Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, Written by Himself” as Want to Read:
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, Written by Himself
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Read Book* *Different edition

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, Written by Himself (The Autobiographies #1)

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  51,622 Ratings  ·  2,204 Reviews
Written more than a century ago by Frederick Douglass, a former slave who went on to become a famous orator, U.S. minister, and a leader of his people, this masterpiece is one of the most eloquent indictments of slavery ever recorded. Douglass
Paperback, 163 pages
Published March 1st 1993 by Bedford Books (first published 1845)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Rosa Castro This is a great book. You will learn a few things about what occurred during the life of slavery & it also teaches you about the life of a true…moreThis is a great book. You will learn a few things about what occurred during the life of slavery & it also teaches you about the life of a true American hero. Just analyze the book as you read.(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Stephen
Thank you Mr. Douglass…this was a life changer for me. You are a true American hero and the fact that there are not more monuments, government buildings, holidays or other commemorations of your life seems to me an oversight of epic proportions.

How often is it that you can honestly say that you’ll never be the same after reading a book? Well, this life story of a singular individual has changed me....irrevocably. I will never be able to sufficiently express my gratitude to Mr. Douglass for that
...more
Kaeleigh Forsyth
Dec 29, 2012 Kaeleigh Forsyth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love the review on here that says, "This book was kind of hard to get into because of the high level words used in this book." In the year 2012 a grown adult/product of the USA's educational system finds the vocabulary of a self-taught 19th century slave beyond their comprehension, ahahahahahahaha God Bless America.
Jason Koivu
Oct 27, 2014 Jason Koivu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Powerful, eloquent and utterly moving, especially considering it was written by a man who taught himself how to read and write while a slave.

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass regrettably does not go into detail regarding the particulars of Douglass' escape to freedom. Having written his memoirs while slavery was still ongoing, he was afraid to reveal his methods for fear of endangering the lives of those who assisted him, as well as potentially shutting down an avenue of escape fo
...more
Richard
This book is not an important historical document to be placed in a glass case and venerated during Black History Month. It should be read by all, regardless of race or creed, as a warning against prejudice and oppression.

Douglass' description of the cruel conditions of slavery is mind-searing. His analysis of the system which fostered and condoned it shows amazing depth. He shows that slavery made wretched the lives of the victims but that it also warped the perpetrators, and created a regime i
...more
Cheryl
Dec 24, 2015 Cheryl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those wanting a glimpse of american history through slave narratives
"…My copybook was the board-fence, brick wall, and pavement; my pen and ink was a lump of chalk. With these, I learned mainly how to write."As with Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, I feel as though I should start by reiterating these simple truths about the narrative: Yes, Douglass did write this book himself; No, he was not against Christianity, only a staunch opponent of hypocritical Christians; No, he did not promote hatred of man - his hate was of slavery.
The hearth is desolate. The
...more
Bookworm Sean
Oct 22, 2015 Bookworm Sean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This was powerful, so, so powerful. This is a remarkable achievement considering it is written in such a straight forward manner by a man who taught himself to read. There is no embellishment or dramatic imagery here; it is simple, straightforward, harrowing, fact. It is such a strong narrative that I’m extremely glad I read. I recommend it to everyone.

Moreover, to emphasise the sheer depravity, and brutality, these slaves were subjected to, the forward of the book suggests that Douglas had it
...more
Petra X
Jan 08, 2016 Petra X marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-reviews
I am familiar with Frederick Douglass' life, and I'm sure I've read this but can't find it on my booklist *sigh*. Nonetheless he was such a magnificent man that it bears rereading.

What I like more about Douglass than anything else at all is his clear thinking on subject peoples.

He saw that the discrimination against blacks and women was from an identical stance. That white men were imposing a structure of equality and entitlement that placed them at the top, and everyone else beneath them. This
...more
Diane
Dec 31, 2014 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a powerful piece of writing this is. Slavery is such an ugly part of American history, and this narrative tells all of the ordeals that Frederick Douglass had to overcome, including whippings, beatings, hunger, tyrannical masters, backbreaking labor, and horrible living conditions.

Douglass was born in Maryland in 1818, but even that year is a guess because slaves were generally not allowed to know their birthdate. He knew little of his mother because the master sent her away, and then she
...more
Aubrey
4.5/5

Unlike many on this site, if one may judge from the reviews and most popular tags of this work, I did not encounter this in school. This is unfortunate, as exposure to this at a younger age may have made my frame of references less solidified, Moby Dick over here and slavery narratives of there and all the usual sorts of aborted cross-reference and false literary linearity. These days, I am not as suspect to being fenced in by required reading in academia, but there are some still some sick
...more
Paul
Feb 15, 2014 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
This is a very brief first volume of a three volume autobiography. It is moving, powerful and horrific portrait of slavery in one of the so-called more humane slave states in the 1820s and 1830s.
It is an important historical document, but is also much more than that; published in 1845 it opened a window for the general public in the north who knew little about the inner workings of slavery. Douglass does not know his birthday, who his father was and was separated from his mother very early in l
...more
Zanna
Jul 04, 2014 Zanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Zanna by: Paul
Shelves: usa, black-history
Houston A Baker Jr introduces Douglass' narrative by positioning it within a rich tradition in two senses. Firstly, many former slaves published accounts of their experiences - a fact that I was not aware of and that Baker says has been poorly acknowledged, while the work of white abolitionists has been much-celebrated. Secondly, the literary interests of the period, absorbed by Douglass in his forbidden, covert, voracious reading, are expressed through the lyrical and dramatic qualities of his ...more
Alan
Feb 21, 2009 Alan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most amazing pieces of writing I have ever read. Unfortunately, I grew up in Texas--a fact for which I have only recently forgiven my parents, with difficulty--and therefore was never forced to read anything more incendiary than To Kill a Mocking Bird or Uncle Tom's Cabin. Digression: Also, I had a creationist biology teacher. But yes. We didn't read any firsthand slave narratives. I don't even remember learning about the civil rights movements. Maybe we did. All of this jibba ...more
Jim
May 18, 2009 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Craig Johnson
Jan 30, 2008 Craig Johnson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: calendar designers
Not bad for a guy who taught himself to write while his masters weren't looking. Even the smallest knowledge of Douglass' post-slave life makes you wonder at the title: Who would have the gall to chain him up, of all men? The facts of slavery are still frightening after all this time. What makes it scarier is that Douglass was in Maryland, the Northernmost of southern states. Evidentally, the farther south you were the worse it was, so if this happened in Maryland, I don't like to think about Lo ...more
Ken Moten
"Reader! are you with the man-stealers in sympathy and purpose, or on the side of their down-trodden victims? If with the former, then are you the foe of God and man. If with the latter, what are you prepared to do and dare in their behalf? Be faithful, be vigilant, be untiring in your efforts to break every yoke, and let the oppressed go free." - from the Preface by William Lloyd Garrison.

This autobiography is easily the most well-known and taught of any slave narrative in the United States. I
...more
Erika
My history professor assigned 4 books to read over the semester. I found the first 2 to be really boring, I did not enjoy them at all. Probably it had to do with the fact that my subconscious tends to hate everything that I'm forced to do. Like for example, if I'm not allowed to be absent from a class more than 3 times during the semester without failing it, I hate going, and feel the pressure everyday of having to drag myself to go to that particular class. On the contrary, if the teacher didn' ...more
Julia
Oct 03, 2014 Julia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Frederick Douglass was born into slavery. With a slave owning father - who was presumably his first master - and a slave mother, all Douglass ever knew was slavery. However, even though he was a slave, he knew he was being denied his basic human rights without anyone telling him: "The white children could tell their ages. I could not tell why I ought to be deprived of the same privilege."

Douglass also offers an interesting insight into the emotions of slaves:

"Slave sing most when they are most
...more
Jesse
Sep 07, 2007 Jesse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: us, him
I know that most Goodreads members probably have their minds made up about slavery by now, but I had forgotten until recently what a remarkable piece of literature this is:

"On the one hand, there stood slavery, a stern reality,
glaring frightfully upon us,- its robes already crimsoned
with the blood of millions, and even now feasting itself
greedily upon our own flesh. On the other hand,
away back in the dim distance, under the flickering light
of the north star, behind some craggy hill or snow-cove
...more
Shaun
Jan 29, 2015 Shaun rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read this book several times but especially enjoyed re-reading it with my son as we study this era in American history. It's a great narrative for anyone who wants to get a sense of the history and injustice of slavery from a slave's perspective.
Dale
Sep 21, 2014 Dale rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An American Classic

4.5 hours
Narrated by Jonathan Reese
Published by Tantor Media


Frederick Douglass wrote three autobiographies during his life. Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglas, an American Slave , written in 1845, is, perhaps, the most famous. The others were My Bondage and My Freedom (1855) and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881, revised 1892).

Written as a response to those that doubted that such an intelligent and well-spoken man could have ever been a slave, Narrative
...more
Billy McCoy
Mar 09, 2013 Billy McCoy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is an excellent and inspiring book, one cannot praise it too much; however as an objective and unbiased reader one wonders how much of this story is exaggerated to make Douglass' point about the horrors of slavery.
Amber
Oct 20, 2013 Amber rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
“…my long crushed spirit rose, cowardice departed, bold defiance took its place; and I now resolved that, however long I might remain a slave in form, the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact. I did not hesitate to let it be known of me, that the white man who expected to succeed in whipping, must also succeed in killing me…” -- Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass, An American Slave

I went into the B&N bookstore to escape the hot Atlanta sun, and while browsing I saw
...more
Dan
Sep 04, 2013 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This summer while talking among friends I had the realization that I have read almost no african american literature. I knew I had deficiencies in female authors and have been trying to balance things out better this year. How is it that I can think of myself as well read with these two (and who knows how many more) weak spots?

So I decided to start near the beginning with Frederick Douglass and I am glad I did as it was a fairly eye opening look into the life of a slave. I think we all get the g
...more
Eugenie
Feb 12, 2015 Eugenie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating true story that kept me enthralled from start to finish. I could go right back to the beginning and read it all through over again with superlative ease.6 stars
Marcus Chatman
May 05, 2015 Marcus Chatman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book, though historic, to be a modern marvel. I find not only the man himself but even more so the writings of Frederick Douglass to be totally FASCINATING! This man's ability to describe the various monstrosities encountered throughout his journey in such a beautiful, articulate, and eloquent way is utterly GENIUS! In reading this timeless masterpiece I discovered that this man bears the unmatched, undisputed spirit of a champion; the undying essence of a true warrior; that I'm sur ...more
Aaron
Apr 22, 2013 Aaron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a brief autobiographical account of the author's early life. In it, Douglass tells us what it was like to be a slave in both rural and urban Maryland, describes the circumstances around which he learned to read and write, how reading and writing effected his intellectual awakening, and how all of these circumstances combined toward one of the most fundamental of human drives, that of a yearning toward freedom.

As a writer, Douglass possessed a clear command of language. The book is writt
...more
Jenny Zarate
Apr 11, 2008 Jenny Zarate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any humans, but especially literate racists, if there are any.
I read this book for the first time in 1998 in a classroom setting. Having remembered that I liked it then, I re-read it during my early pregnancy, back when I had a lot of time and could keep both eyes in one spot for an extended period of time. I don't know if it was the hormones, or just the fact that I wasn't feeling the pressure of being the only white girl in the African American Literature class, but it was even better than I had previously remembered it.

Quick quote from a colleague of mi
...more
أحمد أبازيد Ahmad Abazed
وثيقة مهمّة للتاريخ و لسجلّ الحرية المكتوب بدم الكثيرين عبر التاريخ
فريدريك دوجلاس ... الذي عرف أنّ القراء تعني الحرية ... فقرأ و قاوم و خطّط و تمرّد على الواقع حتى نال حريّته .
فريدريك دوجلاس نصيبه من الثقافة متواضع , لذلك لن يكون هنا كتاب عبقريّ أدبيّاً , ولكنّها هواجس الحرية و حوادث من تاريخ بشع يجب ألّا تُنسى , هنا أهمّّيّة هذا الكتاب الصغير
Cathleen
I've read this book several times, and I'm sure I'll continue to reread it every few years or so. I'm in awe of the sheer magnificence of Douglass's intellect and genius with language; his observations on human nature, power, injustice, dignity and self-determination are profound.
Zadignose
This is a great book that serves not only as a historical document of the true conditions of slavery even in the relatively civil society of Maryland, but also as an example of the rhetorical power of taking the events of a man's life and giving them meaning by presenting them in a narrative form.

A reader today is unlikely to be shocked in terms of the facts of the abuse of slaves that occurred--that is, we're not reluctant to believe that slave owners physically abused and even killed with impu
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Well Trained Mind...: #12 - The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass 21 12 Jul 07, 2015 08:10AM  
What is unique about Douglas's writing? 5 47 Jun 26, 2014 02:05AM  
What is unique about Douglas's writing? 1 9 Jan 27, 2014 10:02AM  
  • The Souls of Black Folk
  • Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
  • Narrative of Sojourner Truth
  • Up from Slavery
  • The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano: Written by Himself
  • American Slavery: 1619-1877
  • The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South
  • The Education of Henry Adams
  • Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877
  • Ar'n't I a Woman?: Female Slaves in the Plantation South
  • The Classic Slave Narratives
  • Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market
  • Parting the Waters: Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement 1954-63
  • American Slavery, American Freedom
  • The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
  • Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America
  • The Strange Career of Jim Crow
  • Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands
18943
Frederick Douglass (née Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey). Born as a slave in Maryland in 1818, he was to become a renowned abolitionist, editor and feminist. Escaping from slavery at age 20, he renamed himself Frederick Douglass and became an abolition agent. Douglass traveled widely, often at personal peril, to lecture against slavery. His first of three autobiographies, The Narrative of the ...more
More about Frederick Douglass...

Other Books in the Series

The Autobiographies (3 books)
  • My Bondage and My Freedom
  • Life and Times of Frederick Douglass

Share This Book



“...I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of the land... I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. Never was there a clearer case of 'stealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in.' I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which every where surround me. We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members. The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus. . . . The slave auctioneer’s bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master. Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave-trade go hand in hand together. The slave prison and the church stand near each other. The clanking of fetters and the rattling of chains in the prison, and the pious psalm and solemn prayer in the church, may be heard at the same time. The dealers in the bodies of men erect their stand in the presence of the pulpit, and they mutually help each other. The dealer gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit, and the pulpit, in return, covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity. Here we have religion and robbery the allies of each other—devils dressed in angels’ robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise.” 183 likes
“I have observed this in my experience of slavery, - that whenever my condition was improved, instead of its increasing my contentment, it only increased my desire to be free, and set me to thinking of plans to gain my freedom. I have found that, to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken his moral and mental vision, and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason. He must be able to detect no inconsistencies in slavery; he must be made to feel that slavery is right; and he can be brought to that only when he ceased to be a man.” 50 likes
More quotes…