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My Bondage and My Freedom

“Believing that one of the best means of emancipating the slaves of the south is to improve and elevate the character of the free colored people of the north, I shall labor in the future, as I have labored in the past, to promote the moral, social, religious, and intellectual elevation of the free colored people; never forgetting my own humble origin, nor refusing, while Heaven lends me ability, to use my voice, my pen, or my vote, to advocate the great and primary work of the universal and unconditional emancipation of my entire race.”

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My Bondage and My Freedom.
Frederick Douglass, 1818-1895
Part one – Life as a slave
Part two – Life as a freeman.
New York: Miller, Orton & Mulligan, 1855.

My Bondage and My Freedom

My Bondage and My Freedom was published in 1855. Click on image to enlarge.

In My Bondage and My Freedom, Douglass revises his previous autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, published in 1845. He expands and gives more details of his experience as a slave. He does not give details of his escape but apologizes as it might legally implicate those who assisted him.

In the second part, which was not included in his Narrative, Douglass introduces the group of abolitionists, his tours around the country and his twenty-one month exile in Great Britain as well as his return to America as a manumitted man. The last chapter includes various incidents adding to his experience as a black man in America. The book also includes an appendix with extracts from his speeches.

Introduction

The introduction was written by James McCune Smith who was the “single most important influence on his life” according to Douglass.  Because of his color Smith was not allowed to enter any American college therefore he moved to Scotland where he attended Glasgow University and graduated top of his class with a degree in medicine and pharmacy. Upon his return to the U.S. he became the first African American Doctor of Medicine. He practiced in New York and was the first African American to run a pharmacy in the U.S. Together with Frederick Douglass, he helped start the National Council of Colored People in 1853.

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