Back Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass c. 1850 after c. 1847 daguerreotype. (National Portrait Gallery, Washington; public domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Major works:
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American SlaveMy Bondage and My FreedomLife and Times of Frederick Douglass

“Frederick Douglass was a man above all of language; he heard the music of words in his head, and fashioned them into prose that was both poetic and political. He captured the dilemma and experience of slavery and racism, the nation’s besetting sin, and the resulting crises of the Union, like few other commentators. Douglass possessed that prophet’s rare ability to say in words what people feel, aspire to, or fear.”—David W. Blight

Read an excerpt from

My Bondage and My Freedom

Frederick Douglass

What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

Read a passage from My Bondage and My Freedom by Frederick Douglass
Library of America

A champion of America’s great writers and timeless works, Library of America guides readers in finding and exploring the exceptional writing that reflects the nation’s history and culture.

Learn More

From poetry, novels, and memoirs to journalism, crime writing, and science fiction, the more than 300 volumes published by Library of America are widely recognized as America’s literary canon.

Browse our books Subscribe

With contributions from donors, Library of America preserves and celebrates a vital part of our cultural heritage for generations to come.

Support our mission