Published online by Cambridge University Press: 16 June 2021
Unlike other titles in Cambridge University Press’s “Literature in Context” series, this volume does not feature an unambiguously “literary” figure whose work may be at risk of being deracinated from its historical and cultural contexts. Douglass was an activist before he was a writer; he was a writer because he was an activist. Most of the writing he produced throughout his life – his speeches and editorials, but also his autobiographies and his one work of fiction, the novella The Heroic Slave (1853) – served an immediate political purpose: to advocate for the abolition of slavery and black civil and political rights; to demonstrate black humanity and capacity for resistance; to fight for freedom, justice, and equality for all. Douglass never ceased to believe he could change the course of history through the power of his pen and voice. Firmly grounded in a time and place, his textual corpus is virtually inseparable from its context.