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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave: Written by Himself
     

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave: Written by Himself

4.6 124
by Frederick Douglass
 

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Douglass's graphic depictions of slavery, harrowing escape to freedom, and life as newspaper editor, eloquent orator, and impassioned abolitionist.

Overview

Douglass's graphic depictions of slavery, harrowing escape to freedom, and life as newspaper editor, eloquent orator, and impassioned abolitionist.

Editorial Reviews

bn.com
A century and a half after its first publication, Frederick Douglass's Narrative retains its hold on us, capturing us with its first-person story of the abolitionist's passage from bondage to freedom.
Sacred Life

When it was first published, many critics doubted that The Narrative of the Life and Times of Frederick Douglass had even been written by Frederick Douglass. As odd as it may seem now, that criticism was not completely unfounded: In the mid-nineteenth century, the antislavery movement produced hundreds of slave narratives, many of them ghostwritten by white abolitionists and tailored to create sympathy for their movement. But this book, by this remarkable man, was different. The tag line at the end of the book's subtitle—Written by Himself —was vitally important. Although clearly written with the abolitionist cause in mind, this book is not merely a political tract. True, its dispassionate prose brought to light the "injustice, exposure to outrage, and savage barbarity" of slavery as Douglass observed and experienced But also brought to life an uncommon man and the particular concerns seared into him during his experience of bondage. Douglass recounts that during slavery, he and his people were denied life's fundamentals: faith, family, education, the capacity for bold action, a sense of community, and personal identity. Douglass saw reclamation of these things as the key to his and his people's survival, redemption, and salvation.

The autobiography opens with a description of the aspects of his own life that Douglass was never allowed to know: the identity of his father, the warmth and care of his mother (who was a stranger to him), and even the fact of his own date of birth. As a child, he suffered from and observed savage beatings firsthand, including the fierce beating of his Aunt Hester at the hands of their master, Captain Aaron Anthony. As he grew older, Douglass liberated himself in stages: mentally, spiritually, and, eventually, physically. His mental freedom began when he was taught to read and write and realized the power of literacy; his spiritual freedom came when he discovered the grace of Christianity and the will to resist his beatings; his physical freedom arrived when he finally escaped to the North.

After escaping, Douglass was committed to telling the world about the condition of the brothers and sisters he left behind. Aside from telling Douglass's personal story, his autobiography takes us to the fields and the cabins and the lives of many slaves to reveal the real human cost of slavery. Douglass focused on the dehumanizing aspects of slavery: not just the beatings, but the parting of children from their mothers, the denial of education, and the sexual abuses of slave masters. He ends the book with this statement: "Sincerely and earnestly hoping that his little book may do something toward throwing light on the American slave system, and hastening the glad day of deliverance to the millions of my brethren in bonds—faithfully relying upon the power of truth, love, and justice, for success in my humble efforts—and solemnly pledging myself anew to the sacred cause, I subscribe myself, Frederick Douglass."

The book was an incredible success: It sold over thirty thousand copies and was an international bestseller. It was the first, and most successful, of three autobiographies that Douglass was to write. The other two, My Bondage and My Freedom (1855) and The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, update the story of his life and revise some of the facts of his earlier autobiography.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781508672128
Publisher:
CreateSpace Publishing
Publication date:
03/05/2015
Pages:
98
Sales rank:
997,973
Product dimensions:
6.69(w) x 9.61(h) x 0.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

I have often been utterly astonished, since I came north, to find persons who could speak of the singing, among slaves, as evidence of their contentment and happiness. It is impossible to conceive of a greater mistake. Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy….Crying for joy, and singing for joy, were alike uncommon to me while in the jaws of slavery. The singing of a man cast away upon a desolate island might be as appropriately considered as evidence of contentment and happiness, as the singing of a slave; the songs of the one and of the other are prompted by the same emotion. -- from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Meet the Author

David W. Blight is Professor of History at Yale University; he taught at Amherst College for thirteen years. His scholarly work is concentrated on nineteenth-century America, with a special interest in the Civil War and Reconstruction, African-American history, and American intellectual and cultural history. He has lectured widely on Frederick Douglass and served as a consultant to documentary films on African-American history, including the PBS television film Frederick Douglass: When the Lion Wrote History. His book, Frederick Douglass' Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee is an award-winning intellectual biography of Douglass and a study of the meaning of the Civil War. His work Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory was awarded the Bancroft Prize in American History, the Lincoln Prize, and the Frederick Douglass Prize, as well as four awards from the Organization of American Historians. He is the author of numerous essays on abolitionism and African American intellectual history, and his latest work is a colelction of essays entitled Beyond the Battlefield: Race, Memory, and the Civil War.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Tuckahoe, Maryland
Date of Birth:
1818
Date of Death:
February 20, 1895
Place of Death:
Washington, D.C.

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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass an American Slave 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 124 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Frederick Douglass was an amazing oralist and writer. In the 'Narrative Of The Life Of Frederick Douglass,' he brought this story to life. Every emotion that he felt, you feel. When slaves were killed by their overseers, his narration makes you feel as if you were right there with the same suspense and horror the other slaves felt. When he was a young boy and watched the barbaric beating of his aunt Hester, his details were so vivid. And, when he stated 'I was so terrified and horror-stricken at the sight, that I hid myself in a closet,' I wanted to be in that closet hiding with him. The articulation that he possesses is amazing. The fact that this story was written by a former slave, would allow you the impression that it would not be easy to decipher. This is not the case at all. His verbage was clear and easy to follow. This story was truly inspirational!
JoannaPA More than 1 year ago
Over the years many times I have heard reference to this book but had never read it. I picked it up out of curiosity and to be honest because it was on the bargain table, but this small book of the slave story and later writings, speeches and lectures of Mr. Frederick Douglass are a real treasure and a must read. His words and life cut to the heart as you hear him tell what he experienced as a man held in bondage. The terror, fear and brutal cruelty of the times and the daily suffering of slaves, men, women and children,is sad,unbelievable, but true. It also sheds a light on the attitudes and thinking of slave owners. Learning to read was the spark in young Frederick that set him on his long and hard path to freedom.I found it interesting to read about the different people and chance encounters that brought him to a free state and eventually to be able to speak so strongly and beautifully against slavery as an evil against God and against our fellow human beings. This narritive is a powerful and thought provoking read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book felt as cold water on my face. It made me aware of the profound impact of slavery in all the entities that were part of it. Slaves and masters became victims of the same pest. Through the chapters of this book we able to observe the mental deformation that slavery causes in slaveholders. Using very clear and full of emotions narrative, Frederick Douglas allow us to share, in some way, his journey towards freedom. Moreover, he also succeeds in communicating the greatness of his spirit, determination and faith. I truly recommend this book to everyone that wants to increase awareness in how we become blind to injustice and suffering.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When i was assigned to read this for history my first thought was: ughh this is gonna make me fall asleep like the other books i have been forced to read BUT this actually turned out to be a good book I was appalled by the abuse that Frederick Doughlass had to go through as a slave and it is very interesting how he vividly remembers his time in bondage If you ever have the urge to read a book about the harsh realities of slavery, definately read this book
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Well written, and informative--I give this book a thumbs up.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a jaw dropping stpry that displays a great picture in your head. I thought that Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass was a very informational book. It showed how rough it was in the 1800¿s. Frederick Douglass struggled through watching and receiving many beatings. His masters were treating him awful and he couldn¿t do much to anything about it. As the story goes on Frederick Douglass gets sent around to differnt farms to work. At all of the farms he encounters at least one enemy. Overall ths stroy is full of infomation and is very powerful
Guest More than 1 year ago
Reading sections of Douglass' narrative gave me chills and made me think about the way African Americans were treated by white masters. This book gave me ideas of the hardships the African Americans faced when shipped from town to town and master to master. The words in Douglass' speech at the anti-slavery convention show his intelligence and views of being an Abolitionist. I recommend this book to any person willing or wanting to learn about slavery of African Americans in the 19th century.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Part of my reading curriculum for my Oral Communications class, I loved it so much I had everyone in my family read it!!! Definitely recommend to those looking for a good book on slaves and slavery.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is such an inspirational story. It is well written and easy to read. You can feel the tension, dismay and sorrow as Mr. Douglas narrates the different things that he had to go through. His story show how faith, courage and determination made him a victor.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is definitely a must read book. I would recommend that every one, no matter what their race may be, should read this book. I found this book to be eye opening and heart wrenching. It really grabs your attention and make you want to read more. This book was written in such a way that I felt like I was being told the story personally instead of just reading it. I found myself rooting for Fredrick Douglass throughout the whole book. I think the part that touched me the most was the fact he never had to opportunity to know his mother. Me being a mother, I felt my my eyes water reading that. Frederick Douglass overcame so much in his life. He went from being a slave that did not know how to read or write to a free person that was (and still is) a much respected abolitionist. The story of his life is nothing short of amazing. I am really glad that I had to opportunity to read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This narrative delivers a recondite and clear perspective on the obstacles that surround a person being a slave. Frederick Douglass certainly had his finger on the pulse of the time. Great narrative!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Module II ¿ Douglass Book Review Brilliant!! Heart breaking and unbelievably inspiring. Amazingly well written and easy to read. I was impressed with how quickly I was able to read Douglass¿s story. I also thought the narrative was a great proponent for literacy. It really portrays how reading can be the key to knowledge and independence. It was a testimony to the innate intelligence of the human spirit. I was greatly moved by the passage when Douglass says that he would rather be called egotistical by others than to deny the miracle that says that happened in his life. Through all sorts of adversity his spirit stayed alive and true to what he knew to be a real life although he had never experienced himself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The true-life writing of Frederick Douglas is exceptional. The memoirs of his youth into adulthood as a slave give the reader a descriptive outlook of his life experience. As you read the account of his life you can almost play it scene by scene. The story intrigues you. He would stop at nothing until he became his ¿own master¿. His life is a testament of his bravery, determination and thirst for knowledge.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this piece of literature. It was well witten and vivid. I could see what is going on and I can feel the writers emotions. I recommend this book if you are into the history of slavery and African American literature.