Frederick Douglass, Heroic Slave and Madison Washington as the Embodied Divine

By: Denise Burgher  

Though popularly known as a secular humanist, I argue that Frederick Douglass was a committed Christian whose life and work have been both mislabeled and misread. Through a careful foregrounding of Douglass’ religious life, analysis of the form, functions and narrative conventions of Evangelical conversion narratives in antebellum America and grounded in Douglass’ use of the same along with a close reading of Heroic Slave through this lens, I will demonstrate the ways that Douglass, writing as a committed Christian embraced and transcended the white Evangelical conversion narrative form, utilized aspects of spiritual biographies and sentiment and wrote a Black Abolitionist conversion narrative. Or, the ways that seriously considering Frederick Douglass' Christian faith as having a marked impact on and in his work allows for a richer, more nuanced radically religious and political reading of his text, Heroic Slave.

The Black Church, Black Christianity, White Christianity, Secular Humanism
2019 Special Focus—Universal Religious Symbols: Mutual Influences and Specific Relationships
Virtual Lightning Talk

Denise Burgher

Graduate student, English, University of Delaware, United States
United States