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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass

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Portrait of Frederick Douglass

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself

An autobiography first published in 1845.
Douglass profiles his life in bondage, from his birth in Tuckahoe, Maryland, to his escape and resettlement in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he becomes an antislavery activist.1


In the month of August, 1841, I attended an anti-slavery convention in Nantucket, at which it was my happiness to become acquainted with FREDERICK DOUGLASS, the writer of the following Narrative. He was a stranger to nearly every member of that body; but, having recently made his escape from the southern prison-house of bondage, and feeling his curiosity excited to ascertain the principles and measures of the abolitionists, — of whom he had heard a somewhat vague description while he was a slave, — he was induced to give his attendance, on the occasion alluded to, though at that time a resident in New Bedford.
Fortunate, most fortunate occurrence! — fortunate for the millions of his manacled brethren, yet panting for deliverance from their awful thraldom! — fortunate for the cause of negro emancipation, and of universal liberty! — fortunate for the land of his birth, which he has already done so much to save and bless! — fortunate for a large circle of friends and acquaintances, whose sympathy and affection he has strongly secured by the many sufferings he has endured, by his virtuous traits of character, by his ever-abiding remembrance of those who are in bonds, as being bound with them! — fortunate for the multitudes, in various parts of our republic, whose minds he has enlightened on the subject of slavery, and who have been melted to tears by his pathos, or roused to virtuous indignation by his stirring eloquence against the enslavers of men! — fortunate for himself, as it at once brought him into the field of public usefulness, "gave the world assurance of a MAN," quickened the slumbering energies of his soul, and consecrated him to the great work of breaking the rod of the oppressor, and letting the oppressed go free!

1 Not included in this first edition but added to later ones are details of Douglass's escape; at this early juncture, the runaway refrained from divulging information that might be useful to slave catchers.

PORTRAIT: Frederick Douglass, frontispiece illustration to the first edition.
CITATION INFORMATION (in MLA format): Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself. 1845. Gleeditions, 17 Sept. 2011, Originally published on Documenting the American South, UNC, 1999,
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