Saturday, February 17, 2018

Frederick Douglass Books

Looking to teach your students or children about a great American?  Frederick Douglass is the perfect choice!  He was a real life hero, whose tireless work for human rights resonates generations after his death. Read on to find out more…


Nancy I. Sanders

I was immediately caught up in Douglass’ life story!  This resource is written in an appealing way both in the storytelling of his life as well as with the inclusion of documents, quotes, and pictures. There are also sidebars of information on other relevant people and events. The text is engaging enough to read out loud to younger children or to offer to older ones to read independently.

Teachers and parents will find Frederick Douglass For Kids: His Life and Times with 21 Activities is an excellent introduction to a study of this great man.  It covers his life from birth to death in seven chapters.  In addition, there are several activities from crafts to recipes for lesson plans at school or extension ideas at home.

While reading this resource, here is what I learned about Frederick Douglass…

Douglass embraced education. As a life-long learner, he epitomizes how reading and learning frees the mind and the spirit. His speaking was so articulate and intelligent, people began to doubt he was ever a slave!  He demonstrates an essential truth: Education is the ticket out of poverty and ignorance.

Douglass is a symbol of determination. Refusing to move to an inferior train car due to the Jim Crow laws, he help pave the way to change the law so whites and blacks traveled as equals on the rail line in the state (before the Civil War was even fought). He was instrumental in other similar laws being changed.

Douglass was brave. Not only did he escape slavery, he spoke publicly against it. Slave hunters could have captured him and returned him to his owner, but he was not deterred. Though he had opportunities to leave America to go where he would be treated as an equal and no longer fear for his life, he chose to stay and to fight for equality.

Douglass was a hard worker. He was not too proud to take whatever work he could get to support his wife and children.  Though the work was often beneath his skill level and intellect, he did what he had to. 

Douglass did not give in to hate—even though it would have been an understandable response based on his experiences and treatment.  He worked along side both Whites and Blacks toward common goals.  Though he did not agree on all of President Lincoln’s policies, he met with and developed a great respect for him.  Also, there were many objections to his second marriage. Nevertheless, he married a white woman he fell in love with. 

Douglass fought for others. Not content with being free himself, he worked to help others who escaped slavery.  Along with other abolitionist, he convinced the state of Massachusetts to change its laws to protect former slaves.  During the Civil War, he met with President Lincoln where he advocated for equal pay, protection, and recognition for Black soldiers.  Eventually, all those policies were enacted. 

Douglass was a visionary. As the war came to a close, he knew that just freeing the slaves was not enough.  He urged antislavery societies to focus on bringing “freedoms and civil rights to the former slave.”

Douglass believed in the constitution. Unlike some in the abolitionist movement, he rejected the idea of abstaining from voting because the constitution was an unsound document that promoted slavery.  Instead, he asserted, “that the Constitution of the United States not only contained no guarantees in favor of slavery, but, on the contrary, was in letter and spirit an antislavery instrument, demanding the abolition of slavery as a condition of its own existence as the supreme law of the land.” 

Picture Books about Frederick Douglass


Suzanne Slade, author
Robert McGuire, illustrator
Beautiful illustrations and straightforward text give a brief overview of Douglass’ life.  This book is perfect for young readers.


Doreen Rappaport, author
London Ladd, illustrator
Douglass’ own words are mingled in with this more detailed account.  Striking illustrations and absorbing storytelling reveal key moments of his life as a slave, his daring escape, and his abolitionist work. 


Lesa Cline-Ransome, author
James E. Ransome, illustrator
Written in first person through Douglass’ perspective growing up, the impact and power of words is focus.  This story highlights his determination to learn reading and writing skills. The narrative illustrates how he was free inside, as a result of his ability to read and to write, well before he was free physically.  In addition, he began to teach other slaves these skills before he executed his first attempt to escape (which is where the story ends).

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