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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (The Autobiographies #1)

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  65,996 Ratings  ·  2,819 Reviews
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave
Paperback, 124 pages
Published April 3rd 1963 by Anchor Books (first published 1845)
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  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
    Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
    by
    Release date: Apr 13, 1995
    Former slave, impassioned abolitionist, brilliant writer, newspaper editor and eloquent orator whose speeches fired the abolitionist cause, Frederick ...more

    Format: Print book

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    Availability: 10 copies available, 1861 people requesting

    Giveaway dates: Sep 01 - Sep 30, 2017

    Countries available: US

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    Amani Clark-Bey This is a great book but he should of gave some more information on some specific topics. They should of gave more information on how they whipped…moreThis is a great book but he should of gave some more information on some specific topics. They should of gave more information on how they whipped him. People need to know what he truly went through. He just didn't become a leader over day. They need some more information on here. Let's just give some more information on this topic.(less)

    Community Reviews

    (showing 1-30)
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    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 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.
    Bookdragon Sean
    "Once you learn to read you will forever be free"

    This is 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, th
    ...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 21, 2015 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
    Jason Koivu
    Sep 10, 2011 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
    James
    Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Shelves: 1-fiction
    Book Review
    I first read the biographical introduction about Frederick Douglass and learned many new things. I knew he wrote a few autobiographies, but I never knew that he spanned them over 40 years of writing and that he lived for close to 80 years. I then read both the preface by Garrison and the letter to Douglas. They were excellent introductions to the narrative by Frederick Douglass. They set the mood and get you ready to experience a whole new set of emotions when you read Douglass’ L
    ...more
    Petra Eggs
    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
    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 08, 2014 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
    Feb 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Recommended to Zanna by: Paul
    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
    Jul 11, 2008 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
    Craig Johnson
    Jan 30, 2008 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
    Jim
    Apr 28, 2009 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
    Douglas Wilson
    Feb 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
    Well written & moving.
    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
    Shaun
    Jan 21, 2015 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.
    Angela Blount
    Candid, brutal, and entrancingly descriptive. This book is an absolute must for anyone seeking a better understanding of the “institution” of slavery in America.

    Douglass' prose is the literary equivalent of a velvet-sheathed hammer—smoothly elegant, yet incredibly powerful. He had a real gift for drawing analogies and eliciting deeper comprehension. This very personal account is difficult to ingest, but even more difficult to put down.

    It’s somewhat tempting to compare Douglass’ narrative to Book
    ...more
    Dale
    Jul 07, 2012 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
    Dec 08, 2012 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.
    Amy
    Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
    Recommends it for: everyone
    Do yourself a favor and read this book. It’s only 128 pages, and it’s one of the most powerful and important works of American literature that you’ve probably never read. It was very instrumental in the abolitionist movement that eventually led to the US Civil War and the eradication of slavery. It should be required high school reading even though it’s harsh, violent, and contains coarse language--really BECAUSE it’s harsh, violent, and contains coarse language.

    Sometimes history needs to be ex
    ...more
    Amber
    May 22, 2013 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
    Jesse
    Sep 07, 2007 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
    Dan
    Aug 31, 2013 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
    Erica
    I became interested in Frederick Douglass in high school, for the most shallow of reasons: I saw his picture in my history book and thought he was awfully cute.
    Since then, he's popped up here and there throughout my life and whatever I learn about him is fascinating.
    His narrative is no different, he seems to be an inspiring, strong, amazing person!
    I wish I could have met him.
    Eugenie
    Jan 03, 2015 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
    Feb 21, 2015 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 21, 2013 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
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    Douglass' abolitionism sexist? 13 90 Apr 18, 2017 11:57AM  
    What is unique about Douglas's writing? 6 57 Mar 04, 2017 04:28PM  
    Play Book Tag: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass 2 10 Sep 15, 2016 07:12AM  
    Well Trained Mind...: #12 - The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass 21 14 Jul 07, 2015 08:10AM  
    • Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
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    • The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
    • W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1919
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    • American Slavery, American Freedom
    • The Education of Henry Adams
    • Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells
    • Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery
    • Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion
    • The Strange Career of Jim Crow
    • Ar'n't I a Woman?: Female Slaves in the Plantation South
    • The Marrow of Tradition
    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.” 219 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.” 74 likes
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