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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

By Frederick Douglass (8)

A child born into the “jaws of slavery,” Frederick Douglass does not know the year of his birth, his white father’s identity, or why he was taken from his mother. Frederick knows only one thing: that slavery shall not, must not, consume him. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass chronicles important incidents from the titular character’s life, beginning with his childhood on a Maryland plantation, where he is kept half naked, forced to fight for food from a trough, and made to witness brutal beatings. When he is seven years old, he is selected to become a house servant in Baltimore. There, his master’s wife begins teaching him to read and write, until his master, in front of Frederick, forbids her to continue on the grounds that “It would forever unfit him to be a slave.” In this phrase, Frederick discovers an epiphany: he must educate himself. Literacy leads to knowledge and knowledge is the key to freedom. Though his worst woe still awaits him, his journey from slavery to independence and prosperity begins with that realization. First published in 1845, Frederick Douglass’ bestselling autobiography was critically lauded for challenging the institutions, such as Christianity and commerce, which upheld slavery.

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