Following the Life of a Slave with Humanities 7

Kamryn Chan, Columnist

The seventh grade Humanities classes are reading the book Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, which follows the life of Frederick Douglass, a man who was born as a slave in the 19th century. The students follow along in the book while listening to an audio book recording. Normally, the Humanities classes would read their literature books by themselves, however this reading is different. Each class, students discuss the reading and talk about “signposts” the students found. Signposts are something you notice in a book and wonder “why?” Students note these phrases or passages in a log.

Though many students report feeling upset or uncomfortable with the subject matter of the book, they almost unanimously agree that the narrative is a great book. Seventh grader Alexis Scott thinks the book is very good because it describes the bitterness inherent to slavery; seventh grader Kate Wilson appreciates the book’s insight into Douglass’ feelings. Both Scott and Wilson feel sad while reading this book because of what the author, Frederick Douglass, suffered during his time as a slave. Wilson is left with a feeling of hope, though, and thankfulness that our society no longer endorses slavery.

As for listening to the audio, students have had all sorts of responses. Seventh grader Coral Milliard does not like to listen to the audio, because she feels she can read faster on her own, while Wilson enjoys listening to the audio because it makes it seem like the author is actually reading, and it brings more life to the story. Scott likes to listen to the audio because it helps her understand things that she might have not comprehended before.

Jessica Davis and Jennifer Wood, the two Humanities teachers, chose this book because it encourages students to think about the social issues that persisted throughout the United States’ history. Students are often ignorant about the complete social history of slavery in the United States, and this book provides a very strong, compelling description of the life of a slave. Additionally, the narrative provides Davis and Wood with opportunities to connect the reading with students’ previous education about the slave trade and America’s heavy economic dependence on slavery. The teachers hope that with The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, the students will better understand America’s past, and that the book will help the students make connections between social attitudes during the time of the narrative and present day, and their effect on the world. Davis says,” I always learn more after reading a book.” She hasn’t read the book in a few years, but says that it will always be a good source to learn about the nature of society.