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:
9781940177151
Publisher:
Independent Publishing
Publication date:
06/13/2013
Pages:
140
Sales rank:
1,179,090
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 8.98(h) x 0.36(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 (Illustrated + FREE audiobook link + Active TOC) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
HistoryGuySP More than 1 year ago
I am a high school Social Studies teacher. Each year when I teach about the Reform Period (1820-1860), I require my students to read the "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass." The abolitionist movement is the most visible element of the Reform Period, and Douglass is a giant among men in the movement. If you want to learn about what life was really like for African Americans trapped in the institution of slavery then this is your book. When my classes read this book, we read one chapter a day for eleven consecutive days. The book is not all that lengthy, and when presented in this fashion it allows them the opportunity to slowly filter all of what Douglass is relating about his topic. Douglass does an excellent job of getting his readers to understand how "ignorance" is used as a tool of slavery. He also vividly conveys how male and female slaves alike are victimized by their masters. Lastly, and most importantly I believe, he conveys how slavery creates a perversion of Christianity. This book is a classic and more Americans should find time to read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this was the most intriguing book about Fredric Douglas.It is a great read and I hope that other young people become involved with learning more about a man like Fredric Douglas. -Caiti
AnnieBM More than 1 year ago
Douglass' poignantly recounts his life as a slave and his coming to freedom. Throughout his Narrative he demonstrates a sensitivity to himself and to those around him including insight into human behavior and its effects on character. In his appendix Douglass clarifies his comments concerning religion -- Christianity -- words which resonant even today. This Narrative is more than historically significant and an unveiling the reality of American slavery. It portrays much of the psychological impact of slavery on slaveholders as well as slaves, provides an insightful critique of religious practice and justification, and shares generously of his journey to claim freedom and manhood. I consider this a must read for citizenship for all Americans. Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book allows you to go into the deepest darkest thoughts of an american slave as Frederick Douglass vividly and intensively describes the lifestyle of a slave in both the south and the north. The book allows the reader to get a point of view on why slavery should have been ended from a slave who unfortunately had to participate in the harmful acts of slavery. From the beginning of the book to the end, Frederick Douglass does a fantastic job at proving that African Americans at the time could indeed be knowledgeable  
mom2McKenna More than 1 year ago
Frederick Douglass was elegant and eloquent. When you give serious consideration to the incredible circumstances he overcame to achieve success in the 1800s, it is truly impressive and inspiring. He wrote with honesty and honor. It is a shame that most Americans know nothing of this man or his works. Whether you are history buff or not, everyone should read this book as there are lessons to be learned by us all.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It gave me an important look into American history. It is a story that we can all learn from, and that everyone should have a chance to read.
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Haven't read the book yet, but fast service, excellent book quality.
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