Frederick Douglass: Contribution to American Literature

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      Frederick Douglass (1819-1895) was the most famous black American antislavery leader. He was also a great orator of the times. He was born a slave on a Maryland plantation. It was his good fortune to be sent to relatively liberal Baltimore as a young man with whom he learned to read and write by bribing the young school children to help him. For a while, he worked in the shipyard at Baltimore and then taught school to fellow slaves. Escaping to Massachusetts in 1838, at age 21, Douglass was held by the abolitionist editor William Lloyd Garrison and began to lecture for anti-slavery societies. In 1845, he published his Narrative of the Life of Lrederick Douglass, Ail American Slave (second version 1855, revised in 1892), the best and most popular many “slave narratives.” Often he dictated to the illiterate blacks to white abolitionists and he used as propaganda. These slave narratives were well-known in the years just before the Civil War. Spending two years in England and Ireland, returning to the USA in 1847 to purchase his freedom and to establish an antislavery journal in Rochester, New York The North Star (1847-64) and later called Frederick Douglass Paper.

      In 1858, Douglass founded second journal Douglass’s Monthly which continued until 1863. His editorial essays comprise a substantial portion of his writing. His position as a leading spokesman against slavery was strengthened by his appearance of his enlarged autobiography My Bondage and My Freedom (1855). His influence on the American political life was considerable. He was in personal contact with Abraham Lincoln. During the Civil War he organized two regiments for the union.

      In 1881 he published his third autobiographical work The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, a central text of the slave narrative tradition and of American autobiography in general. He continued his public service late in life as the recorder of Deeds in Columbia (1881-1886) and as USA minister to Haiti (1889-1891). Brooker T. Washington wrote the biography of Douglass.

      Douglass’s narrative is certainly vivid and highly literary. It offers unique insights into the mentality of slavery and the agony that institution caused among the Blacks. The slave narrative was the first black literary prose genre in the United States. It helped the Blacks in the difficult task of establishing an African American identity in white America. It has continued to exert an important influence on black fictional techniques and themes throughout the 20th century. The search for identity, anger against discrimination, and sense of living invisible hunted, underground life unacknowledged by the white majority have recurred in the works of such 20th - century black American authors as Richard Wriglit, James Baldwin, and Ralph Ellis. This period is of romanticism in prose, poetry, drama and novel. The nation is such after making, moving towards further economic and political progress. Both writers of the black and white belonging to both sexes express their ideas, emotions and feelings in their works. The writers express their contemporary consciousness. Some of them actively involved in their process of democratic set up, From the artistic and literary excellence, this period has produced the best of the romantic kinds of works in predominantly adopted poetic styles. There is no experiment or technical innovation by the writers as most of them are conventional and tradition-bound. Communicating ideas are more important than the matters relating to styles and technique.

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