My Bondage and My Freedom (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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My Bondage and My Freedom, by Frederick Douglass, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble ...
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Overview

My Bondage and My Freedom, by Frederick Douglass, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:
  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
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  • Comments by other famous authors
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  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

Born a slave, Frederick Douglas educated himself, escaped, and became one of the greatest social leaders in American history. Although usually identified with the monumental Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Douglass produced two additional autobiographies, the second of which he called My Bondage and My Freedom.

A richer, deeper, and far more ambiguous work than the earlier Narrative, My Bondage and My Freedom reveals Douglass’s increased intellectual sophistication and maturity. In the decade that had elapsed since Douglass wrote Narrative, he had broken away from his antislavery mentors, successfully toured England, and established himself as an inspired speaker and writer. With the publication of My Bondage and My Freedom in 1855, Douglass became the country’s foremost spokesman for American blacks—free and enslaved—during the tense and politically charged years preceding the Civil War.

One of the highlights of My Bondage and My Freedom is the appendix, which contains excerpts from several of Douglass’s speeches, including perhaps his most famous, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”

Brent Hayes Edwards is Associate Professor in the Department of English at Rutgers University. He is the author of The Practice of Diaspora: Literature, Translation, and the Rise of Black Internationalism (Harvard University Press, 2003) and of numerous articles on twentieth-century African-American literature, contemporary poetry, Francophone Caribbean literature, surrealism, and jazz.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781593083014
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble
  • Publication date: 2/1/2005
  • Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 287,065
  • Product dimensions: 7.88 (w) x 5.30 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Meet the Author

Brent Hayes Edwards is Associate Professor in the Department of English at Rutgers University. He is the author of The Practice of Diaspora: Literature, Translation, and the Rise of Black Internationalism (Harvard University Press, 2003) and of numerous articles on twentieth-century African-American literature, contemporary poetry, Francophone Caribbean literature, surrealism, and jazz.

Biography

Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey was born a slave in Tuckahoe, Maryland, in February 1818. He became a leading abolitionist and women's rights advocate and one of the most influential public speakers and writers of the nineteenth century.

Frederick's mother, Harriet Bailey, was a slave; his father was rumored to be Aaron Anthony, manager for the large Lloyd plantation in St. Michaels, Maryland, and his mother's master. Frederick lived away from the plantation with his grandparents, Isaac and Betsey Bailey, until he was six years old, when he was sent to work for Anthony.

When Frederick was eight, he was sent to Baltimore as a houseboy for Hugh Auld, a shipbuilder related to the Anthony family through marriage. Auld's wife, Sophia, began teaching Frederick to read, but Auld, who believed that a literate slave was a dangerous slave, stopped the lessons. From that point on, Frederick viewed education and knowledge as a path to freedom. He continued teaching himself to read; in 1831 he bought a copy of The Columbian Orator, an anthology of great speeches, which he studied closely.

In 1833 Frederick was sent from Auld's relatively peaceful home back to St. Michaels to work in the fields. He was soon hired out to Edward Covey, a notorious "slave-breaker" who beat him brutally in an effort to crush his will. However, on an August afternoon in 1934, Frederick stood up to Covey and beat him in a fight. This was a turning point, Douglass has said, in his life as a slave; the experience reawakened his desire and drive for liberty.

In 1838 Frederick Bailey escaped from slavery by using the papers of a free seaman. He traveled north to New York City, where Anna Murray soon joined him. Later that year, Frederick and Anna married and moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts. Though settled in the North, Frederick was a fugitive, technically still Auld's property. To protect himself, he became Frederick Douglass, a name inspired by a character in Sir Walter Scott's poem Lady of the Lake.

Douglass began speaking against slavery at abolitionist meetings and soon gained a reputation as a brilliant orator. In 1841 he began working full-time as an abolitionist lecturer, touring with one of the leading activists of the day, William Lloyd Garrison.

Douglass published his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, in 1845. The book became an immediate sensation and was widely read both in America and abroad. Its publication, however, jeopardized his freedom by exposing his true identity. To avoid capture as a fugitive slave, Douglass spent the next several years touring and speaking in England and Ireland. In 1846, two friends purchased his freedom. Douglass returned to America, an internationally renowned abolitionist and orator.

Douglass addressed the first Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. This began his long association with the women's rights movement, including friendships with such well-known suffragists as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

During the mid-1840s Douglass began to break ideologically from William Lloyd Garrison. Whereas Garrison's abolitionist sentiments were based in moral exhortation, Douglass was coming to believe that change would occur through political means. He became increasingly involved in antislavery politics with the Liberty and Free-Soil Parties. In 1847 Douglass established and edited the politically oriented, antislavery newspaper the North Star.

During the Civil War, President Lincoln called upon Douglass to advise him on emancipation issues. In addition, Douglass worked hard to secure the rights of blacks to enlist; when the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteers was established as the first black regiment, he traveled throughout the North recruiting volunteers. Mo< Douglass's governmental involvement extended far beyond Lincoln's tenure. He was consulted by the next five presidents and served as secretary of the Santo Domingo Commission (1871), marshal of the District of Columbia (1877-1881), recorder of deeds for the District of Columbia (1881-1886), and minister to Haiti (1889-1891). A year before his death Douglass delivered an important speech, "The Lessons of the Hour," a denunciation of lynchings in the United States.

On February 20, 1896, Frederick Douglass died of a heart attack. His death triggered an outpouring of grief and mourning; black schools in Washington, D.C. closed for a day, and thousands of children were taken to the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church to view his open casket. In his third autobiography, Douglass succinctly and aptly summarized his life; writing that he had "lived several lives in one: first, the life of slavery; secondly, the life of a fugitive from slavery; thirdly, the life of comparative freedom; fourthly, the life of conflict and battle; and fifthly, the life of victory, if not complete, at least assured."

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.

Good To Know

Douglass's mother Harriet referred to Frederick as her "little Valentine," so he unofficially adopted February 14th as his birthday.

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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.

Read an Excerpt

From Brent Hayes Edwards’s Introduction to My Bondage and My Freedom

With the publication of My Bondage and My Freedom by the New York house of Miller, Orton, and Mulligan in August 1855, Frederick Douglass became the first African American to compose a second autobiography. His previous effort, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, had appeared only ten years earlier, and it had by no means faded from view. On the contrary, particularly given the celebrity Douglass had gained as an anti-slavery lecturer and newspaper editor during the intervening years, the Narrative had already taken its place as one of the best known of the few dozen narratives by former slaves printed in the decades leading up to the Civil War. With the “sheer poetry” of its taut style and the “unrelenting power of its narrative line,” Douglass’s 1845 book is often considered to have set the high water mark of literary composition for an entire generation of African American authors attempting to pen their life stories under the pressures of the abolitionist cause (Stepto, From Behind the Veil, p. 21; O’Meally, “Introduction” to Narrative, pp. xiv–xv; see “For Further Reading”). The appearance of My Bondage and My Freedom would seem to beg the question, then: Why would Douglass have been compelled to write the story of his life again?

Interestingly enough, contemporary reviewers in the 1850s appear to have been little troubled by this question; they took My Bondage and My Freedom as the kind of autobiographical effort befitting a public figure of Douglass’s achieved stature: The second book, more than three times longer than the first, was read “more as a conventional account of the life of an unusual man than as an antislavery document” in the model of the Narrative (Blassingame, “Introduction to Volume Two,” in The Frederick Douglass Papers. Series 2, vol. 2, p. xxxi). Sales were robust, as they had been with the Narrative: reportedly My Bondage and My Freedom sold 5,000 copies in the first two days it was available (with a thousand copies purchased in its first week in the city of Syracuse alone). A second edition appeared in 1856 and a third in 1857; more than 20,000 copies had been sold by 1860, when the German translation of the book appeared. One might not expect such a success if the book were only a half-hearted rehashing of the Narrative. Nevertheless, as John Blassingame and others have pointed out, twentieth-century readers have often had the tendency to consider My Bondage and My Freedom as no more than a “propagandistic and didactic gloss on Douglass’s ‘real’ self-portrait, the Narrative” (p. xlii). Until recently, the few literary critics who took the time to discuss the book tended to dismiss it as “diffuse and attenuated,” a “flabby” sequel to the pristine and “righteous” Narrative (quoted in Andrews, To Tell a Free Story, pp. 266–267). At best, they have characterized the second book as though it were simply a second edition of the Narrative, an update taking into account Douglass’s activities between 1845 and 1855, as when Stephen Butterfield in his 1974 Black Autobiography in America opined blandly that My Bondage and My Freedom “includes most of the material from the early Narrative, with some rewriting, plus the experiences and development that occurred after 1845” (quoted in John David Smith’s “Introduction,” p. xxi).

In the past decade and a half, a handful of scholars such as William Andrews, Eric Sundquist, John Blassingame, John David Smith, and C. Peter Ripley have begun to draw our attention to the importance and independent accomplishment of My Bondage and My Freedom. In the words of Ripley, it is crucial to recognize that Douglass’s three autobiographies—the last, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, was published in 1881 and revised and expanded in 1893—appeared “at distinct periods of Douglass’s life for different reasons” (p. 5). Andrews, whose work has made the most forceful and sustained case for the significance of Douglass’s second book, has wondered in pointed terms just why the Narrative is so habitually seen not just as prior but as privileged, even authoritative: “If the second autobiography can be seen as the successor of the first, why can’t the Narrative be examined as the precursor of My Bondage and My Freedom?” (To Tell a Free Story, p. 267).

It is necessary to read the two books carefully, side by side, to begin to get a sense of exactly how different they are. Clearly, with its expanded length and its twenty-five chapters in the place of the Narrative’s eleven, the 1855 autobiography is “bigger, roomier, more detailed, and more expository” than its predecessor (Andrews, “Introduction to the 1987 Edition,” p. xvii). But more significantly, even given the parallels in narrative, argument, and phrasing, My Bondage and My Freedom is written from an entirely different vantage point—one might almost say that it is composed by an entirely different writer. If the second book contains a more mature style, it is directly related to what Douglass had been doing over the past decade: not just speaking against slavery, traveling the country, and raising subscriptions for abolitionist periodicals such as the Liberator, but also reading and writing—that is, giving himself a thorough training in literature and journalism, in a way that (for obvious reasons) he had never had the chance to do before composing the Narrative.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 35 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 38 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 17, 2009

    Sad Yet Informal

    ladies and gentlemen frederick douglass has done it all! he was an advisor to lincoln, orator and runaway slave. this is a great resd for those who love historicsl nonfiction. He takes you through all of his ups and downs. he gives you an amazing view of what his life was like as a slave. chilling at some moments but this book shows how far anyone can go if they put their mind to it.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2008

    THE TRUTH

    Everyone should read this book if they what to know the truth about african-american history!!this is a candid picture of what went on in the 1800's .The book is also written by a slave.If you don't know your history it will repeat itself!!

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2012

    Scan issues.

    Scan issues.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 16, 2012

    Amazing - the injustice of slavery escapes to freedom.

    I loved this book. What I found most amazing was that this book was written by a man who was bred soley for the purpose of slavery. He was intentionally kept low, uneducated, spiritually weakened, yet he had the incredible mind to see through the lies. Though raised to be inferior, Douglass had the clarity of mind to see his life being worth far more than what his oppressors knowingly and intentionally perpetuated. This man was absolutely brilliant.

    The first three-quarters are very interesting, though, I felt that it sort of lost its fizzle toward the end.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2012

    Definitely would not recommend this book. Scan issues.

    Definitely would not recommend this book. Scan issues.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2012

    :(

    Too many errors. :(

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2011

    This is not a one

    Awesome this is a great book

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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