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The Appendix to Frederick Douglass' Narrative Essay

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O th sin th white folks `mitted

when they made th bible lie.

You're lucky that my people

Are stronger than yo' evil,

Or yo' ass, would `a got the heave-ho.

Ice Cube, The Predator


Frederick Douglass certainly knew that his narrative might be taken by many of his readers as a conscious rejection of Christian faith. Accordingly, he informs his readers that the inclusion of an Appendix at the end of his tale should be seen as an attempt to "remove the liability of such misapprehension" from their thoughts. Such an act implies that the Appendix owes its existence to factors lying outside of the narrative, and, indeed, Douglass often utilizes the Appendix to pre-empt criticism by railing against his accusers:

Dark and terrible as is this picture, I hold it to be strictly true of the overwhelming mass of professed Christians in America. They strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Could anything be more true of our churches? They would be shocked at the proposition of fellowshipping a sheep-stealer, and at the same time they hug to their communion a man-stealer, and brand me with being an infidel, if I find fault with them for it. (Douglass, 328.)

This reveals the self-conscious relation of Appendix to main text, it's very inclusion highlighting the need Douglass felt to clarify his religious convictions. Such a necessity is indicative of a self-conscious struggle within Narrative of the Life to maintain a coherent "voice" while simultaneously conforming to prescribed notions of slave-narrative form. Abolitionist rhetoric, also, brought pressure to bear upon Douglass' approach, his patrons always a factor in the formulation of so overtly political a text. Douglass' mentor, William Lloyd Garrison, and Wendell Phil...


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...arrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave. Boston: Anti-Slavery Office, 1845.

Henry Louis Gates, ed. The Classic Slave Narratives. New York: Mentor, 1987.

Eric J. Sundquist, ed. Frederick Douglass: New Literary and Historical Essays. New York, Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Donald B. Gibson. Faith, Doubt and Apostasy.

Waldo E. Martin, Jnr. The Mind of Frederick Douglass. University of North Carolina Press, 1984.

William Loser Katy. Breaking the Chains: African-American Slave Resistance. New York: Atheneum, 1990.

James Brewer Stewart. Holy Warriors: the Abolitionists and American Slavery. New York: Hill and Wang,1976.

Henry Louis Gates.The Signifying Monkey. New York: Oxford University Press,1988.

Gates. The Trope of the Talking Book.

David Van Leer. Reading Slavery: The Anxiety of Ethnicity in Douglass' Narrative.


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