Frederick Douglass

In a programme first broadcast in 2018, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the life and ideas of Frederick Douglass, who was born into slavery in Maryland in 1818 and, once he had escaped, became one of that century’s most prominent abolitionists. He was such a good orator, his opponents doubted his story, but he told it in grim detail in 1845 in his book ‘Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.’ He went on to address huge audiences in Great Britain and Ireland and there some of his supporters paid off his owner, so Douglass could be free in law and not fear recapture. After the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, he campaigned for equal rights for African-Americans, arguing against those such as Lincoln who had wanted freed slaves to leave America and found a colony elsewhere. “We were born here,” he said, “and here we will remain.”

Play on BBC Sounds website


  • Celeste-Marie Bernier 2 episodes
    Professor of Black Studies in the English Department at the University of Edinburgh
  • Karen Salt 2 episodes
    Assistant Professor in Transnational American Studies at the University of Nottingham
  • Nicholas Guyatt 4 episodes
    Reader in North American History at the University of Cambridge

Reading list

  • Pictures and Power: Imaging and Imagining Frederick Douglass, 1818-2018
    Celeste-Marie Bernier and Bill E. Lawson (eds.) (Liverpool University Press, 2017) Google Books →
  • Building an Antislavery Wall: Black Americans in the Atlantic Abolitionist Movement, 1830-1860
    R. J. M. Blackett (Louisiana State University Press, 1983) Google Books →
  • Frederick Douglass' Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee
    David Blight (Louisiana State University Press, 1989) Google Books →
  • Frederick Douglass
    David Blight (Simon & Schuster, forthcoming in 2018) Google Books →
  • Frederick Douglass and the Fourth of July
    James A. Colaiaco (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006) Google Books →
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, 1845
    Frederick Douglass (ed. Celeste-Marie Bernier) (Broadview Press, 2018) Google Books →
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave: Written By Himself
    Frederick Douglass (ed. Benjamin Quarles) (first published 1948; Atheneum, 1969) Google Books →
  • The Portable Frederick Douglass
    Frederick Douglass (eds. Henry Louis Gates Jr. and John Stauffer) (Penguin, 2016) Google Books →
  • Frederick Douglass: Selected Speeches and Writings
    Phillip S. Foner and Yuval Taylor (eds.) (Chicago Review Press, 1999) Google Books →
  • Women in the World of Frederick Douglass
    Leigh Fought (Oxford University Press, 2017) Google Books →
  • The Mind of Frederick Douglass
    Waldo E. Martin Jr. (University of North Carolina Press, 1985) Google Books →
  • Black Cosmopolitanism: Racial Consciousness and Transnational identity in the Nineteenth-Century Americas
    Ifeoma Kiddoe Nwankwo (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005) Google Books →
  • Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln
    John Stauffer (Twelve, 2009) Google Books →
  • Frederick Douglass and the Atlantic World
    Fionnghuala Sweeney (Liverpool University Press, 2007) Google Books →

Related episodes

Programme ID: b09qb0kc

Episode page:

Auto-category: 973.0496073 (African Americans - Civil rights - History - 19th century)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello, Frederick Douglass was born into slavery in Maryland in 1818 and once he'd escaped, became one of that century's most prominent abolitionists.