Frederick Douglass: Autobiographies (Library of America College Editions Series)

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Born a slave, Frederick Douglass educated himself, escaped, and made himself one of the greatest leaders in American history. His three autobiographical narratives, collected here in one volume, are now recognized as classics of both American history and American literature. Writing with the eloquence and fierce intelligence that made him a brilliantly effective spokesman for abolition and equal rights, Douglass shapes an inspiring vision of self-realization in the face of monumental odds. Narrative of the Life ...
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Overview

Born a slave, Frederick Douglass educated himself, escaped, and made himself one of the greatest leaders in American history. His three autobiographical narratives, collected here in one volume, are now recognized as classics of both American history and American literature. Writing with the eloquence and fierce intelligence that made him a brilliantly effective spokesman for abolition and equal rights, Douglass shapes an inspiring vision of self-realization in the face of monumental odds. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, an American Slave (1845), published seven years after his escape, was written in part as a response to skeptics who refused to believe that so articulate an orator could ever have been a slave. A powerfully compressed account of the cruelty and oppression of the Maryland plantation culture into which Douglass was born, it brought him to the forefront of the anti-slavery movement and drew thousands, black and white, to the cause. In My Bondage and My Freedom (1855), written after he had established himself as a newspaper editor, Douglass expands the account of his slavery years. With astonishing psychological penetration, he probes the painful ambiguities and subtly corrosive effects of black-white relations under slavery; and goes on to account his determined resistance to segregation in the North. The book also incorporates extracts from Douglass' renowned speeches, including the searing "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, first published in 1881, records Douglass' efforts to keep alive the struggle for racial equality in the years following the Civil War. Now a socially and politically prominent figure, he looks back, with a mixture of pride and bitterness; on the triumphs and humiliations of a unique public career. John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, William Lloyd Garrison, and Harriet Beecher Stowe are all featured prominently in this chronicle of a crucial epoch in American history. The rev

Born in slavery, Douglass, educated himself, escaped, and became one of the greatest leaders in American history. Here in one volume are his three autobiographical narratives: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself (1845); My Bondage and My Freedom (1855); and Life and Times (1881).

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This omnibus volume collects three noted autobiographical works by Douglass (1818-1895), the ex-slave who became one of the nation's most powerful advocates, on the stump and in print, for abolition and racial justice. His first work, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself , published in 1845, seven years after his escape, set out the cruelties and hypocrisies of slavery, ``thus putting it in the power of any who doubted, to ascertain the truth or falsehood of my story of being a fugitive slave.'' Ten years later, he increased the heat with My Bondage and My Freedom which, though it relies heavily on the earlier edition, also included samples of his speeches. ``Not only is slavery on trial, but unfortunately, the enslaved people are also on trial,'' wrote Douglass regarding this book. After the Civil War, he continued to fight racial injustice through writings about slavery and his struggles during Reconstruction in Life and Times , which, though first published in 1881, is presented here in the updated 1893 edition. The volume includes a detailed and lengthy chronology of Douglass's life and work, as well as notes and an essay on the varieties of past Douglass texts contributed by Gates, who chairs the Afro-American studies department at Harvard. However, the book would have been more valuable with an introductory essay and a more extensive comparison of the three autobiographies. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Douglass (1818-95), a former slave, rose to become an abolitionist, writer, and orator. In this collection of his autobiographical writings, edited by Gates (humanities, Harvard Univ.), he gives an extensive overview of his life. The work includes Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845); My Bondage and My Freedom (1855); and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881). In Narrative , Douglass comments on his birth, his parentage, his two masters, and the brutality of slavery he witnessed. In Bondage , he reflects on his childhood, life on the plantation, and his runaway plot. Life and Times concludes the trilogy: it covers his early life as a slave, his escape from bondage, and his connection with the antislavery movement. This one volume containing Douglass's seminal works is highly recommended for black history collections.-- Ann Burns, ``Library Journal''
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781883011307
  • Publisher: Library of America, The
  • Publication date: 5/28/1996
  • Series: Library of America College Editions
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 1152
  • Product dimensions: 7.78 (w) x 5.04 (h) x 1.66 (d)

Meet the Author

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass, an outspoken abolitionist, was born into slavery in 1818 and, after his escape in 1838, repeatedly risked his own freedom as an antislavery lecturer, writer, and publisher.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was Professor of English, Comparative Literature, and Africana Studies at Cornell University, and also tenured at Yale, Duke, and Harvard, where he was appointed W.E.B. DuBois professor of humanities in 1991. Professor Gates is the author of Figures in Black: Words, Signs, and the Racial Self, Wonders of the African World, The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man, Loose Cannons: Notes on the Culture Wars, and Colored People: A Memoir. With Cornel West, he co-wrote The African American Century: How Black Americans Have Shaped Our Country and The Future of the Race. He is also the editor of the critically-acclaimed edition of Our Nig, an annotated reprint of Harriet E. Wilson’s 1859 novel, The Slave’s Narrative (with the late Charles T. Davis), Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African-American Experience, Six Women’s Slave Narratives, and In the House of Oshugbo: Critical Essays on Wole Soyinka. He is a recipient of the MacArthur Prize.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey (birth name)
    2. Hometown:
      Tuckahoe, Maryland
    1. Date of Birth:
      1818
    1. Date of Death:
      February 20, 1895
    2. Place of Death:
      Washington, D.C.

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