Frederick Douglass's "Narrative" is one of the most lucid, absorbing slave autobiographies written; that it has much to say about American history, specifically the institution of slavery, only adds to its luster. It is remarkable that someone born into slavery could learn to write as well as virtually any "man of letters" in his era. Despite Douglass' unhappy lot (or maybe because of it), he managed to acquire a great deal of insight into the people, white and black, around him. Douglass convincingly depicts how the institution of slavery damages both oppressed and oppressor--it dehumanizes the former and brings out the cruelest qualities of the latter. (A hundred years later, Martin Luther King would say much the same about the practice of segregration.) There is much anger in the Narrative--but also a wise and noble spirit. Compulsively readable, this book is still very much "relevant" today: it is hard to imagine a time in which people will no longer wish to read it.