Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself
A New Critical Edition by Angela Y. Davis

African American Review

"Just as Douglass was dedicated to abolishing the institution that imprisoned him and his people, Davis is dedicated to abolishing the institution that imprisoned her and still imprisons millions of Americans, mostly people of color: the modern American prison system." -- H. Bruce Franklin

Drums in the Global Village

"The two pioneering feminists [Davis and Douglass] merge together, in theory and in practice, on the nature(s) of liberation. In this book of merged centuries, freedom travels from idea to action (creating resistance) to finally, negotiating a complex reality. Davis, in 2009: 'Many of us thought [in the 1960s and 1970s] that liberation was simply a question of organizing to leverage power from the hands of those we deemed to be the oppressors.' An idea whose time has gone in the Obama era, one in which, supposedly, the ultimate power has been leveraged, but from whom and for what? This new version of an old book is a perfect excuse to analyze (Douglass' and Davis') views of freedom as we continue to debate the Black movement's purpose in the second decade of the new century."

Rebecca Hensley, Changeseeker

"The bottom line is that Frederick Douglass' narrative should be required reading for every person in the United States. But more to the point, it should be on the bookshelf in every home in America. The passion, the beauty, and the truth of Douglass' work is such that it calls into question not only the peculiar institution of slavery, but the ongoing acceptance of White Supremacy as the default position in this nation today." —Rebecca Hensley, Changeseeker

Angela Davis on the Prison Abolishment Movement, Frederick Douglass, the 40th Anniversary of Her Arrest and President Obama's First Two Years
Oct 19, 2010

"Angela Davis, speaking from prison forty years ago. In 1972, she was acquitted of all charges in a trial that drew international attention.

Instead of shying away from public life, Davis resumed her academic work and social activism. Today she is professor emerita of history of consciousness and feminist studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a visiting distinguished professor at Syracuse University. She is founder of the group Critical Resistance, a grassroots effort to end the prison-industrial complex.

Her books include Women, Race and Class, Abolition Democracy, Blues Legacies and Black Feminism, Are Prisons Obsolete? This year she came out with a new critical edition of Frederick Douglass's classic work Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself. She will be appearing with the author Toni Morrison at the New York Public Library on October 27th for an event called 'Frederick Douglass: Literacy, Libraries, and Liberation.'"

- Amy Goodman,

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries

"This edition of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass contains two previously unpublished 'Lectures on Liberation' by Angela Davis, delivered at the start of her controversial appointment at UCLA in 1969… An introduction Davis wrote in 2009 adds a look back at the lectures and speculates about the continuing relevance of Douglass’ text. Davis’ lectures apply methods from Hegelian and Marxist philosophy to an analysis of alienation, freedom, resistance, and liberation in the life of the slave, while her introduction focuses more on recent feminist readings critiquing Douglass… [providing] an interesting window onto the intellectual landscape of the 1960s. . . .Recommended. All levels/Libraries." - G. Jay

Angela Davis and Toni Morrison: Literacy, Libraries and Liberation
Oct 27, 2010

Angela Davis and Toni Morrison discuss Frederick Douglass: Literacy, Libraries and Liberation.

- New York Public Library

Davis and Douglass in Tandem
Feb 12, 2010

"Davis is among the preeminent Black philosophers and scholars of our time, and her ability to further illuminate Douglass's profound and historic work speaks to not only her mastery of Black intellectualism but of her continued contribution to politics in the age of Obama. At a time when the freedoms once granted by the Fourteenth Amendment are now being applied to corporate entities, cannabilizing the legacy of freed slaves in the United States, this book—Davis's call for a more engaged electorate—is wonderfully timely and deeply engaging."

- Brittany Shoot, ColorLines

Angela Y. Davis & Frederick Douglass: Political Literacy
Oct 28, 2009

"Throughout her more than forty years as an activist, author and educator, Angela Davis has worked ceaselessly to further understand and clear the pathways from slavery to freedom. She has written about Douglass both as a way of better understanding the impact and limitations of his work and as a way of analyzing how institutional racism enforced by legal slavery continued after the passage of Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments."

- Greg Ruggiero, ZNet

The Midwest Book Review

"Being an educated man of color was a true anomaly in his day. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave Written By Himself discusses Douglass's famous autobiography as Angela Y. Davis offers much studious insight on the matters she examines Douglass's writings and how the man embraced intellectualism and spirituality to pull himself out of his subservient life in a society that thought of him as an animal. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is a must for anyone trying to get a greater understanding of the black icon."

Angela Davis on Black History Month
Feb 22, 2010

"The UIC Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha hosted a special guest at UIC in honor of Black History Month - Angela Davis. Ms. Davis is a former member of the Black Panther party, professor, and activist. She is most known for her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, but her concerns and activist pursuits extend beyond the African American community.

Black History Month, Ms. Davis told the packed Montgomery Ward Lounge: 'Allows us to reflect not only on the quest for black freedom, but on the nature of freedom, and that affects everyone.'"

- Fae Rabin, Chicago Flame

New Edition of Frederick Douglass' 'Narrative' Adds Lost Angela Davis Lectures
Feb 4, 2010

"San Francisco-based City Light Publishers has released a new edition of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, the great abolitionist's autobiography, that includes two rediscovered 1960s lectures by legendary feminist scholar and political activist Angela Davis that focused on Douglass' themes of self-empowerment and freedom through literacy and self-knowledge."

- Calvin Reid, Publishers Weekly


". . . the newly released Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself: A New Critical Edition (City Lights Books) brings together two of the great philosophical writers and racial justice activists of the last two centuries and combines the deeply personal writings of Frederick Douglass with several politically charged lectures given by Angela Y. Davis in the early 1970s. . . . Even for those who have never studied either writer in depth, Davis explores the many ways we can interpret Douglass's anti-slavery writing today and draws parallels between the continued oppression of women and prisoners. . . . The breadth of Davis's work in the past two decades is an inspiring example of bridge-building across causes and generations. That her contemporary activism can be coupled so flawlessly with Douglass’s historic writings and powerful legacy speaks to the importance of their combined influence spanning centuries. . . . At a time when the freedoms once granted by the Fourteenth Amendment are now being applied to corporate entities, cannabilizing the legacy of freed slaves in the United States, this book — Davis’s call for a more engaged electorate — is wonderfully timely and deeply engaging."
— Brittany Shoot

Todd S. Burroughs

"[Davis] uses Douglass to examine the philosophy of freedom. . . . [She] dissects Douglass' strengths and pitfalls of how he defined freedom — a definition that, Davis explains, leaves enslaved women behind as symbols of oppression, unable to achieve the "manhood" Douglass equates with his liberation. . . . The two pioneering feminists merge together, in theory and in practice, on the nature(s) of liberation. In this book of merged centuries, freedom travels from idea to action (creating resistance) to finally, negotiating a complex reality."

Archival footage of the controversy surrounding Angela Davis' time at UCLA

Watch archival footage of the controversy surrounding Angela Davis' time at UCLA. Despite being fired by the UC Board of Regents for her affiliation with the Communist party, Davis delivered her "Lectures on Liberation"—contained in this book—to a crowd of over 1,500 students and faculty.

Hasta la Victoria! The Long Arms of Angela Davis
Jan 20, 2010

"I first heard about Angela Davis in 1969.

Fresh out of college, I had been active in the student movement (SDS), the Underground Press (The Rag), and in el movimiento Chicano. The civil-rights movement had shifted from nonviolence to more radical and militant protest to combat the establishment's ploy to criminalize and demonize this new activism.

It was therefore no surprise to read in the New York Times an editorial about how regents of the University of California at the bidding of Governor Ronald Reagan planned to dismiss Angela Yvonne Davis, an assistant professor of philosophy 'with a background of black militancy and membership in the Communist Party.'"

- Gregg Barrios, San Antonio Current

Regal Magazine

"In her most diplomatic method, Davis proves what I never realized until now: The Black American slave era was not so much about Blacks and slavery as it was about the state of all humanity. . . . Davis shows in this very compelling volume that Frederick Douglass was simply a man. And what all men and women were meant to be . . . free."
—Judith Brown

Hundreds graduate from VSU
Dec 13, 2009

"The link between education and freedom was the thread in the commencement address by prominent civil rights activist Professor Angela Y. Davis at the 2009 Annual Winter Commencement Convocation at Virginia State University yesterday.

'Freedom is the most meaningful to those who have not always been able to enjoy it,' Davis told the 300 new graduates. 'Education is the most important ingredient of freedom.'"

- Markus Schmidt,

Angela Davis Gives Keynote Address to the National Women's Studies Association
Nov 12, 2009

In her Keynote Address at the National Women's Studies Association's Annual Conference, Angela Davis talks about the fundamental importance of developing a gender analysis of Douglass's text.

Huffington Post

"Douglass' description of his life in slavery, his resistance, and his flight to freedom could not be more timely or more meaningful to students. At a time when education officials are wringing their hands about how difficult it is to teach black students literacy, Douglass demonstrates how the struggle for literacy has always been a part of the struggle for liberation. . . . This is where Angela Davis injects her considerable insight. Her introduction connects Douglass' critique to the struggles for liberation in the 60's and 70's, demonstrating the same courage, audacity, and clarity of vision that was required to see through and defy the slave system."
—Rick Ayers

Media, Race and Power: The Case of Oscar Grant
Nov 3, 2009

"Angela Davis, the veteran activist and '60s icon of black power politics, delivers Media, Race, and Power at McGill's Beaverbrook Lecture, addressing the complex relationship between race, power and the media in the U.S."

- Angela Davis, McGill University

Former Black Panther Encourages Activism
Oct 29, 2009

"Throughout her four decades in the public eye, a myriad of words have been used to describe the ever-polemical Angela Davis: revolutionary, hero, communist, terrorist (Richard Nixon's repeated articulation), radical, renegade, martyr, inspirer, visionary. But yesterday, in front of a sold-out crowd in the Africana Studies and Research Center, the former Black Panther and the third woman ever on the FBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted List used humor to connect with her audience.

'[My 15 months of] solitary confinement was not so bad,' Davis said. 'After all, I had already been a graduate student.'"

- Jeff Stein, The Cornell Daily Sun

Angela Y. Davis & Frederick Douglass: Political Literacy
Oct 28, 2009

Read the Editor's Note from this new critical edition.

- Greg Ruggiero, ZNet

Five Ws and an H – 70s activist Angela Davis coming to town
Sep 20, 2009

"Angela Davis was one of the most polarizing and famous figures of her generation – a beautiful, black revolutionary with wild hair and impeccable academic credentials who embraced Communism, espoused change and became one of the first – and still few – women named to the FBI's Most Wanted List...

In 1972, Davis was acquitted on charges of murder, kidnapping and conspiracy to take hostages during an abortive attempt to free three prisoners at a California courthouse. Davis had been accused of obtaining weapons for the kidnappers but was not present during the hostage-taking in which a judge was killed.  Her defenders said it was really her political beliefs that were on trial."

- Peggy Curran, The Gazette

Angela Davis: Professor, Democratic Socialist, Prison Abolishionist
Aug 6, 2009

"Angela Davis, the daughter of an automobile mechanic and a school teacher, was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on 26th January, 1944. The area where the family lived became known as Dynamite Hill because of the large number of African American homes bombed by the Ku Klux Klan. Her mother was a civil rights campaigner and had been active in the NAACP before the organization was outlawed in Birmingham.

Davis attended segregated schools in Birmingham before moving to New York with her mother who had decided to study for a M.A. at New York University. Davis attended a progressive school in Greenwich Village where several of the teachers had been blacklisted during the McCarthy Era.  There, Davis became acquainted with socialism and Communism and was recruited by the Communist youth group, Advance. . . 

Books published by Davis include If They Come in the Morning:Voices of Resistance (1971), Angela Davis: An Autobiography (1974), Women, Race, & Class (1981) and Women, Culture & Politics (1989). See carousel above for more books and MP3s of speeches."

- Leshell Hatley, Scholarly Celebrations

Inside USA: Angela Davis
Oct 3, 2008

"Put on the FBI's 'Most Wanted' list when she was just 26, Angela Davis became an enduring symbol of 1970's Black Power. She joins Inside USA to discuss incarceration in the land of the free, capitalism in a time of economic crisis and what it means to be the face of Black Power in a supposedly post-racial US."

- Al Jazeera English

'We Used to Think There was a Black Community'
Nov 8, 2007

"Angela Davis was intrigued to see recently that a significant number of young black women to whom she was delivering a talk were wearing images of her from the 70s on their T-shirts. She asked what the image meant to them. 'They said it made them feel powerful and connected to other movements,' she says. 'It was really quite moving. It really had nothing to do with me. They were using this image as an expression of who they would like to be and what they would like to do. I've given up trying to challenge commodification in that respect. It's an unending battle and you never win any victories.'"

- Gary Younge, The Guardian

Angela Davis Reflects on the Notion of Black History Month

Davis talks about Carter G. Woodson, who founded "Negro History Week," which was later expanded to a month. She also talks about her own education in a segregated school in Birmingham, AL. During Negro History Week, the students were allowed to put down their history books, which taught that people were better off in slavery than they would have been in Africa. She says that during that week, the theme of the lessons was always that of resistance to the status quo of racism. During those lessons, they celebrated famous black figures and their "firsts," bearing in mind that these accomplishments were connected to a greater sense of community and would pave the way for others. Now, she says, we are expected to see these famous black figures as disconnected from community--as exceptional, individual heroic figures deserving memorialization.

- Kepplers Speakers

The Case of Angela Davis
Sep 25, 1969
A LA Times Op Ed (1969) on Angela Davis' Communist Party membership and its relationship to her possible firing from UCLA. - Op-Ed, Los Angeles Times