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Book Review: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Updated on January 14, 2018


This is the heart-wrenching story of the life of an American Slave. This biography tells you the horrors and experiences that Frederick had witnessed, and experienced, as a slave.

Douglass was a different kind of slave. He was determined to fight and to pursue all of his hopes and dreams, even if it meant to die trying.

Many slaves just resisted and dealt with the many problems they were given. Douglass was different. He did not want to settle and become the slave of another person. Freedom was sought for many times from slaves. Many have achieved this feat, but many have not.

In this book, there are many themes that go on, like the need to resist, effects of slavery, freedom, and more.

And as you are reading this book, you will have a first-hand experience of slavery. Many of the acts Douglass shares will shock you and leave you speechless.



One of the many themes is family. Family is not talked about in the beginning of the book, and Douglass wonders who he came from. He knew his mother, only a little bit, but a lot. He did know of her. And that is how many slave children grow up- without a family, no mother to tend their every need.

Douglass' mother was named Harriet Bailey, and Douglass was separated from her at a very young age, just like most slave children are. It is extremely sad knowing that people had to live without their families.

Douglass did not even know his father's name, but he suspects it was his slave-master. All he knew about his father was that he was a white man. That's the only fact, everything else was speculation.


Douglass describes the effects of slavery. He also describes many of his slave-masters and how they treated him.

Colonel Lloyd was his first slave-master, but not his only one. But during his time with Colonel Lloyd, he did witness a cruel act that one of his friends had done to a poor slave named Demby.

Demby did not understand how cruel slavery could get, and neither did the other slaves, but during this one moment, everything changed, because everyone now had witnessed it.

Austin Gore, Colonel's friend, was there visiting his plantation whenever he felt the need to be "powerful". He chose his first victim, Demby. He ordered Demby to come to him, after he had escaped for being beaten and whipped. Demby was in the river, where he escaped, so Gore told him to back to him after counting to three. And if he did not come, he would shoot him

1-2-3, Gore counted.

Demby did not come out.

So Gore shot him.

Colonel Lloyd was the owner of Demby, but he did not care that his pal had shot him. There was no justice for slaves. Slaves were just pieces of property that they could replace.

This is one of the many experiences of slavery Douglass had witnessed. There are many more like this, and some even more cruel. But all experiences of slavery are cruel.

My Thoughts:

This book had me flabbergasted. It is hard to believe, especially the horrible experiences the slaves had to experience on a daily basis. Douglass is an inspiration to all people, not only to the people of color.

This book made me cry and I actually felt like I was right there with him. Every reader will experience that when reading this biography.

I highly recommend this book. It is one of those books that you have to read before you die.

It's a journey you will never forget.


Have you read this book?

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    • DaisysJourney profile image


      4 years ago from Midwest, USA

      I agree, this is a powerful book! I had my 8th grade students read it last year for our first quarter mentor text on narrative writing. They were still talking about it by the end of the year.


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