Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

by Frederick Douglass, Robert G. O'Meally

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&&LDIV&&R&&LDIV&&R&&LDIV&&R&&LI&&RNarrative of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave&&L/I&&R, by &&LB&&RFrederick Douglass&&L/B&&R, is part of the &&LI&&RBarnes & Noble Classics&&L/I&&R&&LI&&R &&L/I&&Rseries, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of &&LI&&RBarnes & Noble Classics&&L/I&&R: &&LDIV&&R
  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. &&LI&&RBarnes & Noble Classics &&L/I&&Rpulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.&&L/DIV&&R&&L/DIV&&R&&L/DIV&&R&&LDIV&&R &&L/DIV&&R&&LDIV&&RNo book except perhaps &&LI&&RUncle Tom’s Cabin&&L/I&&R had as powerful an impact on the abolitionist movement as &&LI&&RNarrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass&&L/I&&R. But while Stowe wrote about imaginary characters, Douglass’s book is a record of his own remarkable life. &&LP&&RBorn a slave in 1818 on a plantation in Maryland, Douglass taught himself to read and write. In 1845, seven years after escaping to the North, he published &&LI&&RNarrative&&L/I&&R, the first of three autobiographies. This book calmly but dramatically recounts the horrors and the accomplishments of his early years—the daily, casual brutality of the white masters; his painful efforts to educate himself; his decision to find freedom or die; and his harrowing but successful escape. &&LP&&RAn astonishing orator and a skillful writer, Douglass became a newspaper editor, a political activist, and an eloquent spokesperson for the civil rights of African Americans. He lived through the Civil War, the end of slavery, and the beginning of segregation. He was celebrated internationally as the leading black intellectual of his day, and his story still resonates in ours.&&L/P&&R&&LP&&R&&LB&&RRobert O’Meally&&L/B&&R is Zora Neale Hurston Professor of Literature at Columbia University and the Director of Columbia University’s Center for Jazz Studies. He wrote the introduction and notes to the Barnes & Noble classics edition of &&LI&&RThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn&&L/I&&R.&&L/P&&R&&L/DIV&&R&&L/DIV&&R

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781411432765
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 06/01/2009
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 123,391
File size: 398 KB
Age Range: 3 Months to 18 Years

About the Author


Tuckahoe, Maryland

Date of Birth:


Date of Death:

February 20, 1895

Place of Death:

Washington, D.C.

Read an Excerpt

From Robert O'Meally's Introduction to Narrative of the Life Frederick Douglass, An American Slave

Crossing Over: Frederick Douglass’s Run for Freedom
The very first time I assigned Frederick Douglass’s Narrative was in the fall of 1972, in Boston, Massachusetts, when I was teaching a high school equivalency night-course for working adults. I remember the occasion well because one of the students complained to the school director that I was teaching hate. The class had met only once, and we had not yet discussed the book at all, so this student, a white nurse’s aide in her late twenties, directed her protest against the fiery book itself, which she took to be an attack upon her and all white people in America.

In a peculiarly American turn of events, the director, who like me was an African American, happened also to be one of my friends and hallmates at Harvard, where we both were working on our doctorates. In the night-school’s hallway, he told me about the complaint with a long, stern face, and then closed his office door so we could laugh until we nearly fell to the floor. “Ole Brother Douglass is still working them roots,” he said, sliding into the vernacular once we could speak in private. “Go easy on the lady,” he went on. “Gentle her into the twentieth century.”

At that time Douglass was not considered a canonical American author, though he did sometimes turn up in surveys of nineteenth-century writing and in courses with titles like “The Negro in American Literature.” The revolution in black literary studies was just beginning to catch fire; but still at Harvard, for example, there was no course in black literature offered at the graduate level, and the one such undergraduate course, in which I was a teaching assistant, was offered by a linguist through the Afro-American Studies Department. (It was an excellent course.) So it was not a shock that this young woman, a few years older than I and not yet a high school graduate, had never heard of Frederick Douglass. What was surprising was that this slender volume, with its antique figures of speech and rhetorical strategies (as well as literary structures that were so modern they seem to have influenced such creators of modern writing as Hemingway eighty years later) would strike her as so current in its potency that she wanted to swing back at it.

Part of the answer to the mystery of her response is that many of white Boston’s citizenry in the early seventies were literally up in arms against the “forced bussing” to and from schools and neighborhoods that had been as firmly closed to blacks and members of other groups considered unwelcome as were their counterparts in Mississippi or Alabama. No doubt my student was as unaccustomed to a black teacher as she was to a black author. (What on earth went through her mind when she discovered that the program director was black, too?!)

Does not this woman’s bewildered anger indicate that although the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave existed as a mightily effective political weapon, it is much more than a political weapon, which might have dulled over time? That it is also a work of art whose sentences, with their careful twists and balances and their high-speed locomotive drive, continue to evoke a direct, visceral response? Doubtless she felt the power of the book’s stark, biblical last-first/first-last language: the reverse-English of a man belonging to the group counted last in the American social hierarchy but who nonetheless became a leader of his people—meaning (though clearly my student did not realize it) not just blacks but all Americans and indeed all who love freedom.

With his Narrative, Douglass succeeded in offering his readers, and eventually also historians of American life, an unassailably reliable record of slavery from the viewpoint of one who had been enslaved. (It is important to realize that Douglass could not afford to exaggerate or get any name or detail wrong lest the proponents of slavery leap to declare him a fraud, as they were eager to do in the case of such an accomplished former slave.) But the book also brilliantly performed the aesthetic task of a work of art in depicting how it feels to be a human locked in a struggle against tyrannical odds for freedom and culture; a man seeking a place in a world where no place looks like home. In other words, yes, Douglass was still working those roots.

Douglass’s book lures its reader through the unrelenting power of its narrative line—perhaps literature’s most irresistible force. It is driven by impulses evidently built into the reflex and bone structure of Homo sapiens, the animal that wants a story. Douglass shapes his story to resonate with certain mythic patterns in the modern world. The Douglass of this narrative is a poor lost boy a long way from home, one who has no home to miss or to which he can return. With no place and nothing to call his own, no name, no birthday, no mother to whom he feels closely attached, no father to nurture or even to acknowledge him, this scarred and battered slave boy is an exile in the land of his birth. What Douglass the hero does not invoke is a sense of special honor or privilege based on lineage. He knows little about his past—either of his unknown white father’s side or his mother’s—and, even if he did, could make no claim to either side. This aligns him with many of America’s dispossessed immigrants, black and nonblack, who either were brought to the New World as slaves or who came here under dire economic distress. Having virtually nothing more than his own health, strength, will, and a strong sense that God’s mysterious power is on his side, Douglass’s task in the new land will be to improvise—that is, not just to find but to help create—a new way of life, a home at last.

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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 343 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In reading Frederick's narrative it truly teaches you about the life inside slavery and how powerful the faith of a person can be to escape the evil of the world. He writes so well and I will always remember his story because it has inspired me.
Rubyrasc More than 1 year ago
This Narrative was amazing. His writing was clear and easy to understand. I could not put this book down and read it in one day because it takes you back to that time and paints a vivid picture of the horrors of slavery. This special book will stay close to my heart forever and I will definitely pass it down to my future children. Although it is a bit short, it is worth it and makes a great addition to any book lovers book shelf!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Our assignment in English class was to find a book written by an American author before World War II. In order to find a book, I went to Barnes and Noble. The man that helped me find a book recommended many books, but this one stood out in my mind. He said that this book was very interesting and eye-opening. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, and American Slave is about a colored man named Frederick Douglas and his life journey as a slave. The book goes into detail about the events Frederick had to overcome like learning to read and write, the horrible sites he had to see, and the tough situations he had to go through. This book is a fairly easy read and hooks the audience in a touching and thrilling way. This non-fiction narrative is a great book that allows readers to understand and walk in the shoes of slaves centuries ago. It makes readers think about their own lives and how lucky they are to have what they have. "You will be free as soon as you are twenty-one, but I AM A SLAVE FOR LIFE!" (page 44)
Jackkeg More than 1 year ago
To not have read this book is to have missed an important part of our history. The writings of a former slave with the perspective that knowledge brings and the expressions of freedom heretofore unknown. A moving read and a true picture of the life of the average slave in the south. Not for the faint of heart.
GeoffreyC More than 1 year ago
This was the first first-person narrative on slavery I had read. Douglass' writing style is great. He presents his material in a factual, yet riveting manner. I could not put this book down. I learned so much more about the era than I ever have through textbooks.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a short interesting read, easy enough to finish while on a plane ride. The book highlights some of the various details in Douglass's life as a slave. If you're looking for more detail, I would suggest starting with this book, then moving on to Douglass's other narrative (later published) "My Bondage. . ."
Guest More than 1 year ago
My name is Jane, and I am a student at Parkview High school. I have been taught about slavery in many past history classes. As I read this book about Frederick Douglass, my view of slavery was moved tremendously. Douglass explains the horror and cruelty of slavery in every chapter of this book. As a child, he witnessed a brutal whipping that his aunt encountered. From this point on, he realizes what slavery truly is and how it dehumanizes African Americans. Douglass was moved from being a plantation slave to a house slave when he was under the age of 10. He enjoyed the life as a house slave because he was treated more like a human-being. However, this did not last long. The mistress, Mrs. Auld, who taught him how to read and write also turned into a cruel slave owner when Mr. Auld showed her the dangers of educating a slave. Douglass, however, continued to learn how to read and write. By his consistency, Douglass accomplished his dream and became a free man. The topic of slavery should not be lightly comprehended. Although, I am not able to put my feet in Douglass' shoes, he truly is an inspirational writer that not only touched me but the hearts of thousands across the world.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In this very exquisite slave narrative by Frederick Douglass, the reader is immersed into a first-person perspective account of slavery. Frederick Douglass was a writer and speaker who was very involved with abolitionism. Douglass was born into slavery under his mother Harriett Bailey. Like most slaves living back then, Frederick Douglass was separated from his mother at a young age. Controversially, his father is implied to be his master Captain Anthony. At just seven years old, Douglass was sold to the distant relative of Captain Anthony, Hugh Auld, who lives in Baltimore, where Douglass lives a more leisurely life than before at first. Auld¿s wife Sophia has never owned a slave since Douglass and therefore had no idea how it worked, so she was surprisingly more sympathetic toward him however, as time goes on, Sophia become less kindlier and eventually becomes crueler along with her husband. In correlation with this, Douglass learns how to read and becomes more aware of the evils of slavery and abolitionism. After the ending of Captain Anthony¿s family line, Douglass is sent to serve Thomas Auld. Douglass becomes unmanageable and uncomfortably resistant as a slave. Then, he was sent to Edward Covey, who was known for breaking slaves to a point where any resistant is futile by means of cruel punishment. However, there was a huge fight between Covey and Douglass later on that result in Covey leaving Douglass alone. Douglass is then sent to William Freeland and begins educating other blacks and plots an escape but is betrayed by a friend and gets sent back to Thomas Auld who sends him back to Hugh Auld to learn ship caulking. In Baltimore, he experienced many racist situations with his coworkers, sometime turning violent. Even through these trials and tribulations, he earns a very decent profit that he turns to his master. Bit by bit, he receives what money he can make in his free time and escapes to New York and ends up marrying Anna Murray, a woman of Baltimore decent. Douglass¿s life is then written into this biography.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This narrative is a fundamental element in the history of our nation, in one of its darkest times. Douglass is sold and 'broken in' to the slave lifestyle very cruelly, being whipped and beaten. When he is 'broken in' he loses all previous desire to try and escape from his fate, and becomes apathetic to everything. Only when he is sold again, this time to a kinder keeper, does he realize that if he can share the education he learned as a child, and pass it on to others he can start an escape plan. Due to his knowledge he receives a higher position, and eventually begins to earn wages for the work he carries out. Now saving all the money he earns, he is able to buy his own freedom, escape to New York City, and get married. The narrative highlights the fact that it was only though the un education of slaves that white owners felt they had the power. If one became educated, like Douglass, they were able to escape, gain support, or buy their way out of from their oppressive lives.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Personally, this was not the most exciting book I have ever read on slavery but I do thin it is important to let one express their opinion, especially first hand knowledge. Frederick gives a detailed tale about his life, but it is not one that I had fun digging into. This book is good to be taught in the classroom as a fundemental part to share apart of one's own culture and experiences with the rest of the world, but I do think this book is over rated a bit.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The autobiography of an African American slave before the Civil War. Beautifully, simply told. Last few pages a disappointing screed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The amazing story of someone born in chains, self educated, who educated others and wanted freedom so bad -- he attained it. Who became an orator for the Abolitionist Movement. This is a man who squared shoulders with Lincoln on the Emancipation Proclamation. This story describes how he helped himself, his race, and his Nation.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great read, but it wouldn't hurt to have some of the imperfections corrected...sometimes it gets a bit confusing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I reckamend this book for every person
Mzdooly More than 1 year ago
This book demonstrated faith, strength, and ambition. Enjoyed this book alot.
cookiebookie More than 1 year ago
As a devoted, long term scholar of the Civil War era I find this book invaluable. For the scope of the time leading up to the war itself this work sheds a great light. That Frederick Douglas triumphed over such painful beginnings is another of a long line of such stories but is important for any civil war library for what it brings to the discussion on "why", "who for" and the "worth" of that great struggle toward eventual emancipation. This particular edition was affordable and adequately presented.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book Frederick Douglass, gives us a descrpitive image on how they were threated. The book is so emotional and it mke us appreciate our freedom that we have now..And it makes you feel proud for his accomplisments and depress for his losses. I recomend this book to every one...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book, written so thoughtfully and articulately describes the horrific existence and unthinkable life those in slavery had very little choice but to endure. The courage required to escape to freedom cannot be adequately appreciated without personally experiencing it. Douglass vividly paints the picture from his first hand experience and this is a captivating account if our country's worst hour....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Frederick Douglas was a Baaad Dude! This book was totally awesome. I gave it to my kids to read. It should be required reading for High School Lit.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ok, I'll read it on your "recommendation". Love history shnarker.
Kerstin Sweeney More than 1 year ago
I read this in college and its a really good book. Most of the time school's give you boring books to read but i enjoyed this one a lot. It makes you understand what slaves went through, and how much he had to overcome inn his life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a good and informative read. I found out just how resilient a man (slave) can be in order to succeed even under the worse circumstances and this can be applied to life today - just when you think things can't get any worse, they sometimes do, but you gotta keep fighting - great book cl10801
Sir_Robert More than 1 year ago
A really good book, one I enjoyed reading cover to cover.
Cavjei More than 1 year ago
One of the most famous slave narratives, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, details the life of one of the most active abolitionists to have ever lived. It is the moving story of how one man lived, up until his decision to flee northward. An excellent read, overall.