A new one-volume edition of an American classic offers the complete memoirs of the eloquent escaped slave, who in the nineteenth century shaped the abolitionist movement and became the most influential African-American of his era.
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In the extreme context of the American slavocracy, how do we account for the robust subjectivity and agency of Frederick Douglass? In an environment of extremity, where most contemporary psychological theory suggests the human spirit would be vanquished, how did Frederick Douglass emerge to become one of the most prolific thinkers of the 19th century? To address this question, this book engages in a psychoanalytic examination of all four of Frederick Douglass’ autobiographies. Danjuma Gibson examines when, how, and why Douglass tells his story in the manner he does, how his story shifts and takes shape with each successive autobiography, and the resulting psychodynamic, pastoral, and practical theological implications.
One of the greatest works of American autobiography, in a definitive Library of America text: Published seven years after his escape from slavery, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845) is a powerful account of the cruelty and oppression of the Maryland plantation culture into which Frederick Douglass was born. It brought him to the forefront of the antislavery movement and drew thousands, black and white, to the cause. Written in part as a response to skeptics who refused to believe that so articulate an orator could ever have been a slave, the Narrative reveals the eloquence and fierce intelligence that made Douglass a brilliantly effective spokesman for abolition and equal rights, as he shapes an inspiring vision of self-realization in the face of unimaginable odds.
“A detailed, finely written portrait of the imposing 19th-century leader.” —David Levering Lewis, New York Times Book Review Born into but escaped from slavery, Frederick Douglass—orator, journalist, autobiographer; revolutionary on behalf of a just America—was a towering figure, at once consummately charismatic and flawed. His Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845) galvanized the antislavery movement and is one of the truly seminal works of African-American literature. In this Lincoln Prize– winning biography, William S. McFeely captures the many sides of Douglass— his boyhood on the Chesapeake; his self-education; his rebellion and rising expectations; his marriage, affairs, and intense friendships; his bitter defeat and transcendent courage—and re-creates the high drama of a turbulent era.
Tracing the development of Frederick Douglass's rhetorical skills, this book discusses the effect of his oratory upon his era, and analyzes the specific oratorical techniques he employed.
Recounts how Frederick Douglass learned to read, despite the fact that it was illegal to educate a slave
"A brief introduction to the life of Frederick Douglass, the public speaker and editor who worked to end slavery in the United States"--Provided by publisher.
If the volume now presented to the public were a mere work of ART, the history of its misfortune might be written in two very simple words—TOO LATE. The nature and character of slavery have been subjects of an almost endless variety of artistic representation; and after the brilliant achievements in that field, and while those achievements are yet fresh in the memory of the million, he who would add another to the legion, must possess the charm of transcendent excellence, or apologize for something worse than rashness. The reader is, therefore, assured, with all due promptitude, that his attention is not invited to a work of ART, but to a work of FACTS—Facts, terrible and almost incredible, it may be yet FACTS, nevertheless. I am authorized to say that there is not a fictitious name nor place in the whole volume; but that names and places are literally given, and that every transaction therein described actually transpired. Perhaps the best Preface to this volume is furnished in the following letter of Mr. Douglass, written in answer to my urgent solicitation for such a work: ROCHESTER, N. Y. July 2, 1855. DEAR FRIEND: I have long entertained, as you very well know, a somewhat positive repugnance to writing or speaking anything for the public, which could, with any degree of plausibilty, make me liable to the imputation of seeking personal notoriety, for its own sake. Entertaining that feeling very sincerely, and permitting its control, perhaps, quite unreasonably, I have often refused to narrate my personal experience in public anti-slavery meetings, and in sympathizing circles, when urged to do so by friends, with whose views and wishes, ordinarily, it were a pleasure to comply. In my letters and speeches, I have generally aimed to discuss the question of Slavery in the light of fundamental principles, and upon facts, notorious and open to all; making, I trust, no more of the fact of my own former enslavement, than circumstances seemed absolutely to require. I have never placed my opposition to slavery on a basis so narrow as my own enslavement, but rather upon the indestructible and unchangeable laws of human nature, every one of which is perpetually and flagrantly violated by the slave system. I have also felt that it was best for those having histories worth the writing—or supposed to be so—to commit such work to hands other than their own. To write of one's self, in such a manner as not to incur the imputation of weakness, vanity, and egotism, is a work within the ability of but few; and I have little reason to believe that I belong to that fortunate few. These considerations caused me to hesitate, when first you kindly urged me to prepare for publication a full account of my life as a slave, and my life as a freeman. Nevertheless, I see, with you, many reasons for regarding my autobiography as exceptional in its character, and as being, in some sense, naturally beyond the reach of those reproaches which honorable and sensitive minds dislike to incur. It is not to illustrate any heroic achievements of a man, but to vindicate a just and beneficent principle, in its application to the whole human family, by letting in the light of truth upon a system, esteemed by some as a blessing, and by others as a curse and a crime. I agree with you, that this system is now at the bar of public opinion—not only of this country, but of the whole civilized world—for judgment. Its friends have made for it the usual plea—"not guilty;" the case must, therefore, proceed. Any facts, either from slaves, slaveholders, or by-standers, calculated to enlighten the public mind, by revealing the true nature, character, and tendency of the slave system, are in order, and can scarcely be innocently withheld. I see, too, that there are special reasons why I should write my own biography, in preference to employing another to do it. Not only is slavery on trial, but unfortunately, the enslaved people are also on trial. It is alleged, that they are, naturally, inferior; that they are so low in the scale of humanity, and so utterly stupid, that they are unconscious of their wrongs, and do not apprehend their rights. Looking, then, at your request, from this stand-point, and wishing everything of which you think me capable to go to the benefit of my afflicted people, I part with my doubts and hesitation, and proceed to furnish you the desired manuscript; hoping that you may be able to make such arrangements for its publication as shall be best adapted to accomplish that good which you so enthusiastically anticipate.
Born into slavery, Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth achieved freedom and historical importance during their lives. Dedicated to the welfare of their race and to the equality of all people, they earned their places in history through powerful words and deeds. What was life like for these slaves? How did they achieve greatness? Read these biographies to find out.