An introductory essay provides a theoretical framework for the chapters that follow. It discusses the origins of African American autobiography and the larger themes of the epic tradition that are common to the works of both black and white authors. The book then pairs representative African American autobiographies with similar works by white writers. Thus the volume matches Olaudah Equiano's slave narrative with The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave with Richard Henry Dana's Two Years Before the Mast, and Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl with Fanny Fern's Ruth Hall. The study indicates that these various works all recognize the importance of learning as a means for attaining freedom. The final chapter provides a broad survey of the African American autobiography.
In CliffsNotes on Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, you’ll meet the inspirational man who was born into a family of slavery in early America, educated himself through sheer determination and wiles, and went on to become one of America's great statesmen, writers, and orators. In addition to summaries and commentaries on the novel, you’ll also findLife and background of the author, Frederick DouglassA list of charactersHelpful mapsCritical essays covering slavery, Douglass’ life and writings, and moreA review section that tests your knowledgeA genealogy map
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Many of the narratives gathered here were influential when initially published; Josiah Henson's presentation of himself, for example, embodies many of the characteristics given to Uncle Tom by Harriet Beecher Stowe in her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. While other collections often only provide excerpts from widely available texts, this reference includes complete narratives. The introductions and annotations redefine current thinking in the field by closely examining how these authors used language, structured their writing, and crafted their autobiographies. By examining the historical, cultural, literary, and social issues that African Americans have faced since their arrival, this reference provides the broad context necessary to understand the literary, social, and intellectual traditions from which these writings developed.