A Narrative of a Slave

A Narrative of a Slave book cover Tower Books

A Narrative of a Slave

Frederick Douglass was one of the foremost spokesman of the abolitionist movement, which fought to end slavery within the United States in the decades before the Civil War. In 1845 Douglass published his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written By Himself. Three years later he published his own newspaper, The North Star. Douglass served as an adviser to President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and recruited northern blacks for the Union Army.

An Introduction to the Slave Narrative

William L. Andrews’ essay “An Introduction to the Slave Narrative” (found at the UNC Chapel Hill’s Documenting the American South website) explains the purpose of the slave narrative as “to enlighten white readers about both the realities of slavery as an institution and the humanity of black people as individuals deserving of full human rights.” The essay touches upon the popularity of the narratives before the Civil War and also notes specific characteristic traits of the slave narrative.

Frederick Douglass dramatization

American Slave Narratives
Over two thousand former slaves, most born in the last years of the slave regime or during the Civil War, provide first-hand accounts of their experiences on plantations, in cities, and on small farms. At this web site you can read a sample of these narratives and see some photographs taken at the time of the interviews.There is an annotated list of narratives, sound files, and related resources. Part of the American Hypertext Workshop at the University of Virginia.

From Courage to Freedom: Frederick Douglass’s 1845 Autobiography
In this three-lesson EDSitement curriculum unit students read Douglass’s narrative with particular attention devoted to chapters 1, 2, 6, 7, 9, and 10. They analyze Douglass’s first-hand accounts of the lives of slaves and the behavior of slave owners to see how he successfully contrasts reality with romanticism and powerfully uses imagery, irony, connotative and denotative language, strong active verbs, repetition, and rhetorical appeals to persuade the reader of slavery’s evil. Students also identify and discuss Douglass’s acts of physical and intellectual courage on his journey towards freedom.

Silva Rhetoricae
This EDSITEment-reviewed website, “The Forest of Rhetoric”, has definitions and examples of the persuasive appeals and rhetorical devices used by Frederick Douglass and other accomplished orators.

OUSD Lesson Plan: Frederick Douglas
This Oakland Unified School District lesson plan is designed for 9th grade students. You’ll be impressed with the array of teaching ideas, lesson templates, handouts, worksheets, and tech integration. The goal of the lesson is to encourage students to read purposefully, learn reading strategies, and develop Expository Reading strategies for improving critical thinking skills. The themes of Social Justice, Social Reconciliation, and Social Transformation play a central role in the lessons.

Perspective on the Slave Narrative
In this EDSitement lesson students consider the narrative as a historical record anda work of literature, investigate the rhetorical techniques Brown uses, and consider the work’s political dimension. Includes background, links and suggested activities.

His Story/Her Story/Your Story
A Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute teaching unit that explores the use of biography as vehicle for helping students gain a working and personal knowledge of black history. Reading selections include Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Up From Slavery, the Autobiography of Malcolm X, His Eye is on the Sparrow, and The Long Shadow Little Rock.

The Frederick Douglass Papers at the Library of Congress, available on the American Memory Web site, contains approximately 7,400 items (38,000 images) relating to Douglass’ life as an escaped slave, abolitionist, editor, orator, and public servant. The papers consist of correspondence, speeches and articles by Douglass and his contemporaries, a draft of his autobiography, financial and legal papers, scrapbooks, and miscellaneous items. Topics include politics, emancipation, racial prejudice, women’s suffrage, and prison reform. Included is correspondence with Susan B. Anthony, William Lloyd Garrison, Horace Greeley, Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison, and others.

DOUGLASS | Archives of American Public Address
An extensive and searchable collection of speeches by famous Americans and related documents. Go to section 4 “Slavery and the Ordeal of the Union” and hear audio excerpts by a Frederick Douglass reenactor. Also has primary documents.

Documenting the American South (DAS) is an impressive collection of sources by the University of North Carolina on Southern history, literature and culture from the colonial period through the first decades of the 20th century. DAS supplies teachers, students, and researchers with a wide range of titles they can use for reference, studying, teaching, and research. Currently, DAS includes six digitization projects: slave narratives, first-person narratives, Southern literature, Confederate imprints, materials related to the church in the black community, and North Caroliniana.

Danny Glover Reads Frederick Douglass

Life and Times of Frederick Douglass

Other notable slave narratives: