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The War on WordsSlavery, Race, and Free Speech in American Literature$
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Michael T. Gilmore

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780226294131

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226294155.001.0001

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Speech and Silence in Douglass

Speech and Silence in Douglass

(p.123) Speech and Silence in Douglass
The War on Words

Michael T. Gilmore

University of Chicago Press

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

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