Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Narrated by: Charles Turner
Length: 4 hrs and 39 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (164 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Frederick Douglass was born a slave, and it seemed likely that he would live and die a slave since he was uncertain of his date of birth or the identity of his father. But young Douglass promised himself a different future - he would teach himself to read and write, and one day he would be free from slavery. When he was sent to work as a field hand on a plantation in St. Michael's in 1832, his life was so dispiriting and exhausting that he nearly forgot his dreams of freedom. His journey out of bondage was mental, as well as physical, but he did escape from slavery to become one of the most passionate and persuasive speakers of the abolitionist movement and a strong proponent for women's rights. His autobiography, compelling in its honest and forceful eloquence, is performed by Charles Turner.

Public Domain (P)1991 Recorded Books

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent Read...Highly Recommended!

This book was captivating from beginning to end, not only in content but in narration as well. I was moved not only by the power of the story, but equally so by the excellent writing skills of Frederick Douglass. This book ranks among the best of the many audiobooks I have heard.

16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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How do you rate something that transformed US?

This is one of those works of nonfiction where it is difficult (if not impossible) to rate. As a memoir or narrative autobiography it is good and solid, just not great. After reading it, I wished Douglas had gone into more detail and bulked it up a bit with more of his experiences.

However, if you consider the time, the author, the impact, etc., of NLoFD it is hard NOT to give the book every accolade. This book seems to be the 'Common Sense' of the Pre-Civil War abolitionist movement. It didn't just summarize sentiments of abolitionists and slaves, but seemed to actually create energy and expand the movement out Douglass' words (like Paine's 'Common Sense' did in the 1770s).

So grade that. How do you rate something that transformed US?

15 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Powerful story

This book was written in the 1850's as antislavery propaganda. It is the story of Frederick Douglass as a young black man in slavery in Maryland. The story follows him into adulthood and his escape to freedom in the north. The autobiography's a powerful tool against racism and historical amnesia. The book provides vivid descriptions of the field work and ruthless treatment of slaves.. This book should be read by everyone as a reminder that the work against slavery is not over. When news covered the French sending troops to Mali I looked up Mali and was shocked to find that today about 200,000 people in Mali are slaves! France was the first nation to abolish slavery and here a former colony is still practicing this horrible state.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Perhaps it's better than nothing...

Perhaps it's better than nothing...

But it is a shame that, as important as The Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglas is to the American literary and historical traditions, both versions available to Audible listeners are woefully deficient.

The narrators of either version--Charles Turner (this one) and Jonathan Reese (the other)--possess all of the timing skill of child actors performing a cold readings of Shakespeare and possess the vocal inflective talents expected of people who are nearly stone deaf. Considering that Douglas was one of the greatest oratory talents in the history of the United States, these grossly deficient narrators' inept representations of his great rhetorical work is an insult to his memory.

In addition to the undeniable technical insufficiencies that render listening nearly unbearable, neither version includes the essential "qualifying" documents written by William Lloyd Garrison or Wendell Phillips that are representative of slave narratives and inseparable reminders of the disenfranchisement of black people even in the free North.

If you still feel you must purchase one version or the other, that which is narrated by Turner has a more informative introduction at the cost of a laughably wretched narrator; and the version with Reese is slightly less talentless, with only a brief introduction, but even the highest quality (4) format has consistent low-bitrate digital distortion throughout. Since I find the introduction of either version to be sub-academic (and thus not worth the bother), my recommendation would be the Reese narration.

9 people found this helpful

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  • FA
  • 03-27-14

Great book and Great reader

Any additional comments?

Out of all the readers voices I sampled this was the best. The quality didn't sound good on the sample but after I downloaded it, it was great! The other readers sounded dim and it was as if a computer was reading it.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Read for self, ended up teaching it to a class

There are not many primary source documents written by those who were slaves at some point in their lives. And this title is one of the best. I am frustrated that the complete title is missing from the work here on Audible. It should read Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Those last three words are quite important, and were purposefully included by Douglass when he wrote this ground-breaking work. It is shocking that so few people know who this man was and is. Without him, it is likely that Lincoln would not have succeeded in his pursuit of the Emancipation Proclamation for what would become the United States of America.
Douglass was born a slave, of a slave mother and unknown white father. One of his mistresses, Mrs. Auld, started to teach him the alphabet when he was just a boy of about 8 years old. Her lessons were brought to an abrupt halt when her husband made it clear that it was not only illegal to teach a slave to read, but that to do so would be to make them unfit to be a slave.
Douglass heard this conversation and took from it the key to his future: that for white men to keep blacks as slaves, they had to keep them ignorant. Douglass, despite his young age, determined to learn to read and, eventually, write. And over the course of 7 years, he found ways to teach himself to read and bribe others to help him do so.
This text is a clear example of what white Americans had to be ashamed of in the 1800's: the idea that the color of a person's skin can make them less than human. Definitely worth reading.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Inspiring and interesting, I wish it were longer

If you are interested in biography or history this is a good choice. The details of a life as a slave are fascinating but also painful. He gives repeated examples of how slavery actually degraded the owners more than the actual slaves.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Heroic

A heartfelt story of will; Douglas rose from an utterly hopeless and abject state to be the face of obolishists.

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Wonderful Experience

I originally had to read the”Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas” for my college history class. However, listening to it allows your mind to wonder and envision those events as if you are actually apart of the story being told! This book was a wonderful listening experience. I encourage everyone to partake in this journey by hearing it on audible books!
V/R
Ron Brown

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Frederick Douglass Is The Definition of GRIT!

This profound autobiography should be in every citizen's private library for a lifetime of democratic reference!