Dr. Linda L. Chandler

Assistant Professor

La Guardia Community College, City University of New York

31-10 Thomson Avenue

English Department, Room E-103

Long Island City, NY 11101

Abstract

This article focuses on Frederick Douglass’ revision of his original slave narrative, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845). In particular, in My Bondage and My Freedom (1855), Frederick Douglass maintains a focus on family that is absent from his 1845 narrative. For instance, his “entrance to the hell of slavery” shifts from brutal violence in the first narrative to the separation from his family in the 1855 edition. He also expands his mother’s role from one emotionally distant paragraph in the 1845 edition to five pages filled with emotion in his revision and his grandmother who is only mentioned twice in the first narrative becomes a key figure in the revision. This paper spotlights this new information about his mother and grandmother, and posits this additional material as Douglass’ attempt to write/right family for the slave. Douglass writes family back into his life story, and in doing so, he “rights” the importance of family for the slave and disputes slavery’s ability to eliminate family from the slave.  Critics often focus on how Douglass uses the trope of manhood to critique slavery. However, family now becomes the trope Douglass uses to defy and critique the institution of slavery.

Key words: slavery, slave narratives, autobiography, family, domesticity

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