It was the blood stained gate, the entrance to the hell of slavery, through which I was about to pass.
– Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave
The incident that inspired this passage comes from a time early in Douglass’ life, about the time when he would be expected to begin working in the fields on his master’s plantation, when he witnessed a fellow slave getting beaten by their master. It was a severe beating too, as horrifying to Douglass as it was painful to his fellow slave.
The poignancy of this passage has always stuck with me. Douglass knew: what was happening to his fellow slave would eventually happen to him! There were no two ways about it: Douglass was entering the hell of slavery.
Douglass was born about 1818, though he was never entirely sure of birth date. He was about 20 when he escaped, an escape that was a simple as it was brilliant and Douglass would become a noted orator and author and, of course, an abolitionist.
If Frederick Douglass can construct a worthwhile life for himself after being born into slavery, what’s our excuse for frittering away our time on this planet?
We have every reason for success in this country. It’s not perfect, of course. I am not running for the United States Senate because everything is hunky-dory in our country, but we still wake up every morning with 24 hours to put to our use. We can squander those hours doing things that do not produce a dividend, or we can make our time serve us. It’s our call.
Douglass was not content with his life as a slave and he did something about it.
So can we. Those of us who are not content with our lot are free to and get the lives we want. We cannot expect the government, or anyone or anything else, to do it for us. We must do it ourselves. What we get out of our lives is dependent on the work we are willing to put into it.
Quotes are from Gaylon’s private stock, stolen from original source materials.