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The Heroic Slave

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  342 ratings  ·  27 reviews
The Heroic Slave was Frederick Douglass' only piece of fiction. He wrote it in response to the Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society's request for a submission to be included in their anthology Autographs for Freedom. The Heroic Slave is a retelling of an actual rebellion led by Madison Washington on the slave ship Creole. Douglass shows how the rebellion is part of a rev ...more
Paperback, 68 pages
Published January 22nd 2008 by Wilder Publications (first published 1853)
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robin friedman
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Frederick Douglass' Novel

Although he is best-known for his autobiographies, the great abolitionist and African American leader Frederick Douglass (1818 - 1895) also wrote an important novel. I learned of it in reading about Douglass. I was pleased to have the opportunity to find the book and to discuss it here. Douglass's novel, in fact an extended short story, is available in this new, inexpensive edition as well as in anthologies of his writings.

"The Heroic Slave" (18530 is among the first wor
...more
Eric Marcy
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating novella that jumps around quite a bit, wherein Douglass tells the story of Madison Washington and the events that led up to his eventual leading of a slave revolt. What is particularly intriguing to me about the novella is how Madison's story is often framed by the perspective of whites, both sympathetic (the abolitionist convert Mr. Listwell) and abhorrent (slave traders, though Grant does have some degree of shift in his view of slavery by the end). Thus, Douglass not only interrog ...more
Eddie
May 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: african-american
"The hope of freedom seemed to sweeten...the bitter cup of slavery" Pt. I

Frederick Douglass's 1852 venture into fiction is a short tale of a slave, Madison Washington, and his attempts to escape enslavement and flee to Canada. Along the way, Madison meets Mr. Listwell, a white abolitionist, who befriends him and aids him in his escape. For fear of giving too much away - you'll have to read it for yourself - in the end, we hear of Madison landing on the shores of Nassau, Bahamas.

Although it didn'
...more
tortoise dreams
A slave escapes from Virginia and travels through Ohio on his way to sanctuary in Canada, and that's only the beginning.

Book Review: The Heroic Slave is the only work of fiction written by the great abolitionist, Frederick Douglass. Who knew? My reading of this was inspired by reading Ta-Nehisi Coates' first novel, The Water Dancer. The Heroic Slave is more short story than novella and more advocacy than story, but an interesting rarity nonetheless. As might be expected of a first piece of ficti
...more
Russ Adcox
Jan 29, 2020 rated it liked it
Really short book my Mom picked up for me at an African American History Museum. I had read his autobiography and it was excellent. This one was just OK. I think it was mainly the 19th century writing style with its lengthy descriptions and habit of addressing the reader directly. But that's not Douglass' fault. He wrote it in 1853 and I'd say it was perfect for the time. Actually, it was incredibly bold and progressive for the time. This passage towards the end is incredibly progressive conside ...more
Brook
Nov 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I learned that Frederick Douglass had written just one piece of fiction, I was interested in tracking it down. As one would imagine, Douglass’s fiction is very much fiction for a purpose, to make clear to his audience the evils of slavery. And apparently the initial purpose of the work was for abolition fund-raising. It is a work of historical fiction. The main character of the story — Madison Washington — is a historical figure. The work, a novella in length, is composed of 4 different par ...more
Lorena
May 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Una historia corta que se lee de una sentada. Quizá la ficción no fuera el género predilecto de Douglass, pero su estilo, directo, sencillo y claro, elabora una historia de fácil y rápida lectura, al mismo tiempo que interesante. En ella refleja, con sus numerosos personajes, la visión de la sociedad americana del siglo XIX respecto a los esclavos, tanto de abolicionistas como de proesclavistas, incluyendo especialmete la perspectiva de los propios esclavos. Llama la atención cómo su prosa en to ...more
John
Sep 09, 2019 rated it liked it
I thought Douglass, perhaps understandably, went a bit overboard on describing the heroic nature of the Heroic Slave, Madison Washington. But I enjoyed the book just the same and was glad to see the final happy outcome for the heroic slave, much better than the unhappy outcome for Nat Turner in his rebellion.
Alaya
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Douglass is an interesting writer. We read this book for class and mostly discussed the importance of the portrayal of Washington in a novella meant to evoke a change in white readers. Washington is a man of leadership and intelligence which I haven't seen of a slave character before. It's almost as if he could do no wrong.
Tina
The depiction of women in this was really something oh man, but I guess it's a product of its time. I think we're going to discuss that aspect in the accompanying seminar I had to read this for which I'm excited for. Loved the intertextual references even though I had to look most of them up, but figuring them out made it kinda exciting.
Joshua Bellin
Aug 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Not one of Douglass's better written works--he was no fiction writer--this novella is historically interesting as one of the first works of fiction (if not the first) by an African-American writer, as well as a celebration of the life of Madison Washington, an enslaved man who led a shipboard revolt and was ultimately freed along with his fellow revolutionaries.
Teagan Potter
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An incredible read. Although fictional, Douglass sheds light on the biggest hurdles involving freedom and liberty. It’s a simple, short read with absolutely beautiful language. While having a seemingly relaxed tone, the time passes quickly while reading this novel. This is definitely a great introduction to American Literature and, specifically, the slave narrative.
Rebecca
Sep 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My only problem with this book is it's too short.

There's so much that could be expanded upon and make for a really wonderfully thrilling and heartbreaking full novel.

The story is great, I just wish there was more to it.
Jared
Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Enjoyed reading this and viewing it in relation to douglas’s non-fiction abolitionist works
maya
Sep 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: classics
3.5
Rebecca Carlson
Dec 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 Read for school.
Brett
Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
That. Prose. Though.
Darby
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.75
lark benobi
Jun 21, 2015 rated it liked it
Douglass writes scenes that feel like they're from a stage play. The characters speak in lengthy soliloquies. There is nothing real about the encounters between characters. Coincidence plays a high part in plot movement. In spite of all these qualities The Heroic Slave is a moving read. Douglass's dignity and outrage both combine to elevate the language to an eloquence that marks all his writing. But I could almost feel Douglass's growing frustration with the constraints of fiction as he wrote. ...more
Sasha
Feb 18, 2016 rated it liked it
Though it's a fantastic read about liberation from slavery and, therefore, the ability of a man to redefine his humanity by breaking away from the objectification of slavery, I still have a problem with one thing. I don't like the dramatic extent to which Mr. Listwell's character was used so as to find the main character's humanity. It almost takes away from Madison's power of freeing himself because the story makes it seem like Madison was helpless without Listwell. At times it feels more like ...more
Megan
Apr 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book gives in to a lot of deep thinking. It is great to read to help everyone somewhat understand slavery from a slaves shoes. I think everyone should take the time to read this book because it will cause them to think twice about their actions and check themselves for any racism that might have taken root in their life.
Laura
May 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to-buy
I loved this, it was such a good short story and i am sad this is Douglass's only work of fiction. It was a very interesting story because it is a story about slavery told from a white person point of view, which says a lot about the target audience at the time it was written. It was such a interesting and intriguing story that i think everyone should read.
Tyrone Harbert
Jul 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This short story was awesome! I only wish that THIS was required reading in schools rather than Uncle Toms Cabin! The story is well written and a great example written by a former slave..I could not say enough about this great work of literature.
Nathan Reiber
Apr 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
It's Frederick Douglass - 'nuff said.
Leah
Sep 08, 2008 is currently reading it
Well, re-reading for diss. work
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Frederick Douglass (né Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey) was born a slave in the state of Maryland in 1818. After his escape from slavery, Douglass became a renowned abolitionist, editor and feminist. Having escaped from slavery at age 20, he took the name Frederick Douglass for himself and became an advocate of abolition. Douglass traveled widely, and often perilously, to lecture against slav ...more

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