Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 763
In 1841, three years after Frederick Douglass escaped from slavery, he launched his career as an abolitionist. In Nantucket, Massachusetts, he spoke for the first time about his slave experiences before a white audience. Before that, he had told his story only to black gatherings. So impressive was his account that he was hired as a full-time antislavery lecturer by the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society.
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By 1844, the society was becoming increasingly disturbed that many were doubting Douglass’s authenticity. His critics saw him as being too refined and too erudite for a man who had escaped from slavery only six years previously. The leaders of the Anti-Slavery Society, therefore, urged Douglass to write his story.
The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, including a preface by William Lloyd Garrison and a letter from Wendell Phillips, was published in 1845. Its success was immediate. Thousands of copies were sold both in the United States and in Great Britain. The Narrative was even translated into French and Dutch.
Just as there were those who doubted Douglass’s oral accounts of his experiences in slavery, there were those who declared the written version a hoax. Such an accusation was not as farfetched as it might at first seem. Many slave narratives were not only transcribed but also organized and revised by white abolitionists. The latter, however, were generally careful to indicate the extent of their assistance. They recognized that to do otherwise was to put the whole antislavery movement in jeopardy. The Narrative, for its part, is a notable exception. Frederick Douglass neither asked for nor received any help from white abolitionists.
The decision to divide the work into two main sections was his. The first part consists of nine chapters. These detail Douglass’s experiences in slavery. The second section, with two chapters, is as long as the first and describes Douglass’s escape. This organization seems to indicate that the first nine chapters form a kind of prelude to the main action—Douglass’s escape from slavery.
Before this escape takes place, readers are given a graphic account of slavery in pre-Civil War America. Douglass begins his narrative with his birth in Tuckahoe, Talbot County, Maryland. The second sentence states that he does not know his age. This is followed by other details about which the narrator is unsure. For example, although he knows that Harriet Bailey is his mother, he has very little communication with her. She dies when he is seven years old; before that, he sees her only four or five times. He lives with his grandmother, Betsey Bailey, on the outskirts of Edward Lloyd’s plantation.
The young boy is introduced to the horrors of slavery when he witnesses the beating of his Aunt Hester by their master, Aaron Anthony, soon after Frederick begins living on the plantation. This beating is only the first of many at which the young Frederick is both observer and participant. Frederick later goes to Baltimore to live with Hugh and Sophia Auld. He considers this move providential, since it sets the stage for his eventual escape from slavery. Sophia Auld begins to teach him to read, and by the time her husband finds out and objects, it is already too late; the young slave has made the connection between literacy and freedom.
There is now no turning back for the city slave. Thus, when Frederick is sent to live with Thomas Auld because of a quarrel between the brothers, Thomas cannot control him. He sends him to Edward Covey, a “nigger-breaker.” The stay at Covey’s marks another pivotal point in the young slave’s journey from bondage to freedom; when Covey attempts to beat Douglass, he defends himself and fights the older man to a standoff.
If Covey is the worst master Frederick has encountered, his next, William Freeland, is the best. With Freeland, Frederick, with his eyes on freedom as never before, teaches a Sabbath school of more than forty slaves. Here, too, he plans an aborted escape. After the failed escape, Frederick is again returned to Hugh Auld in Baltimore. Auld oversees his training as a caulker. With this trade comes increasing independence and a small taste of freedom.
This taste of freedom prepares Douglass for his life after slavery. After a successful escape, Frederick keeps his past shrouded in mystery; he is afraid of unwittingly divulging any information to slaveholders.
Frederick Douglass, having discarded the name given him by the mother he hardly knew, settles in New Bedford, Massachusetts, with his new wife, Anna, and joins the abolitionist cause.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 640
After escaping from slavery, Frederick Bailey changed his name to Frederick Douglass and became a prominent speaker in the abolitionist movement. He was so eloquent that proslavery opponents charged him with being a fraud who had never been a slave and challenged him to reveal the true facts of his life. Such an account was dangerous for Douglass, who could have been captured and returned to slavery for life, but he proceeded to write in specific detail the account of his experience as a slave, in order to reveal the inhumanity of that “peculiar institution” and help bring about its overthrow. Prefaced with an essay by William Lloyd Garrison and with a letter by Wendell Phillips, both leading abolitionists, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave: Written by Himself is told in straightforward chronology and a clear style, with a wealth of realistic detail.
Douglass’ father was a white man, rumored to be his master, and one of the abominations of slavery that Douglass denounced was the common practice of white men forcing slave women to be their mistresses and begetting children whom they never acknowledged, whom they owned and could flog or sell at whim. As an infant, Douglass was separated from his mother, whom he saw only a few times before she died. He had to endure the horror of seeing his aunt repeatedly flogged and to know that such a fate was in store for him. On a plantation on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Douglass never had enough food, clothing, or shelter, and he had to sleep on the ground in an unheated shack. He saw fellow slaves killed with impunity, as the law did not punish the murder of a slave. Fortunately, he was lent to Hugh Auld, a relative of his master in Baltimore, where he was better provided for and where punishment was less brutal.
It was then illegal to teach a slave literacy, but Douglass’ mistress in Baltimore, Sophia Auld, responded to his pleas to teach him to read and write in the hope that the boy could get to know the Bible. When his master found out, he stopped the lessons, arguing that “Learning would forever unfit him to be a slave.” Douglass then bribed white boys to teach him. Reading newspapers and books gave him a broader perspective than the slaveholder’s view, which was the only one available to most slaves. At the age of thirteen, Douglass bought The Columbian Orator, which contained eloquent speeches denouncing oppression. Increasingly, he felt the pain of having a free mind trapped in a slave’s body. When he read an article about organized efforts to abolish slavery, Douglass began to have hope. At that time, however, he was sent back to the Eastern Shore to work on Thomas Auld’s plantation, where because of his intelligence and independent spirit, he was sent to work for a local slave breaker, Edward Covey. For the next six months, he was flogged every week, and the brutal work and discipline broke him “in body, soul and spirit.” Finally, he decided to fight back. Douglass refused to submit to any more flogging, saying that he would resist to the death. He and Covey fought to a standoff. For Douglass’ nerve, Covey could have killed him or had him killed with impunity. Douglass wondered why he did not but concluded that it would spoil Covey’s reputation as a tough slave breaker.
After two years on the Eastern Shore and one unsuccessful attempt to escape, Douglass was sent back to Baltimore to work again for Hugh Auld. This time, he met a number of free African Americans, including Anna Murray, with whom he fell in love. The day that they became engaged, Douglass escaped to New York, where Anna joined him and they were married.
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In the mid-nineteenth century, when Douglass wrote the Narrative, the United States was becoming divided over the issue of slavery. In the North, a growing abolitionist movement that had started in the late eighteenth century began to gather momentum as its leaders made every effort to spread their antislavery message. They held meetings, gave lectures, published antislavery newspapers, and traveled across the country to spread their message. Meanwhile, in the South, slaveholders rigidly held on to their view that slaves were useful only as laborers that helped sustain their agricultural economy. White people, in both the North and the South, continued to treat slaves as inferior beings, in most cases denying them any legal protection.
However, as more slaves found their way to freedom in the North, either through the assistance of the Underground Railroad or their own inventive methods, they began to write of their experiences under slavery. These 'slave narratives' became popular as adventure stories and a kind of protest literature. Although slaves had written of their experiences since slavery's inception in the United States (in the late eighteenth century), their stories were not widely read until the 1830s when heated political debates over slavery became widespread. Moreover, the abolishment of slavery in the British Empire in 1833 fanned the desire of many Americans for slavery to end.
Douglass' Narrative, published in 1845, contributed to the growing protest literature in the North that pleaded for the end of slavery. As a major African-American speaker in the abolitionist movement, Douglass became a central figurehead for the cause. Articulate, educated, morally upstanding, and self-possessing, Douglass dispelled many myths that both Northerners and Southerner held about African Americans. In his book On Racial Frontiers: The New Culture of Frederick Douglass, Ralph Ellison, and Bob Marley, scholar Gregory Stephens notes that ‘‘Frederick Douglass articulated most clearly, on an international level, what was at stake in the abolitionist movement(s).'' Similar to African-American political leaders that came after him, such as Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. DuBois, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Douglass carved out a public space for African-American voices to be heard and for their rights to be fought over and won.
In 1845, when Douglass published his narrative, African-American slaves did not have much representation legally or socially. They could not participate in public office nor could they vote. Their legal protection in the North was limited; in the South, nonexistent. Slave narratives such as Douglass' contributed to a growing literature base produced by African Americans that resisted negative portrayals and stereotypes through self-representation. Publishing antislavery documents in the North was one of the few ways that African-American voices could be heard. As Russ Castronovo claims, in his article, ''Framing the Slave Narrative / Framing the Discussion," "The slave narrative refutes the dominant cultural authority that insisted slaves could not write about...or rightfully criticize United States domestic institutions.’’ In fact, argumentative narratives such as Douglass' were one of the few methods of non-violent resistance available. Although slave uprisings occurred in the southern United States, usually they were quashed. During Douglass' time, an attempt to attack the slaveholding South took place in 1856 at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, when John Brown—a white abolitionist leader and friend of Douglass—along with twenty-one followers captured the U.S. arsenal. They were gunned down by the U.S. Marines. Brown, who survived, was hanged for treason not long after this attack.
Tensions mounted between pro-slavery and antislavery forces when a devastating law was passed in 1850 called the Fugitive Slave Law. It penalized those who assisted runaway slaves and allowed escaped slaves to be tracked down and returned to their ex-slaveholders. Some time later, in 1857, the Dred Scott ruling handed down by the Supreme Court decided that African Americans had no legal protection under the Constitution. This climate only increased abolitionists' motivations to protest more vehemently and support politicians willing to promote the freeing of slaves. Though many years away when the Narrative was published, the election of President Lincoln in 1860, the declaration of Civil War in 1861, and the Emancipation Proclamation delivered in 1863 were all decisive events that formed a backdrop to the fight for political and legal representation undertaken by African Americans like Douglass.
Although its importance as a historical document that details the horrors of slavery cannot be denied, the Narrative has also become part of the American literary canon. It is taught widely in literature classes as an exemplary nineteenth-century American literary text and takes its place among others published at the same time, such as Thoreau's Walden, Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, Melville's Moby Dick, and Alcott's Little Women. However, its contribution to the growth of an African-American literary tradition and to the emergence of an African-American identity form a large part of its cultural significance today.
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The lasting political, emotional, and dramatic power of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass stems not only from the highly controversial subject matter of slavery but also from Douglass' ability to utilize a number of literary and rhetorical devices that enable him to create a compelling and complex testimony to the horrific nature of slavery. One of Douglass' notable literary devices is his ability to render an engaging narrative plot in highly descriptive language. The descriptions include particular incidents, people, and moments in his life as a slave. His descriptions lend a particular credibility to his story by fostering graphic images and scenes that are difficult to forget. Once read, who can forget the image that Douglass invokes of the whipping of his Aunt Hester at the end of the first chapter? In fact, as scholar Jeffrey Steele argues in his article ''Douglass and Sentimental Rhetoric,’’ Douglass assumed that through these images his readers would ''identify with and feel the pain of those in bondage.’’ Readers are persuaded by his narrative that slavery is immoral and wrong.
The scholar Gregory Lampe, in Frederick Douglass: Freedom's Voice, 1818-1845, claims that Douglass was primarily an orator, one who argued against slavery through his use of narrative. ''As in his antislavery speeches, his autobiography went beyond simply narrating his slave experiences and exhorted his audience to act against the slaveholder's vile corruption.’’ If one views the Narrative as an argument, then the strength of Douglass' style is his use of rhetoric to convince his readers to join efforts to abolish slavery. Douglass' sophisticated argumentation involves using emotional appeals, found in many of his descriptions. For example, in chapter eight, Douglass describes the slow and lonely death of his grandmother, who has been abandoned by her master and left to die in the woods. ‘‘She stands—she sits—she falls—she groans—she dies.'' Although these sentences are simple in their construction, they create a powerful scene when strung together, attached by dashes that imply pauses between the grandmother's movements.
Besides his ability to argue emotionally, Douglass also uses logical and ethical appeals throughout the Narrative, dismantling many arguments and misconceptions that slaveholders relied upon to justify the slave system in the South. He does this using himself as an example that defies many of these arguments. For example, a primary argument used to justify slavery was that African Americans were biologically inferior and mentally deficient to whites. Yet Douglass defies this misconception by revealing that this myth was perpetuated by denying slaves the right to read and write. Douglass has this insight when he is denied the right to read by his master, Hugh Auld. By providing himself as an example that overturns many of these arguments, Douglass makes a convincing case for the abolishment of slavery.
Besides rhetorical abilities, Douglass also relies on a number of literary devices that add to the power of his narrative. Devices described by Lampe in Frederick Douglass: Freedom's Voice, 1818-1845 include biblical allusion, metaphor, parody (as found in the church hymn that he adapts to suit southern slaveholders in the appendix), and rhetorical devices such as alliteration, repetition, antithesis, and simile.
One of the most convincing devices that Douglass utilizes in the Narrative is animal imagery. Such imagery reveals the dehumanizing effects of slavery in both slaveholders and slaves, especially in the rural context of the plantation system, where slaves were chattel, similar to domesticated animals. These images include similes (such as describing the young children feeding at a trough as being ‘‘like so many pigs’’) and association (as in chapter eight, when Douglass describes the slaves' experience at the valuation as being ''on the same rank in scale’’ of ‘‘horses, sheep and swine’’). Douglass makes it clear that slaves were not only viewed as animals, but they also lived in conditions that reinforced that stereotype. However, Douglass, in a clever move, uses animal metaphor to suggest that slave owners were not exempt from being perceived as animals by slaves themselves. For example, Mr. Covey is known by slaves who work for him as ‘‘the snake.’’ After Douglass' escape, Douglass feels like ''one who had escaped a den of hungry lions.’’ The animal imagery Douglass uses is complicated by the system of slavery that produced bestial behavior regardless of race.
To many contemporary readers, Douglass' writing style in the Narrative may appear overly emotional and overwritten in its description of suffering and hardship. For example, in chapter ten, Douglass plaintively describes the ships sailing on the Chesapeake Bay as ‘‘beautiful vessels, robed in that purest white, so delightful to the eye of freemen'' ''were to me so many shrouded ghosts.'' Yet Douglass was very aware of the popularity of a writing style in the mid-nineteenth century called ‘‘sentimental rhetoric,’’ primarily used by middle-class women writers as a way of engaging readers directly with their subject matter. Douglass may have been able to engage readers not sympathetic with slavery's victims by appealing to their hearts for freedom and justice. In other words, as Steele in his article ‘‘Douglass and Sentimental Rhetoric’’ notes, in order to get white audiences to trust him as a narrator, Douglass used sentimental language as a means of representing himself ‘‘as a man of reason, moral principle, religious faith, and sentiment.’’
Douglass' Narrative was part of a growing literary genre. This type of writing, which used common conventions, came to be known as ‘‘slave narratives.'' The American-based genre grew out of the harsh conditions imposed by the slave society of the New World—the denial of freedom to African Americans. Once free, many slaves, rather than turn their backs on their past, fought hard to abolish enslavement by writing of their experiences. In his introduction to The Classic Slave Narratives, scholar Henry Louis Gates provides a compelling history of the formation of this particular African-American literary tradition. Gates claims that ''the black slave's narrative came to be a communal utterance, a collective tale rather than merely an individual's autobiography.’’ Slave narratives were written primarily as a testament to the horrors of slavery and the slave's ability to transcend such hardships. Works of this genre, as noted in ‘‘Framing the Slave Narrative/Framing Discussion,’’ by scholar Russ Castronovo, ‘‘seek to educate a largely white audience about the horrors of slavery by revealing what the fugitive has learned during his or her 'career' as a slave.’’
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1840s: Douglass and other abolitionists campaign around the country to abolish slavery, speaking of its horrors and promoting the rights of African Americans to be granted legal and political representation.
Today: African Americans and other minority populations have legal protection and equal opportunities in all aspects of life, even though racial discrimination continues to occur.
1840s: Douglass is one of the first African-American public intellectuals to bring issues of race and inequality to the forefront of political life in the United States and works closely with presidents to achieve equal rights for African Americans.
Today: African Americans are represented in high political offices by newly elected Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice as well as in academic life by intellectuals such as Cornel West, Patricia Williams, and Henry Louis Gates.
1840s: A growing and increasingly literate American population devours popular literature such as slave narratives, adventure novels, and captive narratives.
Today: Popular literature continues to be read in the form of suspense, mystery, romance, and horror novels.
1840s: Douglass travels from state to state protesting the evils of slavery and continues to speak for African-American rights until he dies. Many of his speeches are recorded and distributed in newspapers.
Today: Hip-hop artists such as Ice T and Lauren Hill expose the continuing injustices of racial discrimination in their songwriting. They send their message via live performance and recordings.
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Frederick Douglass, part of Biography Series, available from A & E Television Network, is a fifty-minute video exploring the life of Douglass, with critical comments from biographers, historians, and African-American scholars.
Frederick Douglass: 1818-1895: Abolitionist Editor, part of The Black Americans of Achievement Video Collection (1992), is a concise, comprehensive portrait of Douglass' major life accomplishments as a writer, editor, and abolitionist activist. Directed by Rhonda Fabian and Jerry Baber, the piece runs thirty minutes and is available from Schlessinger Video Productions.
Frederick Douglass: When the Lion Wrote History, a PBS video production, provides an extensive historical and cultural background to Douglass' life, from his life as a slave to his lifelong project to provide equal rights and protection to African Americans. It is directed by Orlando Bagwell, 1994.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is an audiotape published by Recorded Books. Charles Turner reads the entire narrative, with a running time of four hours and thirty-one minutes.
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Andrews, William L., and William S. McFeely, eds., Preface, in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself, W. W. Norton & Company, 1997, p. ix.
Castronovo, Russ, ''Framing the Slave Narrative / Framing the Discussion,’’ in Approaches to Teaching Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, edited by James C. Hall, Modern Language Association, 1999, pp. 43, 47.
Fuller, Margaret, Review, in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself, edited by William L. Andrews and William S. McFeely, W. W. Norton & Company, 1997, pp. 83-85.
Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., ed., Introduction to The Classic Slave Narratives, Mentor Books, 1987, pp. x, xiii.
Lampe, Gregory P., Frederick Douglass: Freedom's Voice, 1818-1845, Michigan State University Press, 1998, pp. 269, 289.
McDowell, Deborah E., ‘‘In the First Place: Making Frederick Douglass and the Afro-American Narrative Tradition,’’ in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself, edited by William L. Andrews and William S. McFeely, W. W. Norton & Company, 1997, pp. 178-179.
Miller, Keith, and Ruth Ellen Kocher, ‘‘Shattering Kidnapper's Heavenly Union: Interargumentation in Douglass's Oratory,'' in Approaches to Teaching Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, edited by James C. Hall, Modern Language Association, 1999, p. 83.
Moses, Wilson J., ''Writing Freely? Frederick Douglass and the Constraints of Racialized Writing,’’ in Frederick Douglass: New Literary and Historical Essays, edited by Eric J. Sundquist, Cambridge University Press, 1990, p. 69.
Niemtzow, Annette, ''The Problematic of Self in Autobiography: The Example of the Slave Narrative,’’ in Frederick Douglass's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, edited by Harold Bloom, Chelsea House, 1988, p. 116.
Steele, Jeffrey, ‘‘Douglass and Sentimental Rhetoric,’’ in Approaches to Teaching Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, edited by James C. Hall, Modern Language Association, 1999, pp. 68, 72.
Stephens, Gregory, On Racial Frontiers: The New Culture of Frederick Douglass, Ralph Ellison, and Bob Marley, Cambridge University Press, 1999, p. 57.
Stone, Albert E., ‘‘Art and Identity in Frederick Douglass's Narrative,’’ in Frederick Douglass's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, edited by Harold Bloom, Chelsea House, 1988, pp. 11-12, 27.
Taylor, Yuval, Introduction to I Was Born a Slave: An Anthology of Classic Slave Narratives, Volume One, 1772-1849, edited by Yuval Taylor, Lawrence Hill Books, 1999, p. xviii.
Thompson, A. C. C, "Letter from a Former Slaveholder,’’ in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself, edited by William L. Andrews and William S. McFeely, W. W. Norton & Company, 1997, pp. 88-91.
Blassingame, John W., The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South, Oxford University Press, 1979.
This historical and cultural study focuses particularly on the lives of plantation slaves in the South, detailing their daily lives and the constraints, impositions, and harsh realities they had to overcome in order to create a community.
Davis, Charles T., and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., The Slave's Narrative, Oxford University Press, 1985.
This selection of essays, responses, and critical reviews analyzes and discusses the genre of slave narratives.
Foster, Frances Smith, Witnessing Slavery: The Development of Ante-Bellum Slave Narratives, 2d ed., University of Wisconsin Press, 1994.
This classic study of slave narratives analyzes the social, political, and literary aspects of this particularly African-American genre.
Genovese, Eugene D., Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made, Vintage Books, 1976.
This thorough account of the institution of slavery in the United States covers economics, psychology, politics, sociology, and geography.
McFeeley, William, Frederick Douglass, Norton, 1991.
This comprehensive and highly respected biography details the many aspects of Douglass' life.
Miller, Douglas T., Frederick Douglass and the Fight for Freedom, Facts on File Publications, 1988.
Miller provides a generalized biographical account of Douglass' rich and varied life.
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Andrews, William. To Tell a Free Story: The First Century of Afro-American Autobiography, 1760-1865. Normal: University of Illinois Press, 1986. A comprehensive account of slave narratives, which includes an extensive interpretation of Douglass’ writings.
Douglass, Frederick. The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. 1892. Reprint. New York: Macmillan, 1962. Douglass’ last autobiography, which covers his life story through his ambassadorship to Haiti.
Gates, Henry Louis, Jr., ed. The Classic Slave Narratives. New York: Penguin, 1987. Contains narratives by Olaudah Equiano, Mary Prince, and Harriet Jacobs, in addition to that of Douglass, as well as an excellent short introduction to the form.
Huggins, Nathan Irvin. Slave and Citizen: The Life of Frederick Douglass. Boston: Little, Brown, 1980. Offers a succinct and lucid biography for the general reader; Huggins is a good storyteller.
McFeely, William S. Frederick Douglass. New York: W. W. Norton, 1991. Presents a comprehensive biography with an excellent bibliography. McFeely is particularly good in describing Douglass’ relationship with family and friends.
O’Meally, Robert G. “Frederick Douglass’ 1845 Narrative: The Text Was Meant to Be Preached.” In Afro-American Literature: The Reconstruction of Instruction, edited by D. Fisher and R. Stepto. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1979. Argues that the Narrative has recognizable affinities with the sermons of black preachers. The audience, according to O’Meally, is white, and “preacher” Douglass is exhorting them to end the abysmal institution of slavery.
Preston, Dickson J. Young Frederick Douglass: The Maryland Years. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980. Provides detailed descriptions of all important personages in the Narrative. Preston is in familiar territory, and his depiction of Douglass’ relationship with those around him is illuminating.
Quarles, Benjamin. Frederick Douglass. New York: Atheneum, 1970. Presents an excellent first chapter that demonstrates how Douglass’ years in slavery influenced his later life. The epigraphs that introduce each chapter, most of which are by Douglass, give a sense of the man and his age.
Starling, Marion Wilson. The Slave Narrative: Its Place in History. 1947. Reprint. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1988. The first book about the slave narrative as a form and a good introduction to its historical importance.
Sundquist, Eric L. Frederick Douglass: New Literary and Historical Essays. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Scholarly interpretations of Douglass’ life and writings.