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

by Frederick Douglass

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5,13478870 (3.95)102
  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, or Gustavus Vassa, the African 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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Showing 1-5 of 74 (next | show all)
Easier to read than I expected and more interesting than expected. There was a lot left out that would have been helpful to the story, such as meeting and falling in love with his first wife, as one example. I realize this was his story and he could leave out what he wanted to leave out, and obviously had reasons for doing so, but there were things that would have made his story more personal. Not on my favorite list and not on my recommendation list, but wasn't a waste of time. ( )
  MahanaU | Feb 26, 2016 |
This was a very compelling story of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. I found it a very interesting read and do recommend it. I also found the story to have an underlying meaning which is why I gave this book high ratings.

The story is one of Frederick Douglass and the trials and tribulations he goes through as an American Slave. All of the oppressions of slavery are here. He spares no expense describing the autrocities committed by his masters throughout the years. There are a few key points to keep in mind, however, as he narrates this story. First of these is that Frederick Douglass is very well educated. The prose in which he tells the story is exquisite. In fact, one can almost call the language charming. He uses the old English style of writing which very easily puts you, the reader, in the mid to late 1800s where the story takes place.

Then, what came as a shock to me was the location setting of this story. When one thinks of slavery, the images of the deep south come to mind. Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia are all states that have a rich past in slavery. The south described here is Baltimore. Yeah, that's right Baltimore. Freedom for Frederick Douglas meant New England. Even New York was not a safe haven as Frederick describes stories of kidnappers that are eager to steal runaway slaves back to their masters for a price.

What I found interesting is that regardless of how the story is told, Frederick Douglass became free in his mind at one particular point in the story. This was long before he took off on his own. I am not going to spoil that part of the story for you, the potential reader of this tale, here in this review. This means that as Frederick Douglass got older, obtaining freedom from slavery became more mental and psychological than physical. It is interesting how he notes that his oppressors did everything possible to keep him ignorant. But it seems that once our author tasted of the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, there was no turning back.

What I also liked about this book was that the escape was not a dramatic one. There was no running through the woods with the blood hounds hot on his trail. The escape was subtle. Yet I was captivated by how alone he was in his flight. I was captivated by the decisions he made from the lessons he learned in captivity. In the end, it seemed that freedom was obtained when he was in a place where others saw him as a person and not chattle.

What I disliked about this book was the introductions. Yes there is more than one. It seems that people like Houston A. Baker Jr. had an agenda to push this narrative and this is sad. I felt in reading the narrative that Frederick Douglass true captivity was really a state of mind. What made him different from other negros of the period was that he was able to think and risk on his own. I believe that this thinking brought him to all the right people to give him the opportunity to risk for his freedom. There are times in the story where this risk did not pay off and he did pay the price of treason for his actions. However, overall I feel that the power of his subconcious mind led him to where he wanted to be. At least, I found that this is how it read. Frederick Douglass gave me the impression that he wrote this to set himself as an example of how he became free in his mind first, then achieved it in his physical form. Houston A. Baker Jr. on the other hand seemed to have wanted to distribute this narrative as propaganda to lead other against slavery itself. What's wrong with that you say? I think that Houston A. Baker's introduction was more of, "see how good of a leader I am, regardless of the movement I am leading. See how many people I am connected to in order to push my agenda." The impression I got was that Houston A. Baker had no concern about changing the way people think in order to end slavery in the mind first.
( )
  DVerdecia | Jan 29, 2016 |
Much less conversational than Washington's autobiography, which I just read. What a damning indictment upon the slave holders of the south and their religion. Douglass paints a dark picture of slavery and does an admirable job of not only showing the evils but of the ways in which the slave holders affected the minds and wills of their slaves. The insight offered for today, in ways in which we seek to pacify parts of our population into thinking things are "ok" could take notice of Douglass's look into the psychology of slavery—physical and mental. ( )
  memlhd | Jan 23, 2016 |
Much less conversational than Washington's autobiography, which I just read. What a damning indictment upon the slave holders of the south and their religion. Douglass paints a dark picture of slavery and does an admirable job of not only showing the evils but of the ways in which the slave holders affected the minds and wills of their slaves. The insight offered for today, in ways in which we seek to pacify parts of our population into thinking things are "ok" could take notice of Douglass's look into the psychology of slavery—physical and mental. ( )
  memlhd | Jan 23, 2016 |
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 |
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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)

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

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