12 Best Frederick Douglass Books

Frederick Douglass Books: Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey; February 1818 – February 20, 1895) was an American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York, becoming famous for his oratory and incisive antislavery writings. Accordingly, he was described by abolitionists in his time as a living counter-example to slaveholders arguments that slaves lacked the intellectual capacity to function as independent American citizens. Likewise, Northerners at the time found it hard to believe that such a great orator had once been a slave. We hope you enjoy our list of the best Frederick-Douglass-books.

Frederick Douglass Books

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight

As a young man Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) escaped from slavery in Baltimore, Maryland. He was fortunate to have been taught to read by his slave owner mistress, and he would go on to become one of the major literary figures of his time. His very existence gave the lie to slave owners: with dignity and great intelligence he bore witness to the brutality of slavery.

Initially mentored by William Lloyd Garrison, Douglass spoke widely, using his own story to condemn slavery. By the Civil War, Douglass had become the most famed and widely travelled orator in the nation. In his unique and eloquent voice, written and spoken, Douglass was a fierce critic of the United States as well as a radical patriot. After the war he sometimes argued politically with younger African Americans, but he never forsook either the Republican party or the cause of black civil and political rights.

Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln by John Stauffer

Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln were the preeminent self-made men of their time. In this masterful dual biography, award-winning Harvard University scholar John Stauffer describes the transformations in the lives of these two giants during a major shift in cultural history, when men rejected the status quo and embraced new ideals of personal liberty. As Douglass and Lincoln reinvented themselves and ultimately became friends, they transformed America.


Lincoln was born dirt poor, had less than one year of formal schooling, and became the nation’s greatest president. Douglass spent the first twenty years of his life as a slave, had no formal schooling-in fact, his masters forbade him to read or write-and became one of the nation’s greatest writers and activists, as well as a spellbinding orator and messenger of audacious hope, the pioneer who blazed the path traveled by future African-American leaders.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

Born into a family of slaves, Frederick Douglass educated himself through sheer determination. His unconquered will to triumph over his circumstances makes his one of America’s best and most unlikely success stories. Douglass’ own account of his journey from slave to one of America’s great statesmen, writers, and orators is as fascinating as it is inspiring.

This Prestwick House Literary Touchstone Edition includes a glossary and reader’s notes to help the modern reader contend with Douglass nineteenth-century style and vocabulary.

Life and Times of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass (born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, cFebruary 1818– February 20, 1895) was an African-American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a national leader of the abolitionist movement from Massachusetts and New York, gaining note for his dazzling oratoryand incisive antislavery writings. Life and Times of Frederick Douglass is Frederick Douglass’ third autobiography, published in 1881, revised in 1892. Because of the emancipation of American slaves during and following the American Civil War, Douglass gave more details about his life as a slave and his escape from slavery in this volume than he could in his two previous autobiographies (which would have put him and his family in danger). It is the only one of Douglass’ autobiographies to discuss his life during and after the Civil War, including his encounters with American presidents such as Lincoln and Garfield, his account of the ill-fated “Freedman’s Bank”, and his service as the United States Marshall of the District of Columbia.: Complete History to the Present Time. 

The Life of Frederick Douglass: A Graphic Narrative of an Extraordinary Life by David F. Walker, Damon Smyth

Recently returned to the cultural spotlight, Frederick Douglass’s impact on American history is felt even in today’s current events. Comic book writer and filmmaker David F. Walker joins with the art team of Damon Smyth and Marissa Louise to bring the long, exciting, and influential life of Douglass to life in comic book form. Taking you from Douglass’s life as a young slave through his forbidden education to his escape and growing prominence as a speaker, abolitionist, and influential cultural figure during the Civil War and beyond, The Life of Frederick Douglass presents a complete illustrated portrait of the man who stood up and spoke out for freedom and equality. Along the way, special features provide additional background on the history of slavery in the United States, the development of photography (which would play a key role in the spread of Douglass’s image and influence), and the Civil War. Told from Douglass’s point of view and based on his own writings, The Life of Frederick Douglass provides an up-close-and-personal look at a history-making American who was larger than life.

Frederick Douglass by William S. McFeely, Frederick Douglass

Born into but escaped from slavery, Frederick Douglass―orator, journalist, autobiographer; revolutionary on behalf of a just America―was a towering figure, at once consummately charismatic and flawed. His Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845) galvanized the antislavery movement and is one of the truly seminal works of African-American literature. In this Lincoln Prize– winning biography, William S. McFeely captures the many sides of Douglass― his boyhood on the Chesapeake; his self-education; his rebellion and rising expectations; his marriage, affairs, and intense friendships; his bitter defeat and transcendent courage―and re-creates the high drama of a turbulent era.

Who Was Frederick Douglass? by April Jones Prince

Born into slavery in Maryland in 1818, Frederick Douglass was determined to gain freedom–and once he realized that knowledge was power, he secretly learned to read and write to give himself an advantage. After escaping to the North in 1838, as a free man he gave powerful speeches about his experience as a slave. He was so impressive that he became a friend of President Abraham Lincoln, as well as one of the most famous abolitionists of the nineteenth century.

Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History by Walter Dean Myers, Floyd Cooper

In this powerful picture book biography, New York Times bestselling author Walter Dean Myers and acclaimed artist Floyd Cooper take readers on an inspiring journey through the life of Frederick Douglass.

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in the South, taught himself to read, and grew up to become an icon. He was a leader of the abolitionist movement, a celebrated writer, an esteemed speaker, and a social reformer, proving that “once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

The story of one of America’s most revered figures is brought to life by the text of award-winning author Walter Dean Myers and the sweeping, lush illustrations of artist Floyd Cooper. This picture book biography draws on Frederick Douglass’s autobiographies and includes a timeline, making it an excellent source for reports.

Frederick's Journey: The Life of Frederick Douglass by Doreen Rappaport, London Ladd

Frederick Douglass was born a slave. He was taken from his mother as a baby, and separated from his grandparents when he was six. He suffered hunger and abuse, but miraculously, he learned how to read. Frederick read newspapers left in the street, and secretly collected spellings from neighborhood children. Words, he knew, would set him free. When Frederick was twenty, he escaped to the North, where he spread his abolitionist beliefs through newspaper articles, autobiographies, and speeches. He believed that all people-regardless of color or gender-were entitled to equal rights. It is Douglass’s words, as well as his life, that still provide hope and inspiration across generations.

In this installment of the critically acclaimed Big Words series, Doreen Rappaport captures Frederick’s journey from boy to man, from slavery to freedom, by weaving Frederick’s powerful words with her own. London Ladd’s strong and evocative illustrations combine with the text to create a moving portrait of an extraordinary life.

Women in the World of Frederick Douglass by Leigh Fought

In his extensive writings, Frederick Douglass revealed little about his private life. His famous autobiographies present him overcoming unimaginable trials to gain his freedom and establish his identity-all in service to his public role as an abolitionist. But in both the public and domestic spheres, Douglass relied on a complicated array of relationships with women: white and black, slave-mistresses and family, political collaborators and intellectual companions, wives and daughters. And the great man needed them throughout a turbulent life that was never so linear and self-made as he often wished to portray it.

In Women in the World of Frederick Douglass, Leigh Fought illuminates the life of the famed abolitionist off the public stage. She begins with the women he knew during his life as a slave: his mother, from whom he was separated; his grandmother, who raised him; his slave mistresses, including the one who taught him how to read; and his first wife, Anna Murray, a free woman who helped him escape to freedom and managed the household that allowed him to build his career. Fought examines Douglass’s varied relationships with white women-including Maria Weston Chapman, Julia Griffiths, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Ottilie Assing–who were crucial to the success of his newspapers, were active in the antislavery and women’s movements, and promoted his work nationally and internationally. She also considers Douglass’s relationship with his daughter Rosetta, who symbolized her parents’ middle class prominence but was caught navigating between their public and private worlds. Late in life, Douglass remarried to a white woman, Helen Pitts, who preserved his papers, home, and legacy for history.

Frederick Douglass: Self-Made Man by Timothy Sandefur

Born into slavery in 1818, Frederick Douglass rose to become one of the nation’s foremost intellectuals―a statesman, author, lecturer, and scholar who helped lead the fight against slavery and racial oppression. Unlike other leading abolitionists, however, Douglass embraced the U.S. Constitution, insisting that it was an essentially anti-slavery document and that its guarantees for individual rights belonged to all Americans, of whatever race.

Douglass spoke in his most popular lecture, “Self-Made Men,” of people who rise through their own effort and devotion rather than circumstances of privilege. “If they have traveled far, they have made the road on which they have travelled. If they have ascended high, they have built their own ladder.” In this fast-paced biography, lawyer and author Timothy Sandefur examines the life and ideas of the nation’s foremost “self-made man”―from his horrific experiences in slavery and his heroic escape to his eloquent demands for equal treatment by the federal government and his later career as statesman and intellectual. Throughout it all Douglass was guided by his belief in the sanctity of the individual.

Frederick Douglass: A Life From Beginning to End by Hourly History

Slavery is a dark spot in the history of the United States, a time when the rights of African-Americans were non-existent. Slaves were beaten, mutilated, raped, and killed with impunity. Their lives were a living hell from which death was the only escape they could dare to hope for. From this darkness, many heroes emerged, one of which was a man named Frederick Douglass. Born a slave in Maryland, Douglass believed he had found the key to the power of the white man—education. He taught himself to read and write, and then he proceeded to teach other slaves to read and write as well.