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Publisher's Summary

Born into slavery in 1818, Frederick Douglass rose to become one of the nation's foremost intellectuals - a statesman, author, lecturer, and scholar who helped lead the fight against slavery and racial oppression. Unlike other leading abolitionists, however, Douglass embraced the US Constitution, insisting that it was an essentially anti-slavery document and that its guarantees for individual rights belonged to all Americans, of whatever race.  

Douglass spoke in his most popular lecture, "Self-Made Men", of people who rise through their own effort and devotion rather than circumstances of privilege. "If they have traveled far, they have made the road on which they have travelled. If they have ascended high, they have built their own ladder." 

In this fast-paced biography, lawyer and author Timothy Sandefur examines the life and ideas of the nation's foremost "self-made man" - from his horrific experiences in slavery and his heroic escape to his eloquent demands for equal treatment by the federal government and his later career as statesman and intellectual. Throughout it all Douglass was guided by his belief in the sanctity of the individual.  

"There is no Negro problem", Douglass insisted. "The problem is whether the American people have honesty enough, loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough, to live up to their own Constitution." Led by his dream of an America where all people would be free to make the most of themselves without hindrance, Douglass ultimately transformed the United States. 

As the nation pauses to remember Douglass on his bicentennial, Frederick Douglass: Self-Made Man gives us an insightful glimpse into the mind of one of America's greatest thinkers.

©2018 Cato Institute (P)2018 Cato Institute

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  • Martin Siekierzycki
  • 26-03-2018

Great Storytelling

Excellent book, I've admired Frederick Douglass for a long time, but only knew the more common information about the man. I really enjoyed learning more about the man told in an east-to-follow type of way.

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  • Tamara Hilton
  • 23-03-2018

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

this is the first book I've completed in a single day. I enjoyed the telling. I found it a tempting tease to dive further into the subject. it is sussinct and direct, so that it is an perfect entry for a young reader .

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  • Matthew Kelly
  • 13-04-2018

Douglass and the US Constitution

Where does Frederick Douglass: Self-Made Man rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Excellent and insightful biography of Douglass. Frederick Douglass was such an important figure in the difficult history of race relations in our country. Sandefur connects Douglass' life and writings to the struggle for equality, especially within the context and interpretations of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. In addition, Douglass' point-of-view on realizing racial equality is analyzed and compared to historical and current thinking. Sandefur is very clear and excellent reader.

What other book might you compare Frederick Douglass: Self-Made Man to and why?

The book inspired me to re-read the Douglass autobiography.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The relationship between Douglass and Lincoln was fascinating and gave me a new perspective of the political struggles and public perceptions during the Civil War years.

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  • Cysgod
  • 02-04-2018

a great book about a brave and fascinating man

The narration for for this book is fabulous. I thought I already knew a lot about Frederick Douglass, now I feel a kinship with him.

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  • Amber Panda
  • 23-04-2018

My one wish

I wish it were longer. All Americans need to read or hear this material. We cannot move forward unless we understand where we originate.

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  • Hannah K
  • 16-04-2018

Great Biography and History

This is the first book by Sandefur I’ve read and I look forward to reading his other books. It’s not only a biography of a great, self-made scholar and intellectual, it’s also a sobering history lesson. It is beautifully written and a must-read for students of history and any lover of liberty.

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  • evelyn
  • 08-07-2020

Douglass, true American

Fought for color-blind self-reliance for true equality despite horrors of white oppression. Watershed reading for me

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  • lenramone
  • 25-09-2018

Great book, greater vision.

The narrating was engaging, which propelled this amazing story, that has far too long been overlooked by modern America.

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  • Mariann Boone
  • 07-07-2018

great man great book

this is a great to the point book about a great man need a movie

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