Escape from Slavery: The Boyhood of Frederick Douglass in His Own Words

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9780679846512: Escape from Slavery: The Boyhood of Frederick Douglass in His Own Words

Illus. in black-and-white. Opening note by Coretta Scott King. For the first time, the most important account ever written of a childhood in slavery is accessible to young readers. From his days as a young boy on a plantation to his first months as a freeman in Massachusetts, here are Douglass's own firsthand experiences vividly recounted--expertly excerpted and powerfully illustrated.

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From the Back Cover:

"A book that belongs in every library."--(pointer) Kirkus.

From Booklist:

Gr. 5-10. With the power of his words and the truth of his own experience, Frederick Douglass dramatized the abomination of slavery and the struggle of a young man to break free. In this shortened version of Douglass' 1845 autobiography, McCurdy has done a splendid job of bringing the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass to middle-grade readers. There are brief introductory notes about what's been left out in each chapter; otherwise, the voice is Douglass' own, in all its simplicity, lyricism, and fury. He is scathing about the "happy" slave stereotype. He's unequivocal about the whippings, hunger, and back-breaking labor. But worst of all, running throughout the book, is his sorrow at his forced separation from those he loves. Even when he finally escapes North, it's the wrenching loneliness that nearly overwhelms him. McCurdy has done one full-page black-and-white scratchboard drawing for each chapter. Like those he did for Appelbaum's Giants in the Land (Booklist's nonfiction 1993 Top of the List), they show the elemental power struggle and the individual character. The young boy's courage is made manifest as he resists both the physical violence and the psychological blows to his spirit.

Douglass later became a famous abolitionist. He also spoke out for women's rights, and even in this early book, McCurdy's selections show that Douglass' sensitivity to the suffering of women is heartfelt. He makes us imagine how his mother, hired out to work at a plantation 12 miles away, secretly walked to be with her baby in the night ("She would lie down with me, and get me to sleep, but long before I waked she was gone"). And his greatest rage against the "infernal character" of slavery is on behalf of his grandmother, forced to see her children and grandchildren valued and divided and sold away from her. It was a woman, the wife of one of his owners, who started to teach him to read; later Douglass would teach his fellow slaves.

What a writer. What a person. Read this aloud; discuss it in the classroom. Many kids will go from here to more of Douglass' writing and to other slave narratives. Hazel Rochman

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Frederick Douglass
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