Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, Written by Himself Summary

Frederick Douglass

Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, Written by Himself Summary

Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, Written By Himself fills in the details of Douglass's life left out of his first two autobiographies. He describes how he escaped from slavery and rose to his station as a prominent political figure.

  • In Part I, Douglass writes of his childhood on a plantation. His mother was sold and went to work on another plantation twelve miles away. He only saw her occasionally.

  • In 1838, Douglass flees the plantation 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 founding North Star and Douglass' Monthly and delivering a series of brilliant speeches calling for the end of slavery.


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

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...

(The entire section is 595 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Andrews, William L., ed. Critical Essays on Frederick Douglass. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1991.

Chander, Harish. “Frederick Douglass.” In African American Autobiographers: A Sourcebook, edited by Emmanuel S. Nelson. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Gass, T. Anthony. “Frederick Douglass.” In Notable Black American Men, edited by Jessie Carney Smith. Detroit: Gale, 1999.

Huggins, Nathan I. Slave and Citizen: The Life of Frederick Douglass. Boston: Little, Brown, 1980.

McFeely, William S. Frederick Douglass. New York: W. W. Norton, 1991.

Preston, Dickson J. Young Frederick Douglass: The Maryland Years. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980.

Quarles, Benjamin. Frederick Douglass. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1968.