READERS ARE LEADERS: The Libraries of Great Men, Frederick Douglass

Published on April 19, 2014

Art of Manliness – The eminent men of history were often voracious readers and their own philosophy represents a distillation of all the great works they fed into their minds. This series seeks to trace the stream of their thinking back to the source. For, as David Leach, a now retired business executive put it: “Don’t follow your mentors; follow your mentors’ mentors.”

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery. Before him, many white men didn’t think it was possible for a black man to have any intellectual rigor; for a black man to be able to think for himself in an intelligent way. When Douglass was around 20, he escaped his shackles and began life anew as a free man. From that point on, he gave his full attentions to educating himself, which he believed was a necessary component of all individual achievements and the ability to create real change in the world. It was a truth he understood from his own personal, hard-fought struggle: up from slavery, he rose to become one the foremost leaders in America in the abolitionist and women’s rights movements, as well as one of the most celebrated orators and writers of his era.

None of that would have been possible without his personal library.

A Selection of Books from Frederick Douglass’s Personal Library

Title Author
Cosmos: A Sketch of the Physical Description of the Universe Alexander von Humboldt
The Count of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas
The Three Musketeers Alexandre Dumas
Poems Alfred Lord Tennyson
A Thousand and One Nights
Henrietta Temple: A Love Story Benjamin Disraeli
Bleak House Charles Dickens
Cricket on the Hearth Charles Dickens
‘Three Score Years and Ten’ Life-Long Memories of Fort Snelling, Minnesota, and Other Parts of the West Charlotte Van Cleve
Orations Cicero
Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa David Livingstone
Hesiod and Theognis (Davies translation)
The Steam Engine Explained & Illustrated Dionysius Lardner
History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Edward Gibbon
Journal of a Residence on a Georgian 1863 Plantation Frances Anne Kemble

Read more: Art of Manliness