On this list of Frederick Douglass books, you will find four written by him and seven about him. Douglass is an important person in US History. He was an activist, author, but most importantly an ex-slave that fought for the freedom for others.
Born into slavery, Douglass taught himself how to read and write. Once he escaped, he headed north and became one of the most prominent figures in the abolitionist movement.
He fought to allow African-Americans to fight for their rights during the Civil War. He even consulted with President Abraham Lincoln about how African-Americans should be treated as soldiers.
This is the definitive autobiography about Frederick Douglass. Douglass was born into slavery on a plantation in Maryland around 1818. In the first of these three books, he delves into different periods of his life. In this one, he writes about the horrors of being a slave and having almost no power to control his life.
Written originally in 1845, this book examines several ideas and ideals that Douglass stood for during his lifetime. Some of the histories touch on how easily his white owners would treat him with disdain, beat him, and treat him as if he wasn't even human. It also looks into how he made sure he wouldn't be stuck in this way of life and how he could educate himself and decide to become free or at least die trying to be.
The second of the autobiographies was initially written ten years later, in 1855. By this point Douglass had been emancipated for just around ten years. As he looks back at the horrors of slavery, he begins to give voice to it for blacks who were free and who longed to be free. This includes looking at his own family and questioning what that even meant, as slave owners would willfully break up families and destroy relationships to keep power.
As his writing shows, he has become more political, more powerful, and less willing to submit to any idea of an inherent difference between colors and races. For that reason, he looks at not only the physical effects of racism on slaves but the psychological too, as they are beaten down, and their owners try to break them of any free will.
This book culminates the three books by Douglass, giving his thoughts on how the U.S.A. and race relations had changed from 1855 when he wrote My Bondage My Freedom. This book was written about 25 years later. It shows the changes that have occurred since the Civil War, and just as significantly, what hasn't changed since it.
Douglass shows that even after the Civil War, many things in the U.S. society didn't change. People of color still had no power didn't have any land, and many of their family members were scattered because the slave lords had tried to destroy connections to each other. We appreciated this third book because he discloses secrets of slavery that he wouldn't previously have written about because of possible prosecution or worse against them.
Published: October 13th, 2011
This book shows the scope and range of Douglass’ intelligence, grit, and devotion to freedom and equality. Using only speeches and his written words, Douglass shows that his life’s work has been to become a person who could break down walls between people, educate them about the races, and speak out whenever possible.
You will want to read these stories repeatedly as they each give a different perspective of the times and are still very much representative of what is happening in the U.S.A. Frederick Douglass was ahead of his time and influenced many people who were unable to see the truth without having it explained to them.
Written by: David Blight
Published: October 16th, 2018
Born into slavery in the state of Maryland, Frederick Douglass could have become just another statistic of this horrible time in U.S. history. Being beaten, tortured, and alone, Douglass was terrified and decided he would not give up. He was also lucky enough that his slave owner's mistress would help him learn to read and write.
His drive to overthrow slavery would inspire many people against it through speeches and essays. He would even travel overseas to speak so others could understand why slavery needed to be ended immediately. Lastly, the book goes into his own family and how he conducted himself there and in public.
This book uses recently released information from a private collection that few historians knew existed and so is, therefore, one of the complete biographies you will find anywhere. This book won the Pulitzer Prize for History, and it will inspire you, sadden you, and make you understand that slavery, and even the basic tenets of racism, are abhorrent, and we all must fight to stop them.
Written by: Timothy Sandefur
Published: March 6th, 2018
This short read is an excellent primer on the life and times of Frederick Douglas. As we know, he was a devoted fighter against slavery for equal rights and would not back down from people who tried to stop him. This book gives some interesting differences between him and other freedom fighters, such as William Lloyd Garrison, who believed that The North should leave the Union. Being that Garrison was a Northerner, this agrees with many Southern slave lords.
Initially they were friends, but this is one of the reasons that their relationship dissolved, and they ended up not speaking later in life. Douglass is also shown to be devoted to the Constitution and stated it could be used to fight to argue against slavery is that according to it, all people were created equal.
Written by: Brian Kilmeade
Published: November 2nd, 2021
This book compares the life of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. One would think that they would have nothing in common, but both were born poor, primarily self-educated, and would go on to become fighters for equality against the evils of slavery in the South.
However, they may have agreed; they weren't friends at the beginning on how this change should be put into place. An example of the differences was Lincoln wanting to end slavery, just as Douglass wanted, but Lincoln wanted to take more time and ease into the change. Douglass, who had truly experienced slavery and seeing how it destroyed the lives of so many people of color, wanted to move more quickly. Even so, because of their convictions about slavery, they eventually met and found they agreed on more than they thought and became friends.
Written by: Celeste-Marie Bernier and Andrew Taylor
Published: September 1st, 2018
Walter Evans is an African American and a very distinguished man of arts and sciences for those who don't know him. He realized as he traveled that African American art is severely underrepresented in museums and history. For that reason, he started promoting it, collecting it, and helping museums do the same.
So why is Walker Evans critical? He was able to buy up collections of work that had previously been locked away. Therefore, this book takes a different tact while exploring Frederick Douglass and his contributions to the U.S.A. It looks at Douglass and his sons Lewis Henry, Frederick Jr., and Charles Raymond. Staring with examples of how racism was prevalent and still is in today's U.S., you are given a proper context as to why Douglass' sons wanted to continue the fight for equality and freedom.
This is a rather massive tome, and there are many essays, photos, and pictures that have been scanned into it so you can get a real feel about their thinking, their actions, and what they had to fight against for so many years but be ready to take your time since it is so in-depth.
Written by: Tom Chaffin
Published: December 15th, 2014
Most people don’t associate Frederick Douglass with Ireland, but that is the focus of this book by Tom Chaffin. After writing Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, an American Slave, racists, and slave owners threatened to kill him. Therefore, to protect himself, he went on a 17-month tour of Europe. Even though this tour also was of Scotland and England, he fell in love with Ireland.
As he continued to speak out and travel more, he became more famous and even more influential. By taking this trip, he realized that the mistreatment of many people was thriving throughout the world. Because of this, he became even more powerful of a speaker against many prevalent issues during these times.
Written by: John Stauffer
Published: November 3rd, 2008
In 1865, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass met for the first time. It was a historic meeting, two giants of American history coming together. Their lives had some parallels up to that point. Both were born into poverty, both not having formal educations, and both rising to be incredibly powerful and influential people who fought tirelessly for the abolition of slavery. Of course, a significant difference was that Douglass was born a slave while Lincoln was born a free white man.
Lincoln, realizing that meeting and working beside Douglass was imperative to stopping slavery and winning the war, invited him to the White House. They talked about everything from Reconstruction to the parallels between African Americans and white Americans during their conversation. This meeting was a turning point in both of their lives, cementing Douglass' place as one of the most critical voices in America and inspiring Lincoln to push even harder for equality. Their words, and actions, are still entirely relevant to the world we live in today.
Written by: Rose O’Keefe
Published: November 5th, 2013
This book will give you a different take on Frederick Douglass' life as it focuses on him, his wife Anna, their five children, and how they lived during this turbulent time in Rochester. Because Frederick was traveling so often and sometimes far away to places like Europe by ship, Anna was often forced to raise the children alone. She did a fantastic job, as all the children excelled, and three of them became fighters for equality just like their dad.
It also delves into how they were part of the Underground Railroad, which helped slaves escape from the slave lords in the South. It also includes how other abolitionists and anti-slavery fighters would visit their conversations and about their discussions. It is a beautiful and loving way to see how these freedom fighters could still have as close to an everyday life no matter what was happening around them.