuals who were conscious of the religion, yet did not care.  They used the religion as a way to further abuse and control upon the slaves. One is reminded of Mr. Auld, who is whipping a slave while reading from the Bible.  In this setting, religion is used as part of the means of control, further reflecting "false Christianity."  One of the strongest meaning or principles of Douglass' work is one that forces individuals to strongly examine and consider the foundational values of one's life and attest to whether the embrace of these ideas are helping to enhance the sensibilities of a great democracy and of heterogeneous society.  Douglass' work begins this dialogue and self reflection.  In its analysis, one sees an instigation of some of the most powerful of elements of both individual and social change, making ths work highly relevant to today.

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