Frederick Douglass Frederick Douglass was a famous African American orator and author of the 19th century. He was born as a slave and became one of the most important figures of the abolitionist movement. Frederick Douglass believed that slavery was the great sin and shame of America, a country that he truly loved. Douglass was most famous for his fiery speeches addressed to white Americans and free black men, but was also an author of magazine and newspaper articles, books, and essays. He was also the editor of two periodicals. Frederick Douglass was basically self-educated. After learning that his learning to read and write was so strongly protested by his master, he started to believe that education was the key to his freedom.
He would pay his poor white playmates for reading lessons with bread. With anytime that he had for himself, he would read and write. When Frederick Douglass spoke he did not care about what people would be offended or if someone would like not like him after it. He spoke with a clear and harsh voice that more often than not got his point across. His speeches could be compared to those of the 18th century Puritan minister Jonathan Edwards.
Douglass talked of how people were disregarding the Bible and the Constitution by agreeing with the principles of slavery. One of Douglass most famous speeches, The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro, contains all of these named characteristics. Many people doubted that Frederick was ever a slave because he was so well educated. To disprove his critics he wrote his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, which told about his experiences as a slave. Published in May 1845, the book quickly became a best seller in the North. European editions also sold well.
Later, in 1881, he published he most famous work. It was another autobiography called The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. This book also dealt with his growing up as a slave, but not only that. The book told of the reasons he thought slavery existed, the change of the nation during and after the Civil War, and his relationships with different figures throughout American history. In the book he said that he did not blame slave owners for slavery, but that it was incubated for several generations and had become a way of life.
He was able to look beyond the current master to the slave masters before his. Later Douglass wrote another autobiography called My Bondage and My Freedom. The periodicals that he edited dealt with not only freeing black slaves, but womens rights as well. The periodicals included: The North Star, which later became Frederick Douglass Weekly; and Frederick Douglass Monthly, which was a supplement to Frederick Douglass Weekly. The papers were published almost continuously from December 1847 through May 1863, and gave him fame not only as an orator but as a journalist as well.
Many people of all backgrounds will still read Douglass work as years go by, because it deals with a significant time of American history. The lessons that he teaches can be applied to much more than slavery. He talked of having good morals and of remembering that everyone is a human being. The American spirit was definitely present in all of his literature, which is something that most Americans need. Frederick Douglass work is considered great literature because it transcends time. It deals with a major event in American history, but can still be educational today.
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Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc. Douglass, Frederick. “My Escape from Slavery.” The Century Illustrated Magazine 23, n.s. 1 (Nov. 1881): 125-131. Douglass, Frederick. “The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro.” Rennert, Richard (Ed.) (1995).
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Douglass, Frederick. My Bondage and My Freedom. University of Illinois Press: 1990.