Speech and Silence in Douglass

Michael T. Gilmore

in The War on Words

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2010 | ISBN: 9780226294131
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226294155 | DOI:
Speech and Silence in Douglass

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This chapter reviews the three autobiographies of Frederick Douglass, which stretch from the heyday of antislavery activism to the abyss of lynching and segregation. The texts are Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave; My Bondage and My Freedom; and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. In each autobiography, Douglass portrays slavery as a regime of silence and repression in which the only voice permitted is that of the master. In each, he traces his emergence into speech and writing, a process inseparable from his escape to freedom; he pairs the two forms of utterance as cognate acts of resistance to social and mental extinction. Douglass firmly believes in the undemocratic objective in Life and Times, where race supplants slavery as the cause of repression.

Keywords: Frederick Douglass; autobiography; antislavery; slavery; silence; repression; speech; writing

Chapter.  7424 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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