The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave was written by Frederick Douglass himself. He was born into slavery in Tuckahoe, Maryland in approximately 1817. He has, "…no accurate knowledge of my age, never having seen any authentic record containing it" (47). He became known as an eloquent speaker for the cause of the abolitionists. Having himself been kept as a slave until he escaped from Maryland in 1838, he was able to deliver very impassioned speeches about the role of the slave holders and the slaves. Many Northerners tried to discredit his tales, but no one was ever able to disprove his statements.
Frederick Douglass does offer a biased review of slavery, as he was born into it, yet even in his bias he is able to detect and detail the differences in the slave holders cruelty and that to which he was subjected. From being whipped and humiliated daily, "a very severe whipping… for being awkward" (101), to being able to find his own work and save some money, "I was able to command the highest wages given to the most experienced calkers" (134), he is able to give the reader a more true picture of slavery. His poignant speeches raised the ire of many Northerners, yet many still felt the slaves deserved their position in life. Douglass, for his own safety, was urged to travel to England where he stayed and spoke until 1847 when he returned to the U.S. to buy his freedom. At that point, he began to write and distribute an anti-slavery newspaper called "The North Star". Not only did he present news to the slaves, but it was also highly regarded as a good source of information for those opposed to slavery.
During the Civil war, Doug...
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...thony]" (49). The slave holder was not above satisfying his sexual urges by the usage of black slaves.
The book was easily digested and powerful yet Douglass softened the tone by not becoming
graphic when he had every right to do so. This was the first publication of the book and it would be interesting to see how much "gentler" he was by the third rewrite. Published by the Anti Slavery Committee, it was definitely biased against the slave holder but Douglass seemed to write fairly of his experiences especially since he was able to relate both good and bad experiences with his slave owners.
Douglass’ words sum it up the best, "You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man." (107)
Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. New York: Barnes & Noble Classics, 2003.
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