Life and Times of Frederick Douglass: His Early Life as a Slave, His Escape from Bondage, and His Complete History

Life and Times of Frederick Douglass: His Early Life as a Slave, His Escape from Bondage, and His Complete History

Life and Times of Frederick Douglass: His Early Life as a Slave, His Escape from Bondage, and His Complete History

Life and Times of Frederick Douglass: His Early Life as a Slave, His Escape from Bondage, and His Complete History

Excerpt

The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass is a classic in American literature. It is the autobiography of a slave who became an adviser to President Lincoln and the diplomatic representative of the United States to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Hence, this narrative of his life has inspired Negroes and other disadvantaged Americans to believe that, despite the imperfections of American democracy, a selfmade man may aspire to greatness.

Unlike some slave narratives and, indeed, some messages of Presidents of the United States, Douglass's works were his own. The Centenary Memorial Subscribers' Edition of his Life and Times reproduces a facsimile of his handwriting. The Negro collection at Howard University, Washington, D.C., has several similar specimens of his handwriting. Soon after Douglass's funeral in Rochester in 1895 a well-known white citizen gave reminiscences of his work in Douglass's printing shop where the ex-slave published his newspapers, The North Star and Frederick Douglass's Paper, 1845-1860. His friends attested to his mastery of the English language as an orator and a writer; his enemies--and he had many-- bitterly criticized his speeches and his writings especially because they were his own. The papers of Douglass as a public servant, many of which are in the National Archives of the United States, unmistakably came from the pen of the man who wrote the Life and Times. I do not know of any of Douglass's contemporaries or any subsequent historians who have doubted his authorship.

The Life and Times, published here, is the final form of an autobiography first published as a small Narrative in 1845, expanded in My Bondage and My Freedom in 1855, further extended in the first edition of Life and Times in 1881, and completed and revised in 1892. A reprint appeared in 1895, the year of his death. Although many editions were published in England, Ireland and Scotland, and translations made in French, German and Swedish, the definitive edition is rela-

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