‘I was born in Tuckahoe I have no accurate knowledge of my age, never having seen any authentic record containing it. By far the larger part of the slaves know as little of their ages as horses know of theirs, and it is the wish of most masters within my knowledge to keep their slaves thus ignorant.’

Thus begins the autobiography of Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) who was born into slavery in Maryland and after his escape to Massachusetts in 1838 became an ardent abolitionist and campaigner for women’s rights. His Narrative, which became an instant bestseller on publication in 1845, describes his life as a slave, the cruelty he suffered at the hands of his masters, his struggle to educate himself and his fight for freedom. Passionately written, often using striking biblical imagery, the Narrative came to assume epic proportions as a founding anti-slavery text in which Douglass carefully crafted both his life story and his persona.

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