In addition to Narrative of the Life, Douglass wrote two more autobiographies: My Bondage & My Freedom and Life & Times of Frederick Douglass. As he foregrounds in the beginning of Narrative, slaves were robbed of an individual and collective identity, and by writing these autobiographies, he effectively wrote himself out of slavery, demonstrating a mastery of the Anglo-American "belletristic" (i.e., literature as an art form) tradition. As such, he constructed an identity—a sense of self and personal history. A number of ex-slaves did the same thing, using the written word to insert themselves (and by extension the black American community) into the text of (white) Western letters, which formerly refused to speak to the person of African descent. Frederick Douglass' autobiographies are touchstone examples of this kind of identity-construction.


Read the preface and main text of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and respond to the writing prompts below. Format all responses on the same document and submit via Pilot. 250 words apiece; 750 words total. DUE DATE: Friday, May 12, 9 a.m.

[1] Summarize what you think is the most interesting and/or important chapter in the autobiography, then explain why you think it is interesting and/or important.

[2] A dominant theme in the autobiography is AFFECTATION—that is, the ways in which slaves (and slaveowners) are negatively affected by the system of slavery. Write a short analysis of this theme, beginning with this thesis statement: "In Narrative of the Life, Frederick Douglass argues that both slaves and slaveowners are negatively affected by the system of slavery."

[3] According to Douglass, "For all slaveholders with whom I have ever met, religious slaveholders are the worst. I have found them the meanest and basest, the most cruel and cowardly, of all others." Why is this the case?


Nineteenth century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche built a theory of the human condition on the following premise: “All actions are motivated by the desire for power." Think about how this premise manifests in Narrative of the Life, then choose two characters and explain how their actions are motivated by a desire for power. Be sure to cite the text and pay attention to specific details. 500 words. DUE DATE: Friday, May 12, 9 a.m.


In your own words, summarize the following three articles from the supplementary material in the Norton Critical Edition of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass:

Peter Ripley • The Autobiographical Writings of Frederick Douglass
Robert B. Stepto • Narration, Authentication, and Authorial Control in Frederick Douglass' Narrative of 1845
Deborah E. McDowell • In the First Place: Making Frederick Douglass and the Afro-American Tradition

Each summary should be 250 words long and formatted as a single paragraph. As always, be sure that your writing is revised and polished. Submit all three summaries on the same document via Pilot. DUE DATE: Friday, May 19, 9 a.m.