"A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass" is an autobiographical memoir of Frederick Douglass' life as an enslaved African and of his eventual escape.
Douglass makes some important observations about masculinity in the book. He recounts an early memory in which he saw aunt savagely beaten by the white master. This experience instilled in him the reality that the Negro could never be a "true man" under slavery, because a true man has the ability to protect his female family members.
Later in life, Douglass gets into a fist fight with his master. He discusses how this incident "restored his manhood." Douglass thus reflected the common belief that masculinity is something mediated and proven by physical violence. His narrative retains numerous cultural assumptions about gender, masculinity, and manhood.