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Abstract

Frederick Douglass published three autobiographies in his lifetime—The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass in 1845, My Bondage and My Freedom in 1855, and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass in 1892. Each must be viewed as a distinct work, because the accounts of the same incident in Douglass’s life receive different treatments in each autobiography. The question then becomes why Douglass would alter a memory that has already been written down and published. Memories inevitably change and fade as years pass, but how can a memory change when it is already written down? This essay addresses this issue, analyzing significant events in Douglass’ life, such as the whipping of Aunt Hester/Esther and the fight with Mr. Covey, and comes to the conclusion that different political motives inspire Douglass’s revisionist memories.

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