The Story Behind the Greatest Abolitionist of the 19th Century

Dublin Core


The Story Behind the Greatest Abolitionist of the 19th Century




The book is interesting because Fredrick Douglass was a prominent anti-slavery figure during the American Civil War still avidly studied today, although we know little of his life story. The opening of the book is letters written by William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips that ode to the greatness of Douglass’s influence and impression. Garrison describes the powerful oration and his ability to be a strong force for abolition if he fully dedicates himself to the cause. Phillips commends Douglass for giving slavery a voice from the perspective of an actual slave rather than the usual plantation-owner lies. The woes Douglass describes like being pried from his mother and severe floggings rallied the English towards the black cause prevalent in America to be heroes but also less distinctly in England, bringing attention to black Britons and paralleling the-now-abolished slavery in the British colonies. The book advocates for human rights in general which appeals to the British idea of democracy. He gained an uncommonly large amount of respect as a black man from fellow abolitionists and used this respect to later gain support from powerful political leaders like Abraham Lincoln and from the English on his trips after this book was published. Although Douglass was an American slave, he still influenced British involvement in American abolition through connections he made on trips, and he used his experiences of racial equality in England to indirectly push for the Emancipation Proclamation.

The title page is important in that it gives insight into who Douglass was. He was an American slave in the majority of this book, his path to freedom wasn’t described to allow for other slaves to use the escape route to freedom. It was written by himself showing how he was an educated man able to read and write, most of it self-taught. He was a part of the abolition movement which can be inferred by the publisher, the Anti-Slavery Office in Boston. His figure is imprinted on the page as well but I’m unsure it was intentionally or if the ink from his portrait on the previous page was transferred after years of use. But still, you get a sense of what he looked like and his nice suit shows that he’s now a free, well-dressed man fitting into the freeman’s society.


Fredrick Douglass


Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass, an American Slave


The Anti-Slavery Office, No. 25 Cornhill; Boston, MA




Sydney Youmans


USC Archives & Special Collections: Call # E449.D75 D68 1845


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Fredrick Douglass, “The Story Behind the Greatest Abolitionist of the 19th Century,” Black Britons in USC Archives & Special Collections, accessed September 19, 2017,