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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave & Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Modern Library Classics) Mass Market Paperback – December 28, 2004


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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave & Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Modern Library Classics) + Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War + For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War
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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Classics
  • Mass Market Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; Reprint edition (December 28, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345478231
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345478238
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #118,867 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

This Modern Library Paperback Classics edition combines the two most important African American slave narratives into one volume.

Frederick Douglass's Narrative, first published in 1845, is an enlightening and incendiary text. Born into slavery, Douglass became the preeminent spokesman for his people during his life; his narrative is an unparalleled account of the dehumanizing effects of slavery and Douglass's own triumph over it. Like Douglass, Harriet Jacobs was born into slavery, and in 1861 she published Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, now recognized as the most comprehensive antebellum slave narrative written by a woman. Jacobs's account broke the silence on the exploitation of African American female slaves, and it remains crucial reading. These narratives illuminate and inform each other. This edition includes an incisive Introduction by Kwame Anthony Appiah and extensive annotations. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Kwame Anthony Appiah teaches at Princeton University. His works include In My Father’s House and Cosmopolitanism.

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 14 customer reviews
It's a touching story.
Bookalaka
A peculiar institution, ordained by God, good for the slave and slaveholder alike.
T
I highly recommend this book for several reasons.
Sam A.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Mazza HALL OF FAME on October 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
"Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass" (first published in 1845) and Harriet Jacobs' "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" (1861) are probably the two most powerful examples of the slave narrative. This literary form represents the first-person accounts of individuals who have lived as slaves. The Modern Library has paired these two essential American texts in a single edition, with an introduction by Kwame Anthony Appiah and commentaries by Jean Fagan Yellin and Margaret Fuller.
Together, "Narrative" and "Incidents" offer a male and female perspective on the institution that has left lasting scars on America. These texts are well written, and rich in social and political insights. Both authors graphically illustrate, for example, how the Judeo-Christan Bible and the Christian church were used as tools to support the racist system of slavery. Douglass provides a powerful window into the importance of literacy as a tool by which he escaped a slave mentality. And Jacobs incisively deconstructs the twisted strands of race, gender, power, and sexuality that tied together slaveowning culture.
"Narrative" and "Incidents" are compelling pieces of literature. Moreover, the authors' themes can be seen as foundational for many later works of United States literature: Mark Twain's "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," Toni Morrison's "Beloved," Octavia Butler's "Kindred," and many other texts. Even a popular film like "The Matrix" echoes the slave narratives in some aspects.
Douglass and Jacobs are prime examples of writers who superbly combined literary craftsmanship with an intense political commitment. Their achievements make them crucial figures in the field of African-American studies. This combined edition of their outstanding books should be celebrated by teachers, students, reading groups, church study groups, and individual readers.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Sam A. on May 14, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, by Harriet Ann Jacobs, is a first-hand account of the author's life as a slave in the early 1800's. It is also a thrilling story of Jacobs's incredible struggle to gain her freedom. The memoir begins in North Carolina when Jacobs is born into slavery in 1813, and takes her, as a young adult, to New York and Massachusetts. Using the pseudonym Linda Brent, Jacobs tells her harrowing story in a powerful voice that the reader cannot forget. What makes Jacobs's account unique is that she writes about the horrors of slavery from a female perspective, as a young woman and as a mother.

Both of Jacob's parents were light-skinned mulatto slaves, and so was she. Jacobs was bright and articulate, and she had a strong, independent spirit. Although she writes that "human slaveholders" were "like angels' visits--few and far between," she did meet a few kind white people during her hard life. One of them, her first mistress, taught Jacobs to read and spell. That ability, which was forbidden to most slaves under penalty of severe punishment, gave Jacobs self-esteem and helped her to persevere in the face of horrible adversity. In Frederick Douglass's Narrative of his life as a slave, he also explains how learning to read and write gave him the hope and inspiration he needed to turn away from despair and reach for a better life.

During the course of Jacobs's memoir, she gives birth to two children, a son and then a daughter. At the birth of her daughter, instead of being joyful, Jacobs writes, "When they told me my new-born babe was a girl, my heart was heavier than it had ever been before. Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By T on June 7, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
These two books are sometimes very hard going, but essential reading for Americans. We probably tend to think about slavery very much in the abstract, when we even think about it, but these narratives make it painfully palpable and very human. In a way complementary to Akhil Reed Amar's brilliant description of the way slavery thoroughly corrupted the American political system (in his America's Constitution), these books reveal in detail the thoroughgoing and extraordinary moral perversion slaveholding caused in individual lives - to some extent those of slaves, but much more those of slave owners, poor southern whites, and complicit northerners. Of course we also see the brutality, horrors and deprivations of slave life.

Douglass' narrative is better known than Jacobs.' Among many other things, how he taught himself to write is a remarkable story of shrewdness and determination against all odds. Jacobs' was an appalling life of virtually constant sexual harassment from an early age, which was undoubtedly a normal situation for many female slaves. What she went through to escape it is hard to imagine, and her single-minded determination to see her children free is incredible. The picture she gives of the distortions slavery caused in slaveholding families - lecherous men unconstrained by law or convention, angry and vengeful wives, gossip and whispering among white and black children and adults, children sold by their fathers to get the family features and relations out of sight and mind, and the increasing corruption of individuals' characters this caused over time - again, hard going but essential reading. A peculiar institution, ordained by God, good for the slave and slaveholder alike. Indeed.
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