The most recommended Frederick Douglass books

Who picked these books? Meet our 27 experts.

27 authors created a book list connected to Frederick Douglass, and here are their favorite Frederick Douglass books.
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Book cover of Eighty Years and More: Reminiscences 1815-1897

Ellen Carol DuBois Author Of Suffrage: Women's Long Battle for the Vote

From my list on the history of women's rights.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been writing about the history of women's rights and women's suffrage for over fifty years. Suffrage: Women's Long Battle for the Vote offers a comprehensive history of the full three-quarters of a century of women's persistent suffrage activism. I began my work inspired by the emergence of the women's liberation movement in the 1970s and this most recent history appeared in conjunction with the 2020 Centennial of the Ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. My understanding of the campaign for full citizenship for women repeatedly intersects with the struggles for racial equality, from abolition to Jim Crow. Today, when American political democracy is under assault, the long history of woman suffrage activism is more relevant than ever.

Ellen's book list on the history of women's rights

Ellen Carol DuBois Why did Ellen love this book?

I am recommending this autobiography of the great nineteenth-century feminist intellectual and activist. Eighty Years and More is one of the great autobiographies in American history, up there with that of Frederick Douglass and Henry Adams. Stanton told the account of her early years, her path to becoming a reformer, and the epic battles in which she fought for women’s rights in an engaging writing style that still speaks to women today. Readers who only know of Stanton through the controversies over her racism and elitism will be well served by learning about the many, path-breaking facets of her life and career. Postscript: go online to read Stanton’s great late-life speech, The Solitude of Self.

By Elizabeth Cady Stanton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Eighty Years and More as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The autobiography of women's rights pioneer Elizabeth Cady Stanton-published for the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage-including an updated introduction and afterword from noted scholars of women's history Ellen Carol DuBois and Ann D. Gordon.

Eighty Years and More: Reminiscences 1815-1897, is one of the great American autobiographies. There is really no other American woman's autobiography in the nineteenth century that comes near it in relevance, excellence, and historical significance.

In 1848, thirty-three-year-old Stanton and four others organized the first major women's rights meeting in American history. Together with Susan B. Anthony, her partner in the cause, she led the campaign…


Book cover of Books That Build Character: A Guide to Teaching Your Child Moral Values Through Stories

Thomas Lickona Author Of How to Raise Kind Kids: And Get Respect, Gratitude, and a Happier Family in the Bargain

From my list on raising good children.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a developmental psychologist and former professor of education. My life’s work and 10 books have focused on helping families and schools foster good character in kids. Educating for Character: How Our Schools Can Teach Respect and Responsibility is credited with helping launch the national character education movement. My first book for parents, Raising Good Children, described how to guide kids through the stages of moral development from birth through adulthood. My focus these days is kindness and its supporting virtues. My wife Judith and I have two grown sons and 15 grandchildren, and with William Boudreau, MD, co-authored Sex, Love, and You: Making the Right Decision, a book for teens.

Thomas' book list on raising good children

Thomas Lickona Why did Thomas love this book?

Good books can be one of a parent’s best allies in teaching virtue. This guide is a gold mine of more than 300 high-quality fiction and non-fiction books that have strong character themes. There are recommendations for young, middle, and older readers. Each book is described in a full paragraph with detail rich enough to give us a clear idea of its content and value. Books like these can contribute to children’s character development in many ways: by taking them into worlds beyond their own; enabling them to learn vicariously from the good and bad choices of the characters they encounter; helping them grow in understanding of people different from themselves; and perhaps inspiring them to want to be more like a character who is wiser or kinder or braver.

Reading together can become a treasured “connective ritual” for parents and children. It was in our family. And the more…

By William Kilpatrick, Gregory Wolfe, Suzanne Wolfe

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Books That Build Character as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Here is a family guide to classic novels, contemporary fiction, myths and legends, science fiction and fantasy, folktales, Bible stories, picture books, biographies, holiday stories, and many other books that celebrate virtues and values.
There are more than 300 titles to choose from, each featuring a dramatic story and memorable characters who explore moral ground and the difference between what is right and what is wrong. These books will capture your child's imagination, and conscience as well-whether it is Beauty pondering her promise to Beast, mischievous Max in Where the Wild Things Are, the troubled boys of Lord of the…


Book cover of Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

Richard J.M. Blackett Author Of Samuel Ringgold Ward: A Life of Struggle

From my list on abolitionist biographies about African American history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was not trained in African American history, but first developed a passion for it during my first teaching job in Pittsburgh, where a number of my colleagues were interested in locating the origins of Black Nationalism and began researching the life of a local black physician, Martin R. Delany. That led me to a wider exploration of nineteenth-century African American history.

Richard's book list on abolitionist biographies about African American history

Richard J.M. Blackett Why did Richard love this book?

A giant of the nineteenth century and the leader of the struggle to end slavery needs a giant book and Blight’s is the most penetrating and comprehensive biography we have of the person many consider the voice and soul of the abolitionist movement and the struggle to win the right guaranteed in the Constitution.

By David W. Blight,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Frederick Douglass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in History**

"Extraordinary...a great American biography" (The New Yorker) of the most important African-American of the nineteenth century: Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave who became the greatest orator of his day and one of the leading abolitionists and writers of the era.

As a young man Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) escaped from slavery in Baltimore, Maryland. He was fortunate to have been taught to read by his slave owner mistress, and he would go on to become one of the major literary figures of his time. His very existence gave the lie to slave owners: with…


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

Scott Peeples Author Of The Man of the Crowd: Edgar Allan Poe and the City

From my list on early American Gothic not written by Edgar Allan Poe.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by Gothic literature (and art, music, and movies), and I’m fortunate to have a job that allows me to talk and write about it—I teach at the College of Charleston (SC), where I just completed a course on American Gothic. I’m especially interested in nineteenth-century American writers, and I’ve written three books on Edgar Allan Poe, the most recent of which is The Man of the Crowd: Edgar Allan Poe and the City. For this list, I limited myself to Americans who, like Poe, wrote before and during the Civil War.

Scott's book list on early American Gothic not written by Edgar Allan Poe

Scott Peeples Why did Scott love this book?

This might seem like a strange pick, since it’s almost never described in terms of Gothicism.

Douglass’s narrative is essential reading regardless—a compelling narrative and one of the masterpieces of nineteenth-century literature. What makes it Gothic? In Douglass’s world, nothing is what it appears to be, because slavery has corrupted not only institutions but virtually all personal relationships. There are trap doors everywhere and a constant threat of violence.

A century and a half before Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Douglass’s book describes the Gothic horror of everyday life under slavery.

By Frederick Douglass, John R. McKivigan, IV (editor), Peter P. Hinks (editor) , Heather L. Kaufman (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the most influential literary documents in American and African American history, now available in a critical edition

"This edition is the most valuable teaching tool on slavery and abolition available today. It is exceptional."-Nancy Hewitt, Distinguished Professor Emerita, Rutgers University

Ideal for independent reading or for coursework in American and African American history, this revised edition of the memoir written by Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) of his life as a slave in pre-Civil War Maryland incorporates a wide range of supplemental materials to enhance students' understanding of slavery, abolitionism, and the role of race in American society. Offering readers…


Book cover of Frederick Douglass

Laurence Fenton Author Of Frederick Douglass in Ireland

From my list on the life of Frederick Douglass.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a writer and editor living in Cork, Ireland. I have a PhD in history from University College Cork and am the author of four books, including two on the African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass. I have been fascinated by Douglass ever since I discovered he travelled through Ireland as a young man, a tour that coincided with the onset of the Great Irish Famine. Douglass will also appear in the book I am currently writing, ‘Freedom’s Exiles’: The Poets, Plotters and Rebels and Who Found Refuge in Victorian Britain.

Laurence's book list on the life of Frederick Douglass

Laurence Fenton Why did Laurence love this book?

Written at a time when the racist belief that Black authors could not be trusted to write African-American history was still prevalent even in the upper echelons of academia, this deft 1948 portrait of Douglass launched the career of Benjamin Quarles, the pioneering African-American historian whose body of work (including The Negro in the American Revolution and Lincoln and the Negro) transformed thinking about the role African-Americans played in the formation of the United States.

By Benjamin Quarles,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Frederick Douglass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The son of a black slave and an unknown white father, Frederick Douglass (1817-1895) experienced first-hand the privations and brutality of America's "peculiar institution". Following his second, successful, attempt to escape, he went on to become a leading abolitionist and militant spokesman for African-American rights. A friend to Abraham Lincoln and other presidents, he held three major government offices and became a writer, orator and editor. This biography moves beyond Douglass' three autobiographies to explore his impact on the anti-slavery movement, the Civil War Reconstruction, women's suffrage, and the Republican Party during its first 40 years, and to look at…


Book cover of More Than Freedom: Fighting for Black Citizenship in a White Republic, 1829-1889

John Ernest Author Of A Nation Within a Nation: Organizing African American Communities before the Civil War

From my list on early African American community activism.

Why am I passionate about this?

Good question. Why would a white guy be passionate about nineteenth-century African American community building and activism? It’s a long story, but the short version is that by the time I reached graduate school, I could no longer avoid the realization that I had been dramatically miseducated about American history, and that the key to American history—one important key, anyway—is African American history. You can’t understand what it means to be an American if you don’t know this history, and you can’t understand our own very troubled times, or how to respond to these times, how to turn frustration into action, unless you know this history. So I developed my expertise over the years. 

John's book list on early African American community activism

John Ernest Why did John love this book?

Like Spires, Kantrowitz is interested in the ways in which nineteenth-century African Americans made the case for being recognized as citizens. We tend to focus on stories of freedom, as if that’s what those who escaped from slavery encountered when they reached the North—but in fact they arrived to only relative freedom, and they faced an ongoing struggle for something “more than freedom.” This is the story Kantrowitz tells, focusing mainly on Black activists in Boston. The story begins with community-building efforts—establishing churches, literary societies, newspapers, and the other organizations needed to sustain a flourishing, educated, and economically-secure society. Kantrowitz introduces readers to a number of African American leaders who deserve to be much better known, heroes of American history. His core argument, though, like that of Spires, has to do with defining what the word citizenship actually means, extending it beyond basic inclusion to a determined and deeply ethical…

By Stephen Kantrowitz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked More Than Freedom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A major new account of the Northern movement to establish African Americans as full citizens before, during, and after the Civil War

In More Than Freedom, award-winning historian Stephen Kantrowitz offers a bold rethinking of the Civil War era. Kantrowitz show how the fight to abolish slavery was always part of a much broader campaign by African Americans to claim full citizenship and to remake the white republic into a place where they could belong. More Than Freedom chronicles this epic struggle through the lives of black and white abolitionists in and around Boston, including Frederick Douglass, Senator Charles Sumner,…


Book cover of Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory

John Poniske Author Of Snakebit: Prelude to War

From my list on reflecting on our current cultural impasse.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was raised in Springfield, Illinois, what is considered Lincoln’s backyard. I grew up fascinated by history, and the Civil War in particular. The trouble was, its racial overtones always bothered me. Later in life, I became a high school history and journalism teacher and turned my interest in historical-based board gaming into a business I called Indulgent Wife Enterprises (because my wife is so incredibly supportive). To date, I have published 30 board games based mostly on American conflicts. When I retired, I began the ambitious project of writing a strongly researched account of the divisions leading up to the Civil War and through to the Reconstruction period that followed. 

John's book list on reflecting on our current cultural impasse

John Poniske Why did John love this book?

Having been raised with a love of history, particularly the Civil War, I have always sought to connect our seemingly irreconcilable differences to that great conflict. Here, I was reminded that our differences stem as much from our failed attempt at Reconstruction following the war as from the war itself.

I can’t believe we came so close to resolving our racial failings only to entrench them. I firmly believe this period in history defines who we are today.

By David W. Blight,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Race and Reunion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Bancroft Prize
Winner of the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize
Winner of the Merle Curti award
Winner of the Frederick Douglass Prize

No historical event has left as deep an imprint on America's collective memory as the Civil War. In the war's aftermath, Americans had to embrace and cast off a traumatic past. David Blight explores the perilous path of remembering and forgetting, and reveals its tragic costs to race relations and America's national reunion.In 1865, confronted with a ravaged landscape and a torn America, the North and South began a slow and painful process of reconciliation. The…


Book cover of Young Frederick Douglass

Laurence Fenton Author Of Frederick Douglass in Ireland

From my list on the life of Frederick Douglass.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a writer and editor living in Cork, Ireland. I have a PhD in history from University College Cork and am the author of four books, including two on the African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass. I have been fascinated by Douglass ever since I discovered he travelled through Ireland as a young man, a tour that coincided with the onset of the Great Irish Famine. Douglass will also appear in the book I am currently writing, ‘Freedom’s Exiles’: The Poets, Plotters and Rebels and Who Found Refuge in Victorian Britain.

Laurence's book list on the life of Frederick Douglass

Laurence Fenton Why did Laurence love this book?

An evocative account of the young Douglass and the Maryland world into which he was born. Originally published in 1980 but recently re-released, this is a beautiful book that delivers much more than the title suggests. It is also the book that finally pinpointed the correct month and year in which Douglass was born – February 1818. Those who enslaved people often kept such precious, deeply personal information away from those they enslaved - it was a sign of power, one minor manifestation of the many inquities of slavery.

By Dickson J. Preston,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Young Frederick Douglass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"No one working on Douglass should leave home without a copy of this book."-from the foreword by David W. Blight, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom

Drawing on previously untapped sources, Young Frederick Douglass recreates with fidelity and in convincing detail the background and early life of the man who was to become "the gadfly of America's conscience" and the undisputed spokesman for nineteenth-century black Americans.

With a new foreword by renowned Douglass scholar David W. Blight, Dickson J. Preston's highly regarded biography traces the life and times of Frederick Douglass from his birth on Maryland's…


Book cover of David Walker's Appeal: To the Coloured Citizens of the World

Keenan Norris Author Of The Confession of Copeland Cane

From my list on coming of age while Black.

Why am I passionate about this?

Besides having come of age while Black, I’ve published two coming-of-age novels about Black adolescents. Even before I became a writer, or an adult, I had had a particular interest in coming-of-age narratives. From Walter Dean Myers’ Harlem-located Young Adult novels to Toni Morrison’s Sula and James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain, I’ve always been attracted to such stories. However, what the book list offered here does is map a reading series for what I see as an exciting intellectual formation for a Black reader.

Keenan's book list on coming of age while Black

Keenan Norris Why did Keenan love this book?

I’ve long been fascinated with Walker’s life and work. Ten years ago, I devoted a chapter of my dissertation to Walker and now I’m working with TED-ED on an animated video and related teaching materials about the man whom Frederick Douglass himself cited as the progenitor of the radical abolitionist movement.

When teaching African-American Literature courses, I’ve found Walker’s Appeal to be an especially effective entry point for Black students who are tired of stories of slavery and Black debasement. Walker, as a freeborn Black man from the slaveholding south (and later Boston), offers a different vision: of impressive erudition and entrepreneurship, of Pan-African pride and militant resistance.

By David Walker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked David Walker's Appeal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1829 David Walker, a free black born in Wilmington, North Carolina, wrote one of America's most provocative political documents of the nineteenth century, Walker's Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World. Decrying the savage and unchristian treatment blacks suffered in the United States, Walker challenged his "afflicted and slumbering brethren" to rise up and cast off their chains. Walker worked tirelessly to circulate his book via underground networks in the South, and he was so successful that Southern lawmakers responded with new laws cracking down on "incendiary" antislavery material. Although Walker died in 1830, the Appeal remained a…


Book cover of Lincoln and Douglass: An American Friendship

Nancy I. Sanders Author Of D Is for Drinking Gourd: An African American Alphabet

From my list on inspirational African American history.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a bestselling and award-winning KidLit author of more than 100 books, I’ve been blessed to specialize in writing for kids about the amazing and inspiring legacy of African Americans. From an alphabet book for even the youngest readers to biographies with hands-on activities for middle graders and up, both nonfiction and fiction as well, these stories are my passion because many of these individuals are my personal heroes as well. I want kids to love and honor these men and women who have made a difference in our world as much as I do!

Nancy's book list on inspirational African American history

Nancy I. Sanders Why did Nancy love this book?

This is just a great book by a great author and great illustrator. It’s about the amazing and inspiring friendship of two of the most important men in the history of America. It compares and contrasts different stages of different ages of both these men and gives us a glimpse into the story behind the story of their deep friendship. Every child (and adult) should read this timeless story today.

By Nikki Giovanni, Bryan Collier (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lincoln and Douglass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

In celebration of Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday in February 2009, we present this story of the unusual friendship between two great American leaders. At a time when racial tensions were high and racial equality was not yet established, Lincoln and Douglass formed a strong bond over shared ideals.