Frederick Douglass

Faculty Picks: 5 Great Books on Frederick Douglass: Advocate of Equal Rights for All - Selected by Choice Reviewer Duncan R. Jamieson

Born a slave in Maryland in 1818, Douglass learned to read and write before escaping to the North at age twenty. He devoted his life to making real the Declaration of Independence’s belief that “all men [and women] are created equal… .” Sadly, two hundred years later, as a nation we have yet to achieve his goal.

Autobiographies: Narratives of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave; My Bondage and My Freedom; Life and Times of Frederick Douglas, by Frederick Douglass, edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Library of America, 1994.
Douglass’s three classics in both American history and American literature are combined with detailed chronology, textual analysis and notes to place in perspective the events and people mentioned.

Frederick Douglass, by Benjamin Quarles. 1st Da Capo Press ed. Da Capo Press, 1997.
This distinguished African American historian wrote the classic biography. Quarles noted that Douglass brought whites into the abolitionist movement. This new edition has an introduction by Civil War historian James McPherson.

Frederick Douglass: Race and the Rebirth of American Liberalism, by Peter C. Myers. University Press of Kansas, 2008.
Douglass took as the core of his political beliefs the principles of the Declaration of Independence. Equality, which must include all Americans, rests on the natural rights and natural law as expressed by the Enlightenment thinkers who influenced Jefferson’s words in 1776.

The Lives of Frederick Douglass, by Robert S. Levine. Harvard, 2016.
A revisionist biography examining the pragmatic Douglass as a social reformer, orator, and writer who devoted his life to race and gender equality.

The Mind of Frederick Douglass, by Waldo E. Martin, Jr. North Carolina, 1984.
Douglass’ thought developed from the tension between his identity as a black man and as an American. Believing in equality for all, he took ideas from the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and Protestant Christianity. The conundrum was connecting freedom and equality with slavery and racism.

About the author:

Duncan R. Jamieson (Ashland University, is a professor of history. He is the author of The Self-Propelled Voyager: How the Cycle Transformed Travel (Rowman and Littlefield, 2015) as well as multiple articles on cycling and African American history.