Skillfully selecting from the first volume of the great African-American abolitionist's monumental autobiography (1845), McCurdy presents Douglass's early life -- including his escape from Baltimore to New Bedford, via New York, at age 20 -- scrupulously explaining that he has edited ""to emphasize action"" but has ""kept Douglass's own words, spelling, and distinctive punctuation,"" and has occasionally ""rearranged for the sake of clarity."" The result is eloquent and compelling. Douglass's vividly described experiences and thoughtful observations of slavery's effects -- on master as well as slave -- still resonate: one mistress teaching him to read before she had learned to be cruel (as she did soon thereafter); his fighting back against a brutal master and, incredibly, surviving; his despair (""My natural elasticity was crushed, my intellect languished, the disposition to read departed...the dark night of slavery closed in upon me, and behold a man transformed into a brute?); his ""thrill of joy,"" once free, at being able to ""plead the cause of my brethren."" All readers should encounter these scenes in Douglass's own words. McCurdy has set them handsomely; his elegantly composed wood engravings are distinguished by unusual power and dignity. Explanatory chapter introductions smoothly link events. A book that belongs in every library. Brief bibliography of sources.