Frederick Douglass and the Power of the Written Word

Resistance to the institution of slavery took many forms, but the anti-slavery movement gained new momentum in the 19th century with the arrival of widely available print media. Along with newspapers, pamphlets, memoirs, and even novels, a new genre of “slave narratives” appeared in which formerly enslaved Black authors told their own stories to expose readers to the horrors of American slavery.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, a Slave remains one of the most influential works in American literature. First editions like this one appeared in 1845 emphasizing Douglass’s indictment of slavery and belief in literacy as a liberating force.

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