The Search for Liberty in the Slave Narratives of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs


The slave narratives of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs celebrate American democracy even as they critique the chattel slavery that binds them. Some of the overall questions for the conference concerned the common use of religion in the work of these writers. Moreover, the writings of Douglass and Jacobs offer a model for understanding some ongoing themes of American life: the relationship between self-denial and the quest for liberty, the limits and possibilities of self-determination, and the relationship between property and selfhood.


Conference Readings

Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Edited by David W. Blight. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003.

Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Edited by Nellie Y. McKay and Frances Smith Foster. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2001.