Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, Written by Himself

by Frederick Douglass
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Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, Written by Himself Summary

Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, Written By Himself is an 1881 autobiography in which Frederick Douglass tells his life story, including recent events undisclosed in his prior two autobiographies.

  • In Part I, Douglass writes of his childhood as a slave on plantations in Maryland. In 1838, Douglass flees and travels north to the free states, where he builds a life for himself as a prominent orator and abolitionist.

  • In Part II, Douglass recounts his abolitionist efforts, founding the North Star and delivering influential speeches. During the Civil War, he helps in the Union's war effort and meets with President Abraham Lincoln.


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Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, Written by Himself documents the author’s life in the 1800’s, a century that includes Douglass’s birth in its second decade and his ascension to governmental appointments during the 1870’s and 1880’s. Douglass’s third autobiography is divided into three sections. Part 1, in the same manner as Douglass’s earlier autobiographies, focuses on the first twenty years of Douglass’s life as a slave in Maryland. Life and Times of Frederick Douglass is an autobiographical Bildungsroman that is more than Douglass’s coming-of-age story; it is also an eloquent narrative of Douglass’s choosing to live his life as a free man instead of living his life as a slave owner’s chattel. Among the most memorable scenes in part 1 are five incidents prior to Douglass’s tenth birthday: his mother, whenever she could, walks twelve miles to visit the son separated from her by slavery and walks twelve miles back to the neighboring plantation before sunrise; his aunt Esther’s beating by her master because she had visited her beau; Demby, a slave who is frequently beaten by the overseer, is again whipped by him, yet Demby manages to break away, runs into the creek, refuses to come out of the water, and is shot to death; a slave girl who sleeps while her mistress’s baby cries is murdered by the irate mistress; and Douglass realizes education is the pathway from slavery to freedom after his master becomes enraged when he discovers his wife teaching young Douglass to read. The most significant incident in part 1 is Douglass’s self-empowerment after a two-hour battle with Covey, the infamous slave breaker; Douglass boldly announces that while society views him as a slave, he no longer considers himself one. Consequently, he plans his escape, and when it is unsuccessful, he remains obdurate as he plans another escape. Part 1 ends with Douglass fleeing slavery on September 3, 1838.

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Part 2 begins with Douglass’s journey to freedom. As with Douglass’s years spent as a slave, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass divulges more details about Douglass’s career as an abolitionist than do Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and My Bondage and My Freedom. Part 2 of Life and Times of Frederick Douglass highlights Douglass’s antislavery activities before and after his freedom is purchased. Among Douglass’s endeavors as an abolitionist recounted in the third autobiography are his oratories at antislavery rallies and conventions, a two-year lecture tour in England and Ireland, founding of North Star and Douglass’ Monthly , his association with other well-known African American and white abolitionists,...

(The entire section contains 691 words.)

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