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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave Written By Himself Paperback – February 8, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up-This classic text in both American literature and American history is read by Pete Papageorge with deliberation and simplicity, allowing the author's words to bridge more than 160 years to today's listeners. Following a stirring preface by William Lloyd Garrison (who, nearly 20 years after he first met Douglass, would himself lead the black troops fighting from the North in the Civil War), the not-yet-30-year-old author recounts his life's story, showing effective and evocative use of language as well as unflinchingly examining many aspects of the Peculiar Institution of American Slavery. Douglass attributes his road to freedom as beginning with his being sent from the Maryland plantation of his birth to live in Baltimore as a young boy. There, he learned to read and, more importantly, learned the power of literacy. In early adolescence, he was returned to farm work, suffered abuse at the hands of cruel overseers, and witnessed abuse visited on fellow slaves. He shared his knowledge of reading with a secret "Sunday school" of 40 fellow slaves during his last years of bondage. In his early 20's, he ran away to the North and found refuge among New England abolitionists. Douglass, a reputed orator, combines concrete description of his circumstances with his own emerging analysis of slavery as a condition. This recording makes his rich work available to those who might feel encumbered by the printed page and belongs as an alternative in all school and public library collections.
Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"None so dramatically as Douglass integrated both the horror and the great quest of the African-American experience into the deep stream of American autobiography. He advanced and extended that tradition and is rightfully designated one of its greatest practitioners." John W. Blassingame, from the introduction"

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 1.9.2001 edition (February 8, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300087012
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300087017
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (643 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #233,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Adirondack Views on March 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
I often believe it is easy to criticize nineteenth century Americans for not stepping up to the plate regarding the issue of slavery and race in America. Jefferson may well have agonized over the issue he called the "death knell of the nation" and which he labeled a "neccessary evil." Certainly he benefitted by the ownership of nearly 300 slaves, but he grew up in a world in which slavery was the norm. It takes a revoutionary and remarkable man to truly stand against the only world he knows and move to create a different world, so I usually defend Jefferson and his political vision which clearly transcended that world.
Reading Frederick Douglass, however, makes me wonder how anyone with firsthand knowledge of the institution could not see the obvious pain and cruelty which existed right in front of his or her eyes. Douglass's narrative, and particularly his descriptions of the slave trade in Baltimore and the obvious place of the whip (whether used or not) as the principal vehicle of social control argues most eloquently that though the slave system may have been a social norm, the blinders had to be unbelievably thick not to see the horrors that the institution wrought. The relationship of slave and master perpetuated a most un-American (at least in terms of our professed values--cf. Douglass's later antislavery orations) tyranny and oppression. Douglass's narrative testifies that our ancestors could have seen much more and done much more and that 600,000 lives and a subsequent 120 years of racial schism and pain was too much a price to bear for the peculiar institution.
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122 of 135 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on February 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
Frederick Douglass's auto biography is about him as a kid and partially as an adult. I think it is a good book because it describes the harshness of slavery. I also think it is an interesting way to be informed.

It is an excellent source of information. It has a vivid description of the work fields and how it feels to see a family member being ruthlessly whipped. It also gives you a feeling you are talking to Frederick himself. It suddenly makes you aware of the relationship between you and him. Everybody probably has a relation with him ranging from skin tones to hardship. We all have at least one if not 2or3 similarities.

I think that this book is not for children younger than 9 because it has intense parts about naughty haywire masters. It is for the type of person who likes history . When you are reading this book, you may understand why people started the civil war. I think it made people start the civil war because they read this book and got very angry at slavery. Also I think it made the masters mad. That may have also started the civil war

Nathaniel age 9
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87 of 95 people found the following review helpful By Eric H. Roth on March 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
This fiery autobiography, written as anti-slavery propaganda, told of his struggle to gain freedom, identified his "owner", and became a 19th century national bestseller. Long before Uncle Tom's Cabin opened the eyes of sentimental Northerners to the evils of slavery, Douglass' chronicle inspired the small abolitionist movement and challenged the conscience of the United States to live up to the heroic ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence... "all men are created equal."
The publication of this masterpiece also forced Douglass into exile in England for two years to avoid capture by slave traders. British supporters eventually "purchased" Douglass allowing this great American to return to the United States and live in freedom.
While the battle against slavery was won almost 150 years ago, this autobiography's remains a very powerful tool against racism, ignorance, and historical amnesia. Douglass links his quest for literacy with his need to be treated as a man - and become a free man. This book should be required reading, for all American schoolchildren, in the middle school and excerpts should be constantly used in high school and college courses. Adult literacy centers should find this story a powerful inspiration too.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By James Yanni on December 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
Anyone who wishes to be considered at all educated in the history of the United States MUST read this book. The period of this history is absolutely critical to an understanding of the country both before and after that time, as well, obviously, as during that time. And without reading the account of this great American of his experiences, one can not, truly, understand that time period.
Granted, there will be those who will argue, "But why should we need to read an anti-slavery tract; there's no one alive now who would argue in favor of slavery, or deny that it was a great evil. To read a book whose primary purpose was to convince people of what is now considered obvious is pointless." But the same argument could be used to apply to reading a biography of George Washington, or Thomas Jefferson. Most of the issues that were important to them are currently decided, and decided in their favor. Yet it is still considered neccessary for an educated American to have at least a passing idea of the history of their lives.
The same is true of Frederick Douglass. The man risked his life for freedom, just as surely as did Patrick Henry, or any of the founding fathers, and his history is just as much a part of this country as theirs is; further, it is worth seeing just how literate a man born in slavery, not only self-taught, but self-taught on the sly, against every effort of his oppressors to stifle his education, can be. His facility for language is frankly better than 90% of modern Americans of any color, in spite of virtually universal education. He was a great man, and deserves to be recognized as such.
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