Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave

Book - 1989
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Random House, Inc.
This dramatic autobiography of the early life of an American slave was first published in 1845, when its young author had just achieved his freedom. Douglass' eloquence gives a clear indication of the powerful principles that led him to become the first great African-American leader in the United States.

Baker & Taylor
The personal account of a fugitive slave's privation and sufferings and his campaigns for Negro emancipation

Publisher: New York : Anchor Books, 1989
Edition: Anchor Books ed
ISBN: 9780385007054
Branch Call Number: 973.8092 DO
Characteristics: xxiv, 124 p. : facsim. ; 21 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Mar 02, 2020

What adjectives can yet be left to extoll upon Frederick Douglass’s 1845 “Narrative”? Eloquent, penetrating, harrowing, profound, inspirational … It is all these and infinitely more. What makes his story so powerful, however, is the clarity, the starkness, the frank, candid nature of his prose. Dramatic though the events of his life were, this is not a tale dramatically told. But neither is it cold and unemotional. Rather, Douglass speaks plainly — and movingly — of the events of his life, the horrors of slavery to which he was both witness and victim, the effects of the institution on slave and slaveholder alike, and the hypocrisy of a Christian religion that abides it.

I have but two small gripes. First, considering its publication just seven years after escaping bondage, Douglass’s status as a fugitive slave, and his desire to protect himself and those who might otherwise be adversely affected by the disclosure of certain details, there is an unwanted amount of self-redaction throughout. Douglass makes clear the reasons for this, all wholly warranted and understandable, but that doesn’t keep them, including the story of his escape and journey from Maryland to New York, from being missed. Second, I’m no melodramatist, but there was a part of me that longed for Douglass to abandon his measured tone and raise his voice, to scream out, lash out, wail and rage against his oppressors, against the system, against those who would rather turn a blind eye.

Of course, that would have been a colossal blunder, and both Douglass and his publishers no doubt understood this. As it happened, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave” became one of the most influential pieces of literature to fuel the abolitionist movement. It remains to this day an essential read, not just for a historical understanding of the atrocities of slavery, but for the stirring account of one man’s capacity to overcome.

IndyPL_SteveB Dec 30, 2018

If you think you understand American slavery and you haven’t read this book, you’re missing a large chunk of knowledge. This is a classic book that should be read by every American, because the legacy of the South’s “Peculiar Institution” is still with us in the hate and prejudice of today’s American culture. It’s not difficult to read but it is full of emotional power.

In this book, Douglass describes the torturous conditions of life on a Maryland plantation where he was born a slave, where beatings, rape, and execution were common, and where fear and mental dullness were the daily norm. When he was seven years old, young Frederick was sold to a couple in Baltimore. Young Frederick became obsessed with learning to read, an ability he subsequently gained by trading food from his master’s house for knowledge from poor white boys in the neighborhood. After several years in relative peace in Baltimore, his master died and he was returned to one of the most inhumane Maryland plantations as a field worker. After surviving two years of this, he was fortunate to be returned to Baltimore, from which he escaped to New York in 1838. He eventually became one of the most powerful voices in the American movement to abolish slavery, which led to the American Civil War.

Nov 07, 2018

it wes a good book and i wood recommend it

Nov 07, 2018

it was good. i find leaning about this time period interesting.

Nov 07, 2018

I thought the book was very inspiring and had a good message. Fredrick's life was something I thought about for days and how some of the problems he was struggling with is what some black men in America still deal with today. The way the book was written and worded was very well done too. He didn't sugar code anything, and basically just said "this is what happened and this is true." The way he learned to read and build himself into a self made man was incredible. I loved the book and would definitely read more by him/about him.

Nov 07, 2018

i didnt like it tho ive read like 10 books on this dude so that might have a affect.and audiobook man was monotone.

Nov 07, 2018

This book, while painfully honest, is a viewpoint on American Slavery that everyone needs to see. Fredrick Douglass' story is eye-opening and important. I would suggest this book to anyone over 12, because of some of the content/imagery.

Sep 24, 2018

I don't know what three stars even means, or why I assigned this great book such a piddly rating...but it's star-less. Unstarrable. I read this 20 years ago and still think about it often. Some of the images Douglass paints are still burned into my mind's eye, especially the one of a pen fitting into the cracks in his soles.

robhoma Mar 31, 2014

When studying slavery in American History, students are often exposed to the arguments of Abolitionists and the defense of the peculiar institution by Southerners. The narrative by Frederick Douglass gives a voice to the slaves. The book is 124 pages long and very quick to read. You can also download this book from the internet, for free, at Project Gutenberg. The difference is that this version has a ten-page introduction by Peter Gomes.


Add Age Suitability
Nov 07, 2018

DEATHNINJA64 thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 1 and 1

Bard17 Jun 21, 2013

Bard17 thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 13 and 13

black_dog_4693 Mar 19, 2012

black_dog_4693 thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 10 and 12


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at OCFPL

To Top