Memoir Book Reviews

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

What blows my mind about this book is how incredibly readable and accessible it is, considering the fact that it was written over a century ago. Frederick Douglass was a fugitive slave and a prominent leader of the abolitionist movement. While in captivity, Douglass worked hard to teach himself how to read and write, viewing literacy and an education as his means to freedom.

“Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will… Men may not get all they pay for in this world, but they must certainly pay for all they get.”

The narrative discusses Douglass’ experiences as both a plantation slave and a personal family slave in the city, working skilled labor and paying his wages to his master. I never knew how drastically different the conditions were from plantation to city, and the book provides a lot of detail that is often lost in general history about American slavery.

The appendix also contained an incredibly powerful criticism of how pervasive religion was among the Southern slave holding populace, calling out slave owners on their hypocrisy. Everything about this narrative was just incredible, and it is a wonderful historical piece to study.

Frederick Douglass truly lives up to his reputation for having a gift for story telling and his writing is powerful. He is one of the most admirable historical figures I’ve encountered and I regret not reading this book sooner. If there was one memoir I could ever recommend to anyone on the subject of slavery, it would be this one.

Title: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave
Author: Frederick Douglass
Publisher: AmazonClassics
Publication Date: 1845
Number of Pages: 47
Format: Ebook
Source: Free / For Class

Frederick Douglass’s celebrated memoir is among the most influential works of the nineteenth-century abolitionist movement in the United States. Beginning with his birth on a Maryland plantation in 1818, Douglass’s account records the tyranny and brutality of his life in slavery until his ultimate escape to New Bedford, Massachusetts, at the age of twenty.

Published in 1845—just seven years after his escape—Douglass’s narrative sold five thousand copies in its first four months in print. His story’s impact—then and now—makes Douglass a key figure in the fight for African American freedom and equality in the United States.


  1. I remember every year learning about slavery and black history in school. And I remember feeling like I was learning the same dang things every year! As an adult I started to learn more about Frederick Douglass, but more about his involvement with the suffrage movement.
    Jennifer recently posted…This Month In Jen: February 18My Profile

    1. Yes! His involvement with the women’s rights movement is less known, but he truly was a champion for equality for all and an incredible writer. I agree with you also that much of what they teach in school feels repetitive because they tend to gloss over a lot of details. It’s fascinating (and horrifying) reading about more specific people or details about the institution itself.

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