Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

( 269 )

Overview

This dramatic autobiography of the early life of an American slave was first published in 1845, when its young author had just achieved his freedom. Douglass' eloquence gives a clear indication of the powerful principles that led him to become the first great African-American leader in the United States.
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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Overview

This dramatic autobiography of the early life of an American slave was first published in 1845, when its young author had just achieved his freedom. Douglass' eloquence gives a clear indication of the powerful principles that led him to become the first great African-American leader in the United States.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
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&#39s subtitle&#8212Written by Himself &#8212was 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&#39s 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&#39s 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&#39s 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&#8212faithfully relying upon the power of truth, love, and justice, for success in my humble efforts&#8212and 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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781407682570
  • Publisher: HardPress Publishing
  • Publication date: 1/10/2012
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.34 (d)

Meet the Author

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) was an antislavery lecturer, a journalist, a writer and publisher, and the bestselling author of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, followed by My Bondage and My Freedom, and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.

Ira Dworkin is the associate director of the Prince Alwaleed Center for American Studies and Research and Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature at The American University in Cairo.

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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

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
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Table of Contents

Foreword
Preface
INTRODUCTION: "A Psalm of Freedom"
Pt. 1 The Document 25
Editor's Note on the Text 27
Preface by William Lloyd Garrison, May 1,1845 29
Letter from Wendell Phillips, Esq., April 22,1845 36
Narrative Of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself 39
Notes on the Text 109
Pt. 2 Selected Reviews, Documents, and Speeches 117
Caleb Bingham, "Dialogue Between a Master and a Slave," in The Columbian Orator (1797) 119
Margaret Fuller, Review of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, New York Tribune, June 10, 1845 121
Ephraim Peabody, "Narratives of Fugitive Slaves," excerpt, Christian Examiner, July 1849 124
Nathaniel P. Rogers, "Southern Slavery and Northern Religion," two addresses delivered in Concord, New Hampshire, February 11, 1844, as reported in (Concord, N.H.) Herald Freedom, February 16,1844 128
Frederick Douglass, "My Slave Experience in Maryland," an address delivered in New York City, May 6, 1845, as recorded in National Antislavery Standard, May 22,1845 130
Frederick Douglass, Letter to Thomas Auld, September 3, 1848, published in The North Star, September 8,1848; and The Liberator, September 22, 1848 134
Frederick Douglass, "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" speech delivered in Corinthian Hall, Rochester, New York, July 5, 1852 141
App. A Douglass chronology (1818-1895) 147
App. Questions for Considerarion 153
App. Selected Bibliography 155
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 269 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(131)

4 Star

(55)

3 Star

(43)

2 Star

(20)

1 Star

(20)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 273 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2009

    Teaches you a lot

    In reading Frederick's narrative it truly teaches you about the life inside slavery and how powerful the faith of a person can be to escape the evil of the world. He writes so well and I will always remember his story because it has inspired me.

    13 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 25, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Unbelievably Wonderful Book!

    This Narrative was amazing. His writing was clear and easy to understand. I could not put this book down and read it in one day because it takes you back to that time and paints a vivid picture of the horrors of slavery. This special book will stay close to my heart forever and I will definitely pass it down to my future children. Although it is a bit short, it is worth it and makes a great addition to any book lovers book shelf!

    11 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2010

    Slave Life

    Our assignment in English class was to find a book written by an American author before World War II. In order to find a book, I went to Barnes and Noble. The man that helped me find a book recommended many books, but this one stood out in my mind. He said that this book was very interesting and eye-opening. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, and American Slave is about a colored man named Frederick Douglas and his life journey as a slave. The book goes into detail about the events Frederick had to overcome like learning to read and write, the horrible sites he had to see, and the tough situations he had to go through. This book is a fairly easy read and hooks the audience in a touching and thrilling way. This non-fiction narrative is a great book that allows readers to understand and walk in the shoes of slaves centuries ago. It makes readers think about their own lives and how lucky they are to have what they have. "You will be free as soon as you are twenty-one, but I AM A SLAVE FOR LIFE!" (page 44)

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    A Necessary Read

    To not have read this book is to have missed an important part of our history. The writings of a former slave with the perspective that knowledge brings and the expressions of freedom heretofore unknown. A moving read and a true picture of the life of the average slave in the south. Not for the faint of heart.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2012

    Good Book

    This is a great read, but it wouldn't hurt to have some of the imperfections corrected...sometimes it gets a bit confusing.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 24, 2010

    Engaging and Informative

    This was the first first-person narrative on slavery I had read. Douglass' writing style is great. He presents his material in a factual, yet riveting manner. I could not put this book down. I learned so much more about the era than I ever have through textbooks.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2009

    Eloquently written narrative, which is both compelling, and enlightening

    This is a short interesting read, easy enough to finish while on a plane ride. The book highlights some of the various details in Douglass's life as a slave. If you're looking for more detail, I would suggest starting with this book, then moving on to Douglass's other narrative (later published) "My Bondage. . ."

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2007

    Inspirational, and Riveting Incite to a Slave's Struggle for Freedom

    This narrative is a fundamental element in the history of our nation, in one of its darkest times. Douglass is sold and 'broken in' to the slave lifestyle very cruelly, being whipped and beaten. When he is 'broken in' he loses all previous desire to try and escape from his fate, and becomes apathetic to everything. Only when he is sold again, this time to a kinder keeper, does he realize that if he can share the education he learned as a child, and pass it on to others he can start an escape plan. Due to his knowledge he receives a higher position, and eventually begins to earn wages for the work he carries out. Now saving all the money he earns, he is able to buy his own freedom, escape to New York City, and get married. The narrative highlights the fact that it was only though the un education of slaves that white owners felt they had the power. If one became educated, like Douglass, they were able to escape, gain support, or buy their way out of from their oppressive lives.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2007

    Frederick Douglass

    My name is Jane, and I am a student at Parkview High school. I have been taught about slavery in many past history classes. As I read this book about Frederick Douglass, my view of slavery was moved tremendously. Douglass explains the horror and cruelty of slavery in every chapter of this book. As a child, he witnessed a brutal whipping that his aunt encountered. From this point on, he realizes what slavery truly is and how it dehumanizes African Americans. Douglass was moved from being a plantation slave to a house slave when he was under the age of 10. He enjoyed the life as a house slave because he was treated more like a human-being. However, this did not last long. The mistress, Mrs. Auld, who taught him how to read and write also turned into a cruel slave owner when Mr. Auld showed her the dangers of educating a slave. Douglass, however, continued to learn how to read and write. By his consistency, Douglass accomplished his dream and became a free man. The topic of slavery should not be lightly comprehended. Although, I am not able to put my feet in Douglass' shoes, he truly is an inspirational writer that not only touched me but the hearts of thousands across the world.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2007

    Frederick Douglass: Book Summary

    In this very exquisite slave narrative by Frederick Douglass, the reader is immersed into a first-person perspective account of slavery. Frederick Douglass was a writer and speaker who was very involved with abolitionism. Douglass was born into slavery under his mother Harriett Bailey. Like most slaves living back then, Frederick Douglass was separated from his mother at a young age. Controversially, his father is implied to be his master Captain Anthony. At just seven years old, Douglass was sold to the distant relative of Captain Anthony, Hugh Auld, who lives in Baltimore, where Douglass lives a more leisurely life than before at first. Auld¿s wife Sophia has never owned a slave since Douglass and therefore had no idea how it worked, so she was surprisingly more sympathetic toward him however, as time goes on, Sophia become less kindlier and eventually becomes crueler along with her husband. In correlation with this, Douglass learns how to read and becomes more aware of the evils of slavery and abolitionism. After the ending of Captain Anthony¿s family line, Douglass is sent to serve Thomas Auld. Douglass becomes unmanageable and uncomfortably resistant as a slave. Then, he was sent to Edward Covey, who was known for breaking slaves to a point where any resistant is futile by means of cruel punishment. However, there was a huge fight between Covey and Douglass later on that result in Covey leaving Douglass alone. Douglass is then sent to William Freeland and begins educating other blacks and plots an escape but is betrayed by a friend and gets sent back to Thomas Auld who sends him back to Hugh Auld to learn ship caulking. In Baltimore, he experienced many racist situations with his coworkers, sometime turning violent. Even through these trials and tribulations, he earns a very decent profit that he turns to his master. Bit by bit, he receives what money he can make in his free time and escapes to New York and ends up marrying Anna Murray, a woman of Baltimore decent. Douglass¿s life is then written into this biography.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2007

    Frederick Douglas

    Personally, this was not the most exciting book I have ever read on slavery but I do thin it is important to let one express their opinion, especially first hand knowledge. Frederick gives a detailed tale about his life, but it is not one that I had fun digging into. This book is good to be taught in the classroom as a fundemental part to share apart of one's own culture and experiences with the rest of the world, but I do think this book is over rated a bit.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2013

    A revelation

    The autobiography of an African American slave before the Civil War. Beautifully, simply told. Last few pages a disappointing screed.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2013

    The Story of an American Icon

    The amazing story of someone born in chains, self educated, who educated others and wanted freedom so bad -- he attained it. Who became an orator for the Abolitionist Movement. This is a man who squared shoulders with Lincoln on the Emancipation Proclamation. This story describes how he helped himself, his race, and his Nation.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2012

    Anonymous

    Ok, I'll read it on your "recommendation". Love history shnarker.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2012

    Love it

    I reckamend this book for every person

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Remarkable Story

    This book demonstrated faith, strength, and ambition. Enjoyed this book alot.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 9, 2010

    A Bio of Renowned Worth

    As a devoted, long term scholar of the Civil War era I find this book invaluable. For the scope of the time leading up to the war itself this work sheds a great light. That Frederick Douglas triumphed over such painful beginnings is another of a long line of such stories but is important for any civil war library for what it brings to the discussion on "why", "who for" and the "worth" of that great struggle toward eventual emancipation. This particular edition was affordable and adequately presented.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2005

    Yulisa Rincon LIT2480 student

    The book Frederick Douglass, gives us a descrpitive image on how they were threated. The book is so emotional and it mke us appreciate our freedom that we have now..And it makes you feel proud for his accomplisments and depress for his losses. I recomend this book to every one...

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2015

    Meh

    Good topic boring dialog

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2014

    Good

    Good read

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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