Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

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by Frederick Douglass
     
 

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He was eloquent and articulate - obviously well-educated. And sophisticated, too. He was also a slave who escaped to freedom.

But no one believed that, so he published his life story in 1845 to answer the skeptics. Not content to rest on the favorable attention his book received, he recruited black soldiers for the Union army and organized a campaign to educate the

Overview

He was eloquent and articulate - obviously well-educated. And sophisticated, too. He was also a slave who escaped to freedom.

But no one believed that, so he published his life story in 1845 to answer the skeptics. Not content to rest on the favorable attention his book received, he recruited black soldiers for the Union army and organized a campaign to educate the newly freed citizens. He saw that only knowledge could ensure true freedom.

"Insightful, comprehensive, dramatic." (Chicago Tribune)

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:
9781477537381
Publisher:
CreateSpace
Publication date:
05/26/2012
Pages:
100
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.25(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

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

"He is my friend." —Abraham Lincoln

“He experienced…the tyranny and circumscription of an ambitious human being who was classified as real estate.”—W.E.B. DuBois

“This narrative contains many affecting incidents, many passages of great eloquence and power…Who can read [it], and be insensible to its pathos and sublimity?” —William Lloyd Garrison

Meet the Author

William L. Andrews is E. Maynard Adams Professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is general editor of Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography and The Literature of the American South: A Norton Anthology, and co-editor of The Oxford Companion to African American Literature and The Norton Anthology of African American Literature. Other works include the Norton Critical Edition of Up From Slavery; The Literary Career of Charles W. Chesnutt; To Tell a Free Story: The First Century of Afro- American Autobiography, 1760–1865; Sisters of the Spirit; The Curse of Caste by Julia C. Collins; Life of William Grimes, the Runaway Slave; and Slave Narratives after Slavery.

William S. McFeely is Abraham Baldwin Professor of the Humanities, Emeritus, at the University of Georgia. He is the author of Yankee Stepfather: General O. O. Howard and the Freedmen; Grant: A Biography, for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the Parkman Prize; Frederick Douglass, which received the Lincoln Prize; Sapelo’s People: A Long Walk into Freedom; and Proximity to Death.

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 4.1 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 43 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous 6 months ago
Candy canes, candy canes, lick 'em into spears and kill your enemys. Stab stab stab stab stab stab stab stab stab stab stab stab stab stab stab stab
Anonymous 7 months ago
I recommend reading this book. Very informative and truthful. A great narritive, and well written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What more can I say?
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The detail of events was eye opening and theperils of what slaves went through was horrifying. A must read for Black History.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fredrick Duglous was a great man & inpsiering peice of history he will alwaysbe remeberd no matter what
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Sadie616 More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great resource!
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