Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave

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Overview

In 1845, just seven years after his escape from slavery, the young Frederick Douglass published this powerful account of his life in bondage and his triumph over oppression. The book, which marked the beginning of Douglass's career as an impassioned writer, journalist, and orator for the abolitionist cause, reveals the terrors he faced as a slave, the brutalities of his owners and overseers, and his harrowing escape to the North. It has become a classic of American ...
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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave

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Overview

In 1845, just seven years after his escape from slavery, the young Frederick Douglass published this powerful account of his life in bondage and his triumph over oppression. The book, which marked the beginning of Douglass's career as an impassioned writer, journalist, and orator for the abolitionist cause, reveals the terrors he faced as a slave, the brutalities of his owners and overseers, and his harrowing escape to the North. It has become a classic of American autobiography.

This edition of the book, based on the authoritative text that appears in Yale University Press's multivolume edition of the Frederick Douglass Papers, is the only edition of Douglass's Narrative designated as an Approved Text by the Modern Language Association's Committee on Scholarly Editions. It includes a chronology of Douglass's life, a thorough introduction by the eminent Douglass scholar John Blassingame, historical notes, and reader responses to the first edition of 1845

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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.

Library Journal
Opening with the sound of running water and a bang, this audiobook is a true story of slavery. Throughout the narrative, future abolitionist Douglass expresses his yearning to be free and his loathing of being trapped into a life of slavery. Through the kindness of one of his mistresses, Douglass learned to read and write. He maintained that being literate through constant learning-either from traditional methods or through life experience-would eventually lead him to freedom. Douglass observed that his fellow slaves were capable of tender love, which unified them in their struggles. Douglass eventually acquired his freedom and acknowledged the love shared among slaves that helped him endure. No one will ever deny the skill with which Douglass analyzes this period in history. His intelligence, astuteness, and determination will inspire anyone to pursue his/her dreams despite obstacles and setbacks. Narrator Pete Papageorge's voice is clear, with the necessary intonations and exclamations; he aptly expresses Douglass's exasperation, frustration, and hatred of having been born a slave. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.-Bernadette Lopez-Fitzsimmons, Manhattan Coll. Lib., Riverdale, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-This classic text in both American literature and American history is read by Pete Papageorge with deliberation and simplicity, allowing the author's words to bridge more than 160 years to today's listeners. Following a stirring preface by William Lloyd Garrison (who, nearly 20 years after he first met Douglass, would himself lead the black troops fighting from the North in the Civil War), the not-yet-30-year-old author recounts his life's story, showing effective and evocative use of language as well as unflinchingly examining many aspects of the Peculiar Institution of American Slavery. Douglass attributes his road to freedom as beginning with his being sent from the Maryland plantation of his birth to live in Baltimore as a young boy. There, he learned to read and, more importantly, learned the power of literacy. In early adolescence, he was returned to farm work, suffered abuse at the hands of cruel overseers, and witnessed abuse visited on fellow slaves. He shared his knowledge of reading with a secret "Sunday school" of 40 fellow slaves during his last years of bondage. In his early 20's, he ran away to the North and found refuge among New England abolitionists. Douglass, a reputed orator, combines concrete description of his circumstances with his own emerging analysis of slavery as a condition. This recording makes his rich work available to those who might feel encumbered by the printed page and belongs as an alternative in all school and public library collections.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
**** A reprint of the Harvard University Press publication of 1960, cited in BCL3. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780760742068
  • Publisher: Sterling Publishing
  • Publication date: 3/3/2003
  • Pages: 127
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.80 (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
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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 4.5
( 139 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(96)

4 Star

(31)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(6)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 139 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2012

    Inspiring

    I had to read yhis book for summer reading and i loved it. I reccomend to anyone wondering how it was to be faced with impossible situations and overcome them with just the right mind set. Just great!!

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted September 23, 2004

    Frederick Douglass was an amazing oralist and writer.

    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!

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted January 14, 2013

    Good sounding book

    Ftom what the revoews say im sure its a good book but it wont open on my nook =(

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted May 20, 2005

    In case you din't know this about slavery...

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted August 14, 2012

    Understand slavery as it was

    The most authentic look at past events is through the eyes of someone who lived it. Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in Maryland and illegally taught himself to read and write. He escaped and 20 years before the Civil War he wrote of his personal experiences in an attempt to open people's eyes and hearts to the plight of his brethern who were, literally, in chains.

    If you want to understand where we are now by seeing where we've come from, this clear, consise account of slavery is highly recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted January 28, 2014

    This person stole my cover! Please be original. Its really tac

    This person stole my cover! Please be original. Its really tacky not to create your own content.
    Thank you!

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

    Posted November 1, 2013

    Very informative - a must read!

    I found this account of Fredrick Douglas' life solid and thoroughly written. It should be required reading in all schools and a research guide for anyone seeking insight into, not only Mr. Douglas' life, but also what life was like for African American's at this time in American history.

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

    Posted October 8, 2013

    Suck

    Dont like it

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted June 18, 2013

    Insightful

    Good reas

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted April 30, 2013

    Enlightening

    The detail of events was eye opening and theperils of what slaves went through was horrifying. A must read for Black History.

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

    Posted February 17, 2013

    Won't open on my Nook

    This version won't open on my nook

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted February 3, 2013

    Interesting

    Fredrick Duglous was a great man & inpsiering peice of history he will alwaysbe remeberd no matter what

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

    Posted March 3, 2013

    Book?

    Hey how are you doing ehat is this book about? Could someone ez tell me thaks

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2013

    AWESOME!!!!!

    I love the book even if your not a big history fan!!! Buy it now while its cheap and available.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2013

    Love it

    Ilyttgrrvvrvtccvjg

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2012

    Anoymus

    On my nook simple touch, this book won't open. :(

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 12, 2012

    Highly Recommend

    What a wonderful book about strength and courage. It truly depicts the issue of slavery. Anyone interested in or studying the issue of slavery this is a must read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2012

    This book helps s This book helps with my researcv This book helps with my school homework!

    Great resource!

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  • Posted May 11, 2011

    Incredible book, inspiration and heart moving.

    This is probably one of the best books Ive ever read. I will never be the same. Read it and be changed.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 31, 2011

    TNOP

    it was an excelent book!!!!! i loved it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 139 Customer Reviews

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