What does it mean to be a slave?
with references to
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass an American Slave by Frederick Douglass
PART 1 INTRO : Slave To
PART 2 : Slave To MAN
PART 3 : Slave To SCHOOL
PART 4 : Slave To DEATH
I like to read books my kids have been assigned in school. This opens up the door for great conversation, and it helps me connect with them on a whole new level. I also like to read books assigned by other school models, just out of curiosity and for comparison. This month I chose from the reading list of Trinity School at River Ridge Classical Academy. My kids do not attend Trinity, but I admire the breadth of the material so much. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is among their 9th grade Humane Letters material. You can view it at the All Schools BOOK LIST here or in the MENU bar above.
John Stauffer writes about Douglass’ Narrative, “Published seven years after his escape from slavery, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845) is a powerful account of the cruelty and oppression of the Maryland plantation culture into which Frederick Douglass was born. It brought him to the forefront of the antislavery movement and drew thousands, black and white, to the cause. Written in part as a response to skeptics who refused to believe that so articulate an orator could ever have been a slave, the Narrative reveals the eloquence and fierce intelligence that made Douglass a brilliantly effective spokesman for abolition and equal rights, as he shapes an inspiring vision of self-realization in the face of unimaginable odds.”
This is a powerful book written by Americas most influential abolitionist. His writing is so moving, his story so profound, and his character so respectable that he leaves the reader clinging to every word. I could not put it down, because to read about the trials Douglass endured and the tribulations he overcame is to witness hope through incredible odds. I wish I could meet this great man.
My article began as a simple book review to “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass”. It has however taken an unexpected turn, as most subjects do when I begin writing. The story has evolved, over the span of this week, and taken on a life of it’s own. As I reflect on Douglass’ Narrative, I think about the many things we are “Slave To”, not just in BODY but also in MIND and SPIRIT. “Slave to MAN” is about human bondage, captivity and servitude of the BODY. “Slave To SCHOOL” looks at the MIND and the suppression of knowledge. What, to a child, does it mean to be a slave? “Slave to DEATH” is a matter of our SPIRIT. Fear of death keeps us in chains, but Jesus defeated our slavery to death by his death and resurrection.
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In order to talk about what it means to be a slave, a good place to start is the dictionary, right? First you need to find the word.
The dictionary definition of “slave” has grown in meaning over the last 100 years. (By the way, I have to give my Grandma a plug here for the book shown in my feature photo and the detail clip shown here. This is a 1903 dictionary she gave me from her collection, which I cherish. Thank you Grandma!)
What will new editions look like in the future though? I was surprised to learn that, since the racial riots of 2020, some dictionary companies have declared they no longer will include “slave” in future editions. Thanks to cancel culture, I guess those who lived in the past are no longer allowed to be associated with a word that described their inhumane condition. This, from our culture that prioritizes FEELING over FACT. If this is actually what is coming, I’m disgusted. The removal of such a defining word throughout thousands and thousands of years demonstrates how elitist our culture has become. We are NOT more special than those who came before us. We are NOT more victimized and we are NOT more wise.
John Kelly, managing editor of Dictionary.com, says revisions have also been made to entries such as “mistress,” “master,” “Juneeteenth,” “plantation” and “Black Code”. He says it is out of respect and dignity to their humanity.
J.P.Morgan Chase and Twitter are also dropping the word slave as a commitment to using more “inclusive programing language”.
Slave holders use many terms to avoid the word slavery today. It is illegal, and it is hidden from sight, but it exists in the forms of bonded labor, child labor, human trafficking, child prostitution and forced marriage. According to World Atlas, there are 40.3 million slaves in the world today, and nearly a quarter of them are children (find link in references at end).
To remove the word is to remove the memory!
I want to be clear, I do not claim to be an expert on black history, human suffering, theology or slavery. I am not writing this article pretending to be any more knowledgeable about these facts than the next person. I am simply a learner thirsty to learn. The problem is modern culture does not serve “Honest” on a platter for the inquisitive mind to digest. No. The inquisitive mind has to dig, climb and crawl through “Dishonest” just to fill a small bowl to eat.
We might think our 21st century problems are uniquely new and unparalleled to the past, but similarities in human suffrage can be seen in perpetuity through time. Labels change, names change, even dictionary definitions change, but it’s still the same battle that exists upon earth among humankind. Money and Power and Prestige have always resulted in our downfall.
Ask if your school carries Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. If not, request they reconsider. You couldn’t find a a better person of integrity or historical reference to learn from!
by JAiME for SCHOOLS July 3rd, 2022
Book : Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass An American Slave by Frederick Douglass with an introduction by John Stauffer