Cover image for Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave, written by himself : a new critical edition
Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave, written by himself : a new critical edition
Publication Information:
San Francisco : City Lights Books, c2010.
Physical Description:
254 p. : ill. ; 21 cm.
Autobiography of the field hand who rose out of the bondage of slavery to become one of the Abolitionist movement's most persuasive speakers, and who would eventually become a strong proponent for the rights of women.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book 921 DOUGLASS 1 1

On Order



A masterpiece of African American literature, Frederick Douglass'sNarrative is the powerful story of an enslaved youth coming into social and moral consciousness by disobeying his white slavemasters and secretly teaching himself to read. Achieving literacy emboldens Douglass to resist, escape and ultimately achieve his freedom. After escaping slavery, Douglass became a leader in the anti-slavery and women's rights movements, a bestselling author and U.S. diplomat.

In this new critical edition, legendary activist and feminist scholar Angela Davis sheds new light on the legacy of Frederick Douglass. In two philosophical lectures originally delivered at UCLA in autumn 1969, Davis focuses on Douglass's intellectual and spiritual awakening, and the importance of self-knowledge in achieving freedom from all forms of oppression. With detailed attention to Douglass's text, she interrogates the legacy of slavery and shares timeless lessons about oppression, resistance and freedom. And in an extended introductory essay written for this edition, Davis comments on previous editions of theNarrative and re-examines Douglass through a contemporary feminist perspective. An important new edition of an American classic.

"Angela Y. Davis presents a long overdue examination of Douglass' work not just from the perspective of a woman but one of the most provocative and profound minds of the last half century. It is my sincere hope that this City Lights edition ofThe Narrativewill inspire researchers and individuals to take a closer look at the tremendous degree of influence Anna Murray Douglass had in the life and the career of her husband and my great-great-great grandfather."--Kenneth B. Morris, Jr., Great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass and Great-great grandson of Booker T. Washington

"Davis' arguments for justice are formidable . . . The power of her historical insights and the sweetness of her dream cannot be denied."--New York Times Book Review

"Long before 'race/gender' became the obligatory injunction it is now, Angela Davis was developing an analytical framework that brought all of these factors into play. For readers who only see Angela Davis as a public icon . . . meet the real Angela Davis: perhaps the leading public intellectual of our era."--Robin D. G. Kelley author ofThelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original

"One of America's last truly fearless public intellectuals."--Cynthia McKinney, Former U.S. Democratic Congresswoman

"Angela Davis's revolutionary spirit is still strong. Still with us, thank goodness!"--Virginian-Pilot

"There was a time in America when to call a person an 'abolitionist' was the ultimate epithet. It evoked scorn in the North and outrage in the South. Yet they were the harbingers of things to come. They were on the right side of history. Prof. Angela Y. Davis stands in that proud, radical tradition."--Mumia Abu-Jamal, author ofJailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v. the U.S.A.

"Behold the heart and mind of Angela Davis, open, relentless, and on time!"--June Jordan

"The enormous revolution in Black consciousness which has occurred in your generation, my dear sister, means the beginning or the end of America. Some of us, white and Black, know how great a price has already been paid to bring into existence a new consciousness, a new people in an unprecedented nation. If we know, and do nothing, we are worse than the murderers hired in our name. If we know, then we must fight for your life as though it were our own--which it is--and render impassable with our bodies the corridor to the gas chamber. For, if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night."--James Baldwin

Author Notes

Born a slave in Maryland in about 1817, Frederick Douglass never became accommodated to being held in bondage. He secretly learned to read, although slaves were prohibited from doing so. He fought back against a cruel slave-breaker and finally escaped to New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1838 at about the age of 21. Despite the danger of being sent back to his owner if discovered, Douglass became an agent and eloquent orator for the Massachusetts Antislavery Society. He lectured extensively in both England and the United States. As an ex-slave, his words had tremendous impact on his listeners.

In 1845 Douglass wrote his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, which increased his fame. Concerned that he might be sent back to slavery, he went to Europe. He spent two years in England and Ireland speaking to antislavery groups.

Douglass returned to the United States a free man and settled in Rochester, New York, where he founded a weekly newspaper, The North Star, in 1847. In the newspaper he wrote articles supporting the antislavery cause and the cause of human rights. He once wrote, "The lesson which [the American people] must learn, or neglect to do so at their own peril, is that Equal Manhood means Equal Rights, and further, that the American people must stand for each and all for each without respect to color or race."

During the Civil War, Douglass worked for the Underground Railroad, the secret route of escape for slaves. He also helped recruit African-Americans soldiers for the Union army. After the war, he continued to write and to speak out against injustice. In addition to advocating education for freed slaves, he served in several government posts, including United States representative to Haiti.

In 1855, a longer version of his autobiography appeared, and in 1895, the year of Douglass's death, a completed version was published. A best-seller in its own time, it has since become available in numerous editions and languages.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This edition of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass contains two previously unpublished "Lectures on Liberation" by Angela Davis, delivered at the start of her controversial appointment at UCLA in 1969 and later circulated as a pamphlet by supporters during her incarceration in 1970. An introduction Davis wrote in 2009 adds a look back at the lectures and speculates about the continuing relevance of Douglass's text. Davis's lectures apply methods from Hegelian and Marxist philosophy to an analysis of alienation, freedom, resistance, and liberation in the life of the slave, while her introduction focuses more on recent feminist readings critiquing Douglass. There is little here that scholars haven't already said in the four decades since Davis delivered these lectures, but they do provide an interesting window onto the intellectual landscape of the late 1960s. Less clear is how these lectures "will help us to understand ... the legacies of slavery as they are crystallized today in multiple regimes of violence against women and men." After all, it wasn't Douglass's philosophical psychology that freed the slaves, but a civil war, which itself did little in the long run to ameliorate their oppression. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/libraries. G. Jay University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee