Best Books About Frederick Douglass – Civil War Saga

It’s shocking how few books there are about Frederick Douglass. The shortage of books about this iconic determine is usually as a consequence of the fact that Douglass himself wrote three nice autobiographies, thus decreasing the need for extra books about his life.

Yet, scholars have lately written numerous new books which might be value exploring. These books cover every thing from his private life to his literary work and even the individuals round Douglass who influenced who he got here to be.

I’ve compiled an inventory of what are thought-about one of the best books about Frederick Douglass. These books are best-sellers on the topic, they’ve nice evaluations on sites like Amazon and Goodreads they usually acquired nice evaluations from critics.

I’ve also used a lot of these books in my research for this web site so I can personally say they’re a number of the greatest on the topic.

The next is an inventory of the perfect books about Frederick Douglass:

(Disclaimer: This text incorporates Amazon affiliate hyperlinks. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

1. Narrative of the Lifetime of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass

Revealed in 1845, this autobiographical e-book by Frederick Douglass is a memoir that discusses Douglass’ life as a slave and his quest to develop into free.

The guide chronicles his childhood, his few reminiscences of his mom and his family, his move to Baltimore where he discovered to write down and skim, his time as a slave and his escape from bondage.

The guide shortly turned a greatest seller, selling 5,000 copies within four months of publication. By 1860, it had bought 30,000 copies.

The e-book acquired constructive critiques when it was revealed. On June 10, 1845, the New York Occasions revealed a front-page assessment praising the ebook:

“Considered merely as narrative, we have never read one more simple, true, coherent and warm with genuine feeling.”

Critics overseas praised the e-book as properly, with the Edinburgh Journal declaring that it “bears all the appearance of truth, and must, we conceive, help considerably to disseminate correct ideas respecting slavery and its attendant evils.”

After the e-book was revealed, Douglass had to flee the country to keep away from being recaptured by his owner and lived in England and Eire for two years. Douglass was ultimately capable of purchase his freedom with funds raised by his supporters.

The guide is now thought-about certainly one of Douglass’ greatest works and is probably probably the most famous American slave narrative ever revealed.

My Bondage My Freedom by Frederick Douglass2. My Bondage My Freedom by Frederick Douglass

Revealed in 1855, this e-book is Frederick Douglass’s second autobiography and expands on his first ebook by discussing his transition from slavery to freedom in larger detail.

Along with discussing his early years in slavery, the guide also discusses Douglass’s experiences with racism within the northern states as a free man, his time abroad in England and Ireland and his activism and includes a 58 web page appendix of extracts from Douglass’ speeches.

Within the e-book’s preface, Douglass explains why he wrote the e-book, stating that he was originally hesitant to put in writing his slave narrative as a result of “I have never placed my opposition to slavery on a basis so narrow as my own enslavement, but rather upon the indestructible and unchangeable laws of human nature…” however ultimately agreed to write down it as a result of he realized “It is not to illustrate any heroic achievements of a man, but to vindicate a just and beneficent principle, in its application to the whole human family, by letting in the light of truth upon a system, esteemed by some as a blessing, and by others as a curse and a crime.”

The ebook was reprinted in 1856 and once more in 1857, with a complete of 18,000 copies printed. The e-book didn’t sell as well as Douglass’s first autobiography and has all the time been overshadowed by it but is considered an invaluable resource on Douglass and on slavery in America.

The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass3. The Life and Occasions of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

Revealed in 1881, this guide is Frederick Douglass’s third autobiography and expands much more on the internal workings of the Underground Railroad, Douglass’s escape from slavery and in addition discusses his life during and after the Civil War.

Douglass explains within the guide that the rationale he didn’t give as many particulars concerning the Underground Railroad or how he escaped from slavery in his earlier books was to guard the individuals who helped him escape and to guard different slaves from being captured when utilizing the same technique of escape.

Douglass defined that, for these reasons, he refused to offer these particulars when slavery still existed and then felt that after slavery was abolished there was no cause to debate it. He ultimately had a change of coronary heart though and determined to disclose these details in this ebook.

Along with discussing his life as a slave, the e-book also discusses Douglass’s friendships with John Brown and Abraham Lincoln, his work recruiting black troopers for the 54th and 55th Massachusetts regiments, his participation in the ladies’s suffrage motion, his work with the Council of the District of Columbia and his time as a United States Marshal.

The guide sadly didn’t promote nicely since, as Douglass’s publishers defined to him, the “interest in the days of slavery was not as great as we expected.”

One other publisher republished the autobiography in 1893, after revising and increasing it just some years before Douglass’s demise, but that edition didn’t promote either.

This ebook has also been overshadowed by Douglass’s first autobiography but is considered an essential resource on Douglass.

Frederick Douglass Prophet of Freedom by David Blight4. Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight

Revealed in 2018, this Pulitzer Prize-winning guide by David W. Blight is about how Douglass turned the legendary figure that he is.

The guide explores the origins and progress of Douglass’s talent as a writer and speaker and makes an attempt to uncover most of the inside thoughts, motivations and conflicts in Douglass’s personal life that Douglass himself uncared for to talk of in his personal autobiographies,

It additionally chronicles how Douglass earned the title of “prophet” via the various biblical references in his speeches and tales and how Douglass reworked himself from a radical outsider to a political insider all while making an attempt to stability his public life together with his personal life.

Blight gathered a lot of this info from a personal collection of a retired physician, named Walter O. Evans, that few different historians have consulted before now as well as from just lately discovered issues of Douglass’s newspaper.

Like all Douglass biographies, the guide also leans heavily on Douglass’s autobiographies, which Blight describes as “remarkable” books that “all Douglass scholars are deeply dependent upon.”

The guide acquired constructive evaluations when it was revealed. A evaluate by Jennifer Szalai in the New York Occasions praised the e-book, calling it scholarly and comprehensive:

“Blight, who has edited and annotated volumes of Douglass’s autobiographies, undertakes this project with the requisite authority and gravity. The result is comprehensive, scholarly, sober; Blight is careful to tell us what cannot be known, including the persistent mystery of Douglass’s father (who was most likely white, and may have been Frederick’s mother’s owner). On the stuff that’s known, Blight is an attentive if sometimes fastidious guide, poring over speeches and texts with the critical equivalent of a magnifying glass. Douglass, Blight says, was a ‘man of words,’ making this book ‘the biography of a voice.’”

A evaluate by Adam Gopnick in the New Yorker referred to as it extraordinary and “a great American biography” despite the fact that he does feel Blight takes an “ambivalent tone about Douglass’s seemingly more conventional postwar path” relating to Douglass’s participation in different liberation actions, like ladies’s suffrage.

A evaluate by fellow Douglass historian, John Stauffer, in the Wall Road Journal referred to the guide as shifting:

“Mr. Blight’s biography deserves full immersion. Though long, it is absorbing and even moving, and the payoff is enormous, for Mr. Blight displays his lifelong interest in Douglass on almost every page, and his own voice is active and eloquent throughout the narrative. It is a book that speaks to our own time as well as Douglass’s.”

Blight is a historical past professor at Yale University and is the Director of the Gilder Lehrman Middle for the Research of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition.

Blight has written numerous books concerning the Civil War period, together with Frederick Douglass’ Civil War: Preserving Religion in Jubilee; Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory; and A Slave No Extra: Two Males Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Personal Narratives of Emancipation.

In 2001, Blight gained the Bancroft Prize and the Frederick Douglass Prize and, in 2002, gained the Abraham Lincoln Prize for his e-book Race and Reunion and in 2019 gained the Pulitzer Prize for Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom.

Frederick Douglass Self-Made Man by Timothy Sandefur5. Frederick Douglass: Self Made Man by Timothy Sandefur

Revealed in 2018, this e-book by Timothy Sandefur is concerning the ideas, philosophies and personal motivations that drove Frederick Douglass to develop into the “self-made man” that he was.

Sandefur argues that Douglass was, above all else, an individualist who believed in personal independence, in accordance with Sandefur within the ebook’s writer’s observe:

“In fact, individualism was the centerpiece of his creed – a creed he embraced proudly and with full consciousness. The theme of his life was well stated in the title of his most popular composition, the lecture ‘Self-Made Man,’ which he delivered over 50 times in the last half of his life. ‘Personal independence is a virtue,’ he declared in that lecture, ‘but there can be no independence without a large share of self-dependence, and this virtue cannot be bestowed. It must develop from within.’ Douglass – who taught himself to read, then taught himself the principles of political philosophy, and then rose through his own efforts to become one of the nation’s foremost intellectuals – was preeminently a self-made man. And in his mind, the United States should be a society for the self-made.”

The guide acquired constructive evaluations when it was revealed, with many reviewers noting that though the guide is shorter than most, it’s compact and wealthy in info.

A evaluation by G. Tracy Mehan III in The American Spectator described the guide as compelling and well-researched:

“Timothy Sandefur’s Frederick Douglass: Self-Made Man is well-researched, accessible, and soon, hopefully, to be widely read. Those of us overly mesmerized by the abundant military narratives of the Civil War will profit from the book’s tight, dense description of the intellectual controversies over what was, or became, the final cause of the conflict in Aristotelian terms: slavery and the American constitutional order.”

Timothy Sandefur is a constitutional scholar with the Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Middle for Constitutional Litigation in Phoenix, Arizona.

Sandefur can also be the writer of numerous books on freedom, individualism and liberty, including The Permission Society: How the Ruling Class Turns Our Freedoms Into Privileges and What We Can Do About It; The Conscience of the Structure: The Declaration of Independence and the Right to Liberty; Cornerstone of Liberty: Property Rights in 21st Century America.

The Radical and the Republican by James Oakes6. The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics by James Oakes

Revealed in 2007, this ebook by James Oakes is about how Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln regularly turned associates and allies.

Oakes argues, in the introduction, that this unlikely friendship between these two iconic figures marks an necessary second in American history and represents what can occur when individuals unite for a standard trigger:

“Here, then, is the story I want to tell: how Lincoln and Douglass converged at the most dramatic moment in American history. The story commands our attention in part because the two extraordinary personalities are fascinating on their own terms. But there is more to it than that. Lincoln and Douglass, seen together, reveal what can happen in American democracy when progressive reformers and savvy politicians make common cause.”

The ebook acquired constructive critiques when it was revealed. A evaluation by Publishers Weekly praised the guide for its detailed and eager analysis of its topics and points out that as a result of Douglass had the extra trendy political beliefs, the ebook is “really a study through his eyes of the more complex figure of Lincoln…As Douglass shifts from denouncing Lincoln’s foot-dragging to revering his achievements, Oakes vividly conveys both the immense distance America traveled to arrive at a more enlightened place and the fraught politics that brought it there. ”

Fellow Douglass historian, Timothy Sandefur, described the guide in a publish on his personal weblog as excellent and praised Oakes as a “fantastic scholar”:

“This is an outstanding book that looks at the relationship between Lincoln and Douglass, and compares their sometimes eerily parallel lives. Oakes is a fantastic scholar on the legal history of abolition—his book Freedom National is totally indispensable—and he does an excellent job of examining the way Douglass influenced and was influenced by, the often tumultuous changes in government policy in those four years, 1861-65. Oakes is particularly good in the way he really gets Lincoln’s careful and considered political maneuvering—something that was just not in Douglass’s character, but which he needed, nevertheless.”

James Oakes is a professor of history on the City College of New York. He taught beforehand at Princeton College and Northwestern College.

Oakes can also be the writer of numerous books on slavery and the Civil War, including Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in america, 1861-1865; The Scorpion’s Sting: Slavery and the Coming of the Civil War; The Ruling Race: A History of American Slaveholders.

In 2013, Oakes gained the Lincoln Prize for his e-book Freedom Nationwide, which was also long-listed for the Nationwide E-book Award.

Women in the World of Frederick Douglass by Leigh Fought7. Ladies within the World of Frederick Douglass by Leigh Fought

Revealed in 2017, this guide by Leigh Fought is concerning the ladies in Frederick Douglass’s personal life and the influence that they had on him.

Fought explains, within the e-book’s introduction, that she determined to put in writing the ebook as a result of she felt Douglass’s earlier biographers, and Douglass himself, had utterly ignored the contributions made by the women in Douglass’s life:

“This biographical summary touches upon the major moments of his career as provided by Douglass in his autobiographies in which he intended to expose the plight of the African Americans through the lens of his own experience. Although he acknowledged individual women at key moments, he also obscured the degree to which they, at every turn, proved integral to his advancement and protest against racism. His biographers, closely hewing to Douglass’s narrative, pushed women further to the margins, relegating them to standard roles and platitudes about importance without demonstrating their contributions or expressing curiosity about their motivations.”

The ebook acquired constructive evaluations when it was revealed, with the Wall Road Journal calling it “a fresh and surprising account of Douglass’s life” and Kirkus Critiques echoing that sentiment when it referred to the ebook as “A fresh and insightful perspective on a major historical figure.”

Fellow Douglass biographer Timothy Sandefur also praised the e-book in a publish on his private weblog, when he described it as an essential step in better understanding Douglass’s character:

“…this book unearths archival material to give us a picture of the domestic life of Douglass: his mother, his wives, his daughters, and the guests who stayed, sometimes for years, in his home. Douglass was a very private man, and we know exceedingly little about his first wife, Anna. This book can’t totally fix that, but it is certainly an important step in completing his biography.”

Leigh Fought is an Assistant Professor of Historical past at LeMoyne School. Fought is the writer of Southern Womanhood and Slavery: A Biography of Louisa S. McCord; A Historical past of Mystic, Connecticut: From Pequot Village to Vacationer City; and is an editor of The Frederick Douglass Papers: Collection Three: Correspondence, Volume 1: 1842-1852.

The Lives of Frederick Douglass by Robert Levine8. The Lives of Frederick Douglass by Robert S. Levine

Revealed in 2016, this e-book by Robert S. Levine offers a extra detailed take a look at Douglass’s giant physique of labor so as to produce a extra complete and nuanced view of the long-lasting figure.

Within the introduction to the e-book, Levine argues that the disproportionate quantity of attention paid to Douglass’s first autobiography has distorted and limited the general public’s view of Douglass and Levine hopes to right it by analyzing all of Douglass’s writings in full:

“The Lives of Frederick Douglass is a book about Douglass as an autobiographer, but with a difference. Rather than focus on the three major autobiographies as discrete texts, subject to close readings and comparison, I consider them as part of a larger autobiographical project that encompasses a wide range of Douglass’s writings…This is a study of the autobiographical Douglass in which there are no stable or fixed texts. Instead, there are three autobiographies, including several versions of those autobiographies…numerous autobiographical lectures, essays, letters, and even a novella, all of which address aspects of Douglass’s life from complementary and sometimes contradictory perspectives…In short, this is a book about autobiography that is also a literary biography.”

The guide acquired constructive critiques when it was revealed, with Kirkus Evaluations praising it as astute and thorough:

“In this finely delineated look at Douglass’ writing, Levine urges new readings of his subject’s other autobiographical works, as well as his 1853 novella, The Heroic Slave, in order to grasp a fuller understanding of how Douglass came into his own and began to move away from Garrison’s ‘moral suasion’ to an advocacy of black militancy and beyond… Levine’s exploration of the character of Madison Washington in The Heroic Slave as Douglass’ alter ego and his views of John Brown and President Abraham Lincoln are especially elucidating. An astute, thorough literary study that will invite fresh readings of Douglass’ writing.”

Fellow Douglass historian Timothy Sandefur also had type words to say concerning the guide in a publish on his private blog:

“This is the book I wish I had written: it examines Douglass’s memoirs to compare the different versions and examine the significance of Douglass’s reworking of his own life. For a compulsive memoirist like Douglass—such a truly self-made man—this sort of analysis is really critical, and Levine has an exceptionally sensitive ear for nuance. Really an excellent work.”

Robert S. Levine is an English professor on the College of Maryland. Levine is the writer of numerous books on 19th century historical past, including Dislocating Race and Nation: Episodes in Nineteenth-Century American Literary Nationalism; Conspiracy and Romance: Research in Brockden Brown, Cooper, Hawthorne, and Melville; Martin Delany, Frederick Douglass, and the Politics of Representative Id.

Sandefur, Timothy. “What to read about Frederick Douglass.” Sandefur, 9 Feb. 2018,
“Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Revisited.” Harvard College Press,
“The Lives of Frederick Douglass by Robert S. Levine.” Kirkus Evaluation,
Bordewich, Fergus M. ‘Frederick Doulgass, Feminist.” Wall Road Journal, 5 Might. 2017,
“Women in the World of Frederick Douglass.” Kirkus Evaluate,
“The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.” Frederick Douglass Heritage,
McCory, Colin. “The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics, by James Oakes.” Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Affiliation,–radical-and-the-republican-frederick-douglass-abraham?rgn=important;view=fulltext
“Nonfiction Book Review: The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery.” Writer’s Weekly,
“List of Books and Articles About Frederick Douglass.” Questia,
Mehan III, G Tracy. “Nothing is Settled that is Not Right.” The American Spectator, 21 Aug. 2018,
McCrum, Robert. “The 100 Best Nonfiction Books: No 68 – Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass (1845),” The Guardian, 22 Might. 2017,
Szalai, Jennifer. “A Big New Biography Treats Frederick Douglass as Man, Not Myth.” New York Occasions, 17 Oct. 2018,
Stauffer, John. “’Frederick Douglass’ Review: His Tongue the Pen of God.” Wall Road Journal, 11 Oct. 2018,
Friedman, Nadine. “The 4 best Frederick Douglass Biographies and Memoirs.” Signature Reads, 14 Feb. 2013,

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Best Frederick Douglass Books

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