The standard list of the great names in American history – Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln – does not usually include the name of Frederick Douglass. Yet as this extraordinary autobiography reveals, Douglass’s courage, intelligence, moral character, and remarkable accomplishments certainly should place him in the foremost ranks of great Americans.
This moving, eloquently told first-person account of a man who was born and raised as a slave, made two attempts at escape before reaching freedom, educated himself against all odds, and went on to become a leading abolitionist and spokesperson for African Americans should be essential reading for anyone who truly wants to understand American history. In many powerfully expressive and unforgettable scenes, Douglass provides a detailed, eye-opening description of his life, and that of slaves generally, in antebellum Maryland. Even after 150 years it is still a shocking, riveting depiction of one of the most abusive systems of human oppression ever conceived. Yet almost more impressive than Douglass’s gift for conveying the stark terrors and daily humiliations of slavery is his perceptive understanding of its demeaning effects on slaveholders and overseers as well as the enslaved. Here was a way of life that degraded both whites and blacks.
Douglass’s description of his life after slavery is also full of interesting adventures and experiences: his participation in the antislavery movement, travel to Great Britain where he encountered a society largely devoid of the racism he was accustomed to in America, and his return to the United States to carry on the struggle for liberation of African Americans.
This unabridged 1855 edition also contains a new introduction by scholar of African American philosophy Bill E. Lawson, an appendix including extracts from speeches, and a fascinating letter Douglass wrote in his later years to his former master.
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