Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass

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1. What to read next if you want to read more into the theme of slavery

1.1. Fifty Years in Chains

1.1.1. Charles Ball's simply stated verbal account of the shocking events in his life provides gripping details of Southern slavery before the Civil War. His recollections and observations encompass the manner in which he was treated by planters and slaveholders in Maryland, South Carolina, and Georgia; the conditions and treatment of other slaves; the state of morals among cotton planters; and the perils and suffering of fugitive slaves. One of the earliest and most important slave narratives, this account provides a valuable primary source on early nineteenth-century Southern plantation life. An inspiring story of courage and perseverance, it is essential reading for students of American history and African-American studies.

1.2. Twelve years a Slave by Solomon Northup

1.2.1. Solomon Northup was born in New York, the son of a freed slave. He lived the first 30 years of his life in freedom, but then the worst thing imaginable happened—he was drugged, kidnapped, and sold into slavery by two con men. For the next 12 years, Northup lived on a Louisiana plantation, toiling in hard labor and experiencing horrific abuse. This harrowing true story chronicles the life of a man who was born into the beauty of freedom, only to have it cruelly snatched from him.

1.3. Harriet Tubman by Ann Petry

1.3.1. This is the definitive account of Harriet Tubman, written based on conversations the author had with the iconic woman. A former slave who endangered her life and dedicated her newfound freedom to helping other African-Americans flee the South, Tubman was a lifelong activist. After her escape, Tubman aided the Underground Railroad, served as a spy for the Union Army, and advocated for women’s suffrage. She was commonly referred to as “Moses” for her selfless acts. This highly personal book chronicles her life, from childhood to a daring escape to her days as an activist.

2. Extra: Inspirational speeches on slavery

2.1. "What to the Slave is the 4th of July?"

2.2. Modern day slavery (human tracking) by Obama

2.3. Anti-slavery speeches in Modern day series such as Game of Thrones

2.3.1. Freed from slavery in contemporary series such as Game of Thrones

2.3.2. Freedom is not something I can give, it is yours to claim

2.4. Slavery Abolition speech

2.5. Gods and Generals - Lt. Col. Joshua Chamberlain's anti-slavery speech "An army is power"

3. Later works by Frederick Douglass

3.1. The Heroic Slave (1852)

3.1.1. Summary on this book can be found here:

3.2. My Bondage and My Freedom (1855)

3.2.1. More on this book visit:

3.3. Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1881, revised 1892)

3.3.1. Summary on this book can be found here:

4. Authors who influenced Frederick Douglass

4.1. Sir Walter Scott

4.1.1. After Douglass was free and married, he changed his name from Bailey to Douglass, inspired by a character in the poem "The Lady of the Lake" by Sir Walter Scott

4.2. William Lloyd Garrison and Isaac Knapp

4.2.1. The Liberator, an abolitionist newspaper to which Douglass subscribed. “The paper came,” he describes in his Narrative, “and I read it from week to week with such feelings as it would be quite idle for me to attempt to describe. The paper became my meat and my drink.” Not long after he started reading the Liberator, Douglass started his own abolitionist newspaper based in Rochester, The North Star.

4.3. Charles Dickens

4.3.1. From April 1852 through the end of 1853, Frederick Douglass’ Paper—the future name of the North Star—published all of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House in serialized installments. When describing the torture used to “keep the slave in his condition as a slave in the United States” in My Bondage and My Freedom, Douglass adds, “If anyone has a doubt upon this point, I would ask him to read the chapter on slavery in Dickens’ Notes on America. If any man has a doubt upon it, I have here the ‘testimony of a thousand witnesses,’ which I can give at any length, all going to prove the truth of my statement.”

4.4. William Shakespeare

4.4.1. In Douglass' most famous speech on July 4th, 1852 he uses quotes from Macbeth while countering anyone who would claim that the Constitution sanctions slavery by using the words "Then, I dare to affirm, notwithstanding all I have said before, your fathers stooped, basely stooped To palter with us in a double sense: And keep the word of promise to the ear, But break it to the heart. And instead of being the honest men I have before declared them to be, they were the veriest imposters that ever practiced on mankind. This is the inevitable conclusion, and from it there is no escape. But I differ from those who charge this baseness on the framers of the Constitution of the United States. It is a slander upon their memory, at least, so I believe.

5. What to read next if you want to read more into the same genre/style of writing (narratives of former slaves in the US)

5.1. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs

5.1.1. The true story of an individual's struggle for self-identity, self-preservation, and freedom, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl remains among the few extant slave narratives written by a woman. This autobiographical account chronicles the remarkable odyssey of Harriet Jacobs (1813–1897) whose dauntless spirit and faith carried her from a life of servitude and degradation in North Carolina to liberty and reunion with her children in the North. Written and published in 1861 after Jacobs' harrowing escape from a vile and predatory master, the memoir delivers a powerful and unflinching portrayal of the abuses and hypocrisy of the master-slave relationship. Jacobs writes frankly of the horrors she suffered as a slave, her eventual escape after several unsuccessful attempts, and her seven years in self-imposed exile, hiding in a coffin-like "garret" attached to her grandmother's porch. A rare firsthand account of a courageous woman's determination and endurance, this inspirational story also represents a valuable historical record of the continuing battle for freedom and the preservation of family.

5.2. Thirty years a slave by Louis Hughes

5.2.1. Louis Hughes was born a slave in Virginia and at age 12 was sold away from his mother, whom he never saw again. After a few interim owners, he was sold to a wealthy slaveowner who had a home near Memphis and plantation nearby in Mississippi. Hughes lived there as a house servant until near the end of the Civil War, when he escaped to the Union lines and then, in a daring adventure with the paid help of two Union soldiers, returned to the plantation for his wife. The couple made their way to Canada and after the war to Chicago and Detroit, eventually settling in Milwaukee. There Hughes became relatively comfortable as a hotel attendant and as an entrepreneur laundry operator. Self-educated and eloquent, Hughes wrote and privately published this memoir in 1897. It is a compelling account, by turns searing and compassionate about slavery, slaves, and slaveowners. No reader can be unmoved as Hughes tells about his five attempts to escape, about having to stand by helplessly while watching his wife whipped, of the joy of finally meeting again the brother whom he had not seen since they were little children in Virginia. Yet he also writes knowingly about the economics of slavery and the day-to-day business of the plantation, and the glass-house relationships between slaves and masters. Hughes died in Milwaukee in 1913.

5.3. Narrative of Sojourner Truth by Sojourner Truth

5.3.1. One of the most famous and admired African-American women in U.S. history, Sojourner Truth sang, preached, and debated at camp meetings across the country, led by her devotion to the antislavery movement and her ardent pursuit of women's rights. Born into slavery in 1797, Truth fled from bondage some 30 years later to become a powerful figure in the progressive movements reshaping American society. This remarkable narrative, first published in 1850, offers a rare glimpse into the little-documented world of Northern slavery. Truth recounts her life as a slave in rural New York, her separation from her family, her religious conversion, and her life as a traveling preacher during the 1840s. She also describes her work as a social reformer, counselor of former slaves, and sponsor of a black migration to the West. A spellbinding orator and implacable prophet, Truth mesmerized audiences with her tales of life in bondage and with her moving renditions of Methodist hymns and her own songs. Frederick Douglass described her message as a "strange compound of wit and wisdom, of wild enthusiasm, and flint-like common sense." This inspiring account of a black woman's struggles for racial and sexual equality is essential reading for students of American history, as well as for those interested in the continuing quest for equality of opportunity.

6. What to read next if you want to read more into the same setting (The years before the civil war in the US)

6.1. Snow-Storm in August: The Struggle for American Freedom and Washington's Race Riot of 1835 by Jefferson Morley (2013)

6.1.1. In 1835, the city of Washington simmered with racial tension as newly freed African Americans from the South poured in, outnumbering slaves for the first time. Among the enslaved was nineteen-year-old Arthur Bowen, who stumbled home drunkenly one night, picked up an axe, and threatened his owner, respected socialite Anna Thornton. Despite no blood being shed, Bowen was eventually arrested and tried for attempted murder by district attorney Francis Scott Key, but not before news of the incident spread like wildfire. Within days Washington’s first race riot exploded as whites, fearing a slave rebellion, attacked the property of free blacks. One of their victims was gregarious former slave and successful restaurateur Beverly Snow, who became the target of the mob’s rage. With Snow-Storm in August, Jefferson Morley delivers readers into an unknown chapter in history with an absorbing account of this uniquely American battle for justice.

6.2. From Slave Ship to Harvard by James H. Johnston (2015)

6.2.1. From Slave Ship to Harvard is the true story of an African American family in Maryland over six generations. The author has reconstructed a unique narrative of black struggle and achievement from paintings, photographs, books, diaries, court records, legal documents, and oral histories. From Slave Ship to Harvard traces the family from the colonial period and the American Revolution through the Civil War to Harvard and finally today.

6.3. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (2017)

6.3.1. Young Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Conditions are harsh for all the slaves there, but especially grim for her: an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood--where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a slave who has recently arrived from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. In Whitehead's ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor: engineers and conductors operate a secret network of actual tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Unable to find a safe haven, Cora continues on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom. As in Gulliver's Travels, she encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey--hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors of the antebellum era, he seamlessly weaves in the saga of America, from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is both the gripping tale of one woman's will to escape the horrors of bondage and a powerful meditation on the history we all share.

7. Media: Films

7.1. Django Unchained (2012)

7.1.1. With the help of a German bounty hunter, a freed slave sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner. In 1858, a bounty hunter named Schultz seeks out a slave named Django and buys him because he needs him to find some men he is looking for.

7.2. Twelve Years a Slave (2013)

7.2.1. Based on an incredible true story of one man's fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty personified by a malevolent slave owner, as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon's chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist will forever alter his life.

7.3. The Birth of a Nation (2016)

7.3.1. Set against the antebellum South, the Birth of a Nation follows Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner, accepts an offer to use Nat's preaching to subdue unruly slaves. As he witnesses countless atrocities - against himself and his fellow slaves - Nat orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom.

8. Media: Music

8.1. Redemption Song by Bob Marley

8.1.1. We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is your only ruler, sovereign. The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind..

8.2. A Change is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke

8.2.1. Background information on this song

8.3. Southern Man by Neil Young

8.3.1. The lyrics of "Southern Man" are vivid, describing the racism towards blacks in the American South. In the song, Young tells the story of a white man (symbolically the entire white South) and how he mistreated his slaves. Young pleadingly asks when the South will make amends for the fortunes built through slavery when he sings: "I saw cotton and I saw black, tall white mansions and little shacks. Southern Man, when will you pay them back?"

8.4. Roll Jordan Roll - Slave Song in 12 Years a Slave

8.5. Queen of the Field by Alicia Keys (2013)

8.5.1. Alicia Keys recorded this spare piano ballad for the soundtrack album of the film 12 Years a Slave. While the movie was inspired by the true story of Solomon Northrup, an African American freeman from the North who's kidnapped into slavery, Keys sings of the struggle and pain endured by black women during the pre-Civil War period in the US. She focuses in particular on Patsey, a slave girl on the plantation where Northup is taken who endures a series of tragedies.

9. Media: Useful websites

9.1. Background information on Frederick Douglass

9.1.1. Background information

9.1.1.1. Born into slavery and separated from his mother when he was an infant

9.1.1.2. Learned how to read in secret and was whipped so that he would break

9.1.1.3. Escaped slavery using a sailor's uniform and fake ID papers (his love Anna Murray helped him)

9.1.1.4. His autobiographies were important in spreading the anti-slavery sentiment

9.1.1.5. Douglass is not his real name. He took the surname from a poem by Sir Walter Scott

9.1.1.6. He established the newspaper The North Star, which developed into the most influential African American antislavery publication of the time

9.2. Slavery

9.2.1. Slavery in America

9.2.2. Slavery in the United Sates

9.2.3. A History of Slavery in the United States

9.2.3.1. Browse through an interactive timeline of America's "peculiar institution."