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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave – Douglass

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American SlaveNarrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is an 1845 memoir and treatise on abolition written by famous orator and former slave Frederick Douglass. It is generally held to be the most famous of a number of narratives written by former slaves during the same period. In factual detail, the text describes the events of his life and is considered to be one of the most influential pieces of literature to fuel the abolitionist movement of the early 19th century in the United States.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass encompasses eleven chapters that recount Douglass’s life as a slave and his ambition to become a free man.

Chapters 1–4

Douglass begins by explaining that he does not know the date of his birth (February 14, 1818), and that his mother died when he was 7 years old. He has very few memories of her (children were commonly separated from their mothers), only of the rare night time visit. He thinks his father is a white man, possibly his owner. At a very early age he sees his Aunt Hester being whipped. Douglass details the cruel interaction that occurs between slaves and slave holders, as well as how slaves are supposed to behave in the presence of their masters, and even when Douglass says that fear is what kept many slaves where they were, when they tell the truth they are punished by their owners.

Chapters 5–7

At this point in the Narrative, Douglass is moved to Baltimore, Maryland. This move is rather important for him because he believes that if he had not been moved, he would have remained a slave his entire life. He even starts to have hope for a better life in the future. He also discusses his new mistress, Mrs. Sophia Auld, who begins as a very kind woman but eventually turns cruel. Douglass learns the alphabet and how to spell small words from this woman, but her husband, Mr. Auld, disapproves, and states that if slaves could read, they would not be fit to be slaves, being unmanageable and sad. Upon hearing why Mr. Auld disapproves of slaves being taught how to read, Douglass realizes the importance of reading and the possibilities that this skill could help him. He takes it upon himself to learn how to read and learn all he can, but at times, this new found skill torments him. Douglass then gains an understanding of the word abolition and develops the idea to run away to the North. He also learns how to write and how to read well.

Editorial Reviews

Former slave, impassioned abolitionist, brilliant writer, newspaper editor and eloquent orator whose speeches fired the abolitionist cause, Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) led an astounding life. Physical abuse, deprivation and tragedy plagued his early years, yet through sheer force of character he was able to overcome these obstacles to become a leading spokesman for his people.

In this, the first and most frequently read of his three autobiographies, Douglass provides graphic descriptions of his childhood and horrifying experiences as a slave as well as a harrowing record of his dramatic escape to the North and eventual freedom.

Published in 1845 to quell doubts about his origins—since few slaves of that period could write—theNarrative is admired today for its extraordinary passion, sensitive and vivid descriptions and storytelling power. It belongs in the library of anyone interested in African-American history and the life of one of the country’s most courageous and influential champions of civil rights.

Unabridged Dover (1995) republication of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, first published by The Anti-Slavery Office, Boston, 1845. New introductory Note. Preface by abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. Letter from Wendell Phillips, Esq. 96pp. 53/16 x 81/4.Paperbound.

About the Author

Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey; c. February 1818[4] – February 20, 1895[5]) was an African-American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, gaining note for his dazzling oratory[6] and incisive antislavery writings. In his time, he was described by abolitionists as a living counter-example to slaveholders’ arguments that slaves lacked the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens.[7][8] Northerners at the time found it hard to believe that such a great orator had once been a slave.[9]

Douglass wrote several autobiographies. He described his experiences as a slave in his 1845 autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, which became a bestseller, and was influential in promoting the cause of abolition, as was his second book, My Bondage and My Freedom (1855). After the Civil War, Douglass remained an active campaigner against slavery and wrote his last autobiography, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. First published in 1881 and revised in 1892, three years before his death, it covered events during and after the Civil War. Douglass also actively supported women’s suffrage, and held several public offices. Without his approval, Douglass became the first African American nominated for Vice President of the United States as the running mate and Vice Presidential nominee of Victoria Woodhull, on the Equal Rights Party ticket

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