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Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass,…

Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave (1845)

by Frederick Douglass

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,92873929 (3.95)99
  1. 10
    The Life of Josiah Henson: Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada by Josiah Henson (HistReader)
    HistReader: Both men discuss their treatment and lifestyle under subjection as slaves.
  2. 00
    The interesting narrative of the life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano (joririchardson)
  3. 01
    To Be a Slave by Julius Lester (jacqueline065)
    jacqueline065: If your enjoyed the poignant narrative of Frederick Douglass, you will be moved by the perserved accounts of slave life in this book.
  4. 01
    The Mind of Frederick Douglass by Waldo E. Jr. Martin (eromsted)

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English (70)  Spanish (1)  Dutch (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (73)
Showing 1-5 of 70 (next | show all)
It's interesting how the story of one person can have a greater impact than the history of a people or event. In this extraordinary autobiography of abolitionist and escaped slave Frederick Douglass, we are given an intimate window into the everyday world of slavery, and it is ugly. I have read only one other book that made me feel so profoundly the lack of humanity and the evil of which humans are capable, and that was "People of the Lie" by M. Scott Peck, in which he describes parents who, for Christmas, gift their surviving son the rifle used by another son to kill himself. Reading Peck's description of a truly evil person, it seems he could have just read Douglass' book:

(Adapted from Wikipedia):
- Consistently self-deceiving, with the intent of avoiding guilt and maintaining a self-image of perfection
- Projects his or her evils and sins onto very specific targets while being apparently normal with everyone else
- Commonly hates with the pretense of love
- Abuses political (emotional) power
- Maintains a high level of respectability, and lies incessantly in order to do so
- Is consistent in his or her sins. Evil persons are characterized not so much by the magnitude of their sins, but by their consistency of destructiveness.
- Is unable to think from the viewpoint of his or her victim
- Has a covert intolerance to criticism

Douglass tells his story of being born and kept as a slave, and his escape to the North in his early twenties, in a style that highlights the evil he experienced and/or observed in Maryland:

- being removed from his mother's care by the age of one, with almost no contact allowed with her for the rest of his life
- being clothed as a child only in a knee-length shirt, summer or winter, and going naked if the shirt wore out before the annual clothing allotment
- having no provision for beds or bedding except for a single blanket
- routine rape of women to increase slaveholders' assets and wealth
- deliberate near-starvation of slaves, with stock animals being well-cared for and slaves whipped for any perceived lack of attention to the animals' well-being
- slaveholders' (both men and women) and overseers' enjoyment of frequent, repeated, and lengthy slave whippings, often for no reason than satisfaction
- old slaves being put out into the forest to fend for themselves
- the inevitable degeneration into depravity of whites who were new to slaveholding (thorough marriage, for instance)

The book skips over the exact method Douglass used to escape, in order to protect others and not give slaveholders any tips, but in his final autobiography, after the Civil War, he did give a detailed account. The book ends with him in New Bedford, MA, with a new bride and making his way among the wonders of freedom, irrespective of the hostility shown blacks by northern whites afraid for their jobs.

There's also an epilogue Douglass wrote to clarify his comments on the "Christianity" he observed in both the South and the North. It's not pretty. Ministers going home to rape, preachers spending the rest of the week whipping humans, respectable citizens spending their time finding new ways to force compliance, whether it be though intimidation, murder, or forcible separation of families. More than anywhere else, this is where Douglass expresses his anger. ( )
  auntmarge64 | Nov 12, 2015 |
  Bookman1954 | Oct 21, 2015 |
All racists and unwitting racists should read this book and be changed. I see why it made the huge difference it did when it was written before the U S Civil War. If absolutely everyone had read it maybe the war would nt have been fought. Naive maybe and I know there's a literature on the book and similar titles like Twelve Years a Slave. Still. Fifteen years later and I remember turning page after page agog. ( )
  ted_newell | Jun 20, 2015 |
This book is not bad, but I've had to read it so many times for school, in so many different classes, that I don't want to see this book ever again. ( )
  danlai | Sep 1, 2014 |
Very short & to the point, Douglass paints the picture of being a slave better than any other book I've read on the subject. His first hand account blows away 'Roots' or even the 'Confessions of Nat Turner' with its simple, understated prose. Huge thanks to Nancy, a friend here on GR, that recommended & gave me the book.

Why would a man remain in slavery when there was any chance of escape? This is a question I've always wondered about. He tells us. The courage & determination that it took him to make that leap was incredible. His simple account of what people can endure is heart wrenching.

The only reason this book didn't get 5 stars was the editor. I can't recall his name, but he is a professor at Columbia University & must think his audience is a bunch of idiots. His long winded introduction basically tells Douglass' entire story. It was a spoiler & redundant. The original publication had another introduction that is also included. This was doubly redundant due to the first, but would have been far better if just it was included.

The editor's constant footnotes, defining well known words that are well used in context, were distracting & occasionally incorrect. The end notes were better, but should have been footnotes instead. I was left with the impression that the editor was trying to impress me rather than help me understand Douglass' story. Blech!

Douglass has written his autobiography in several versions. This was his first. I'd be interested in finding a later one, especially with a different editor. In any case, for all the faults of the editor, the basic story is something that I recommend everyone read. ( )
  jimmaclachlan | Aug 18, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 70 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (27 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Frederick Douglassprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Blight, David W.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gomes, Peter J.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I was born in Tuckahoe, near Hillsborough, and about twelve miles from Easton, in Talbot country, Maryland.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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AR 7.9, 7 Pts
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0486284999, Paperback)

The impassioned abolitionist and eloquent orator provides graphic descriptions of his childhood and horrifying experiences as a slave as well as a harrowing record of his dramatic escape to the North and eventual freedom. Published in 1845 to quell doubts about his origins, the Narrative is admired today for its extraordinary passion, sensitive descriptions, and storytelling power. A selection of the Common Core State Standards Initiative.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:43 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

Perhaps the most powerful and influential black American of his time, Frederick Douglass, cmbodied the tumultuous social changes that transfored the united States during the nineteenth century. In a career of unprecedented breadth, Douglass rose from the oppression of his slave's birth to fame for Abolitionist.… (more)

» see all 16 descriptions

Legacy Library: Frederick Douglass

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5 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Yale University Press

2 editions of this book were published by Yale University Press.

Editions: 0300087012, 0300088310

Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

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