Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in Talbot county, Maryland, in the United States around 1818. In 1838, he managed to escape and get to New York. The best book to read about his life is his own memoir. He wrote three, but the first to be published was the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass in 1845.
Another very good book about Frederick Douglass’s life is Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by Yale historian David Blight, a biography that puts Douglass in historical context. The book won the Pulitzer Prize for history.
Also fascinating to dip into is a coffee table book: Picturing Frederick Douglass: An Illustrated Biography of the Nineteenth Century’s Most Photographed American. Douglass was passionate about photography and as well as many portraits this book includes his four essays on photography.
Books by Frederick Douglass
I was considering recommending Frederick Douglass’s “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” speech. I’d been thinking about the speech so much in the context of Juneteenth, and the President’s decision to schedule a speech in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a site of a racial massacre, on Juneteenth; a speech he subsequently pushed to the next day. Juneteenth puts center stage the history of slavery and Black people’s presence in the United States, from the colonial Era through today in a way that other holidays don’t. Frederick Douglass echoes in my mind because he pointed out that the Fourth of July sidesteps the history of slavery and the history of a whole array of American people.