Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Signet Classics)

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Signet Classics)

Posted by jack_miller | Published 7 months ago

With 2339 ratings

By: Frederick Douglass , Peter J. Gomes, et al.

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Frederick Douglass's dramatic autobiographical account of his early life as a slave in America.

Born into a life of bondage, Frederick Douglass secretly taught himself to read and write. It was a crime punishable by death, but it resulted in one of the most eloquent indictments of slavery ever recorded. His gripping narrative takes us into the fields, cabins, and manors of pre–Civil War plantations in the South and reveals the daily terrors he suffered.
 
Written more than a century and a half ago by a Black man who went on to become a famous orator, U.S. minister to Haiti, and leader of his people, this timeless classic still speaks directly to our age. It is a record of savagery and inhumanity that goes far to explain why America still suffers from the great injustices of the past.
 
With an Introduction by Peter J. Gomes
and an Afterword by Gregory Stephens
I cheaped out buying this version of this magnificent book. After reading about 3/4 of it and wondering what the heck was going on with the vocabulary and usage of the English language, I went in search of a paper copy at my local library. Now, either all the other legit editions out there have glossed over the strange and colorful usages of language, or there is something fishy about this edition. I have to say that reading it this way gave me new ways to think about the content itself, but ultimately I found the usages distracting and odd enough that they didn't ring true. I would love any insight anyone might have about this edition. How did it come into being? If you are looking for an authoritative text, spend the extra ten bucks and get the other version.

- cain_flores

THIS IS MUST READING FOR ALL AMERICANS YOUNG AND OLD. SELDOM IF EVER, HAVE I BEEN SO MOVED BY A TRUE STORY, ABOUT SUFFERING UNDER THE THREATUROUS WHIP OF SLAVERY. BUT BEAR IN MIND, FREDERICK DOUGLASS DOES MAGNIFICENT GOOD IN WRITING FROM HIS EXPERIENCES IN SUCH A WAY THAT STIRS YOUR HEART AS WELL AS YOUR BRAIN BECAUSE HIS MOTIVATION IS TO DO GOOD AND TELL THE TRUTH IN A COMPELLING MANNER BECAUSE OF HIS ACUTE INTELLIGENCE AND HIS HEART FILLED WITH LOVE, NOT HATE, AND FAITH IN GOD, NOT EVIL HYPOCRISY AS DEMONSTRATED BY VICIOUS SLAVEOWNERS PRETENDING TO BE CHRISTIANS DOING GOD'S WORK, BUT QUITE THE OPPOSITE.THIS IS NOT A BOOK ABOUT RELIGION, INSTEAD ABOUT HORRIFIC EFFECTS UPON BOTH SLAVES AND SLAVEOWNERS. THIS IS A "MUST READ." PRINT IN BOOK TOO SMALL. HENCE I RECOMMEND USE OF KINDLE INSTEAD.

AN ASIDE: (IN THE END, IN MY OPINION, THE BLOODY CIVIL WAR THAT TORMENTED OUR GREATEST PRESIDENT, LINCOLN, WAS OUR MORAL DUTY TO ENGAGE IN ON DIFFERENT LEVELS, TOO LONG TO ADD HERE.)

- madilynn_diaz

This autobiography was assigned to me when I was a junior in high school. Three years later, as a sophomore in college, I was asked to read the book again for my class on Black Thought and Literature. I wish that I had taken the time to slow down and analyze Frederick Douglass' narrative from a literal, analytical, and figurative perspective. Had I done that the first time around—as opposed to treating the book as another required reading that I needed to speed-read through—I believe that my understanding would have been more in-depth and meaningful. The emotion and conviction with which the author writes is not only poetic and moving, but captivating as well. The imagery, combined with Douglass' views on religion's role in the enslavement of black bodies, masterfully paints a story that (in combination with other narratives) has, unfortunately, been lost throughout time. In fact, many Black writers during this period refused to publish their experiences for fear that they will be caught and returned to slavery. In other cases, some writers used pen names to add some anonymity to their experiences. Nevertheless, such works should be cherished and valued; for they allow us to gain a better understanding of how far our society has come, and how much more needs to be done to ensure a future where everyone is equal (in the truest sense of the word).

- judah_miller

Still quite a moving read more than 150 years after it was written. I am not yet 50 years old, yet I have seen in my own lifetime the unreasonable attitude that has somehow been passed down over time to this generation. Several times, I have seen my very own friends mistreated because they are black. It stems from a lack of compassion, grown out of fear or ignorance. I recommend this book as a most important read for our adolescent children, no matter what their racial or cultural surroundings have taught them.

- whitney_nguyen

This version of Douglass's autobiography contains some strange language. For example, it begins, "I turned into born in Tuckahoe," while other editions of the book begin, "I was born in Tuckahoe." This version contains many other strange phrases. Examples are "My first grasp's call was Anthony" instead of "My first master’s name was Anthony" and "If a slave changed into convicted of any high misdemeanor . . . ." instead of "If a slave was convicted of any high misdemeanor . . . ." I searched in vain to see whether the book had gone through various editions that would explain these differences. But I do note that the odd phrasing doesn't fit with contemporary reviews praising the book as clear and literate. Two librarians thought the odd language might be due to electronic file corruption. If you're thinking of buying Douglass's narrative, check the first sentence of the narrative (not the introduction), and see if it says 'I was born . . . " That would be an edition you want. This one is nearly unreadable.

- zayden_ruiz

This is a very spirited story. The passion for freedom that slavery causes is very clear in these pages. Frederick Douglass improves himself more and dared far greater than I have in my life or most others I know. It is easy to take my freedom for granted, and be lackadaisical about my life and how my time is spent. But after reading this autobiography I can see the passion and fervor missing in my life. What is interesting is that slavery enslaves the slave owners even more than the slaves. It not only corrupts their moral character, but it also makes them lazy in mind and self improvement. The very qualities the slavers try to instill in the slaves to keep them bound. Once in the north, Frederick shows that all the working people without slaves are much more wealthy. Those without slaves in the south are very poor, showing that slavery also damaged even the morals of those without slaves. These same tendencies are evident with the hitech generation. The removal of work has to some degree improvised our ability to better ourselves.

- donald_mendoza

Imagine Gandhi, Darwin, Gates or even yourself being made to cut corn, grovel and never being allowed to read a book. This man was amazing. I've read his other books too (read them!). He opens up the past through his words in a way that lets you see the horrors of slavery without giving you nightmares for the rest of your life. Anyone who reads this will marvel at the man's intelligence and his resilience. If he were born today I wonder what he'd have become. This shows the sad and awful waste of humanity that slavery was, not only to each poor individual trapped in it's disgusting web but also to society as a whole.

- ingrid_young

A powerful memoir on the condition of slavery and a potent rebuff of American slaveholder religion (which, sadly, still has roots today and still bears fruit).

This should be required reading in schools across the Western Hemisphere.

—Tristan Sherwin, author of Living the Dream? :The Problem with Escapist, Exhibitionist, Empire-Building Christianity

- alexandra_martin

How can you not read this book if you want to know about the struggle against slavery in the USA? Frederick Douglass was a remarkable man, clear sighted and determined, and the only reservation I had was that he seemed to tone down his comments about the complicity of organized religion and most of its adherents in the maintenance of slavery. Perhaps he did that to try and build the anti-slavery movement but I cannot see that such backtracking can ever work. The Church of England owned slave plantations in the West Indies and the failure to confront such an abomination at the time just helped the C of E to continue to this day investing in the perpetuation of misery and the toleration of racism and other nasty attitudes amongst its congregations. Douglass was one step from castigating all religion as a sponsor of slavery, and he should have taken that step. Racism continues to this day in the USA as in Britain and, despite the role of non-conformist ministers in the Civil Rights movement, I'm sure most of the racist bigots today continue to go to church, and that their church happily accepts their presence. However, this tale of Frederick Douglass' long road to freedom is utterly moving and magnificent.

- anton_hughes

"Sincerely and earnestly hoping that this little book may do something toward throwing light on the American slave system, and hastening the glad day of deliverance to the millions of my brethren in bonds—faithfully relying upon the power of truth, love, and justice, for success in my humble efforts—and solemnly pledging my self anew to the sacred cause,—I subscribe myself, FREDERICK DOUGLASS LYNN, Mass., April 28, 1845"

- danny_brown

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